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 Volume 2.17  This View’s Column December 30, 2002 

Hating America First and Always

The American newspaper USA Today published a remarkable little essay, July 4, “America creates its own terrors”, by Jill Nelson.

I read it over and over again, trying to come up with answers to three vexing questions posed by its appearance in USA Today:

    1. why would anybody have written this?
    2. why would anybody have written this so poorly?
    3. why would anybody have published this, especially written so poorly?

You may want to read Nelson’s column in its entirety, to give you an overall view, before continuing here with my piecemeal commentary. On the other hand, after reading its first paragraph, you may not have the stomach to read any more of it.

Lost in the cacophony of military music, flying the red, white and blue and the patriotic rhetoric that marked the celebration of Independence Day and surrounds the war on terrorism is democracy’s most wonderful and critical aspect: the right to dissent.

I cannot remember having read any published essay that begins with a more complex, convoluted statement. It is as if the writer is verbally constipated and can’t quite manage to get it out.

I think the writer is trying to assert that “the right to dissent” has been “lost”. You can probably figure out already that Nelson considers her own opinions to be “dissent” — and she is, therefore, demonstrating how wrong she is by the very act of writing for publication in USA Today.

I will not say that, in the assertions she makes below, her observations are entirely without merit. But the idea that “the right to dissent” has been “lost” in this country is nuts. I’ll tell you what else it is: the product of a mindset that thinks America — racist, sexist, classist, “homophobic” America — is evil beyond redemption, beyond dispute. And, therefore, anybody who “dissents” is automatically right. True. Correct. Good.

Wow. It must take a whole lot of intellectualization to make oneself that stupid. I know I can’t do it. I guess I’m just not smart enough to be that dumb.

Since Sept. 11, it’s as if we’ve been terrified, not only by the terrorists, but also by an American government that demands silent acquiescence to whatever it proposes to do as part of its vague and thus far ineffective “war on terrorism.”

Who is this “we” to whom Nelson refers? I have not been terrified by the government into “silent acquiescence”. I don’t know anybody who has been terrified by the government into “silent acquiescence”. But I’m from Small-Town America. Maybe if I lived, say, in New York City, I would know lots of terrified silent acquiescencers.

I suspect not, though. I think the real problem here is one of perception. Nelson needs to get out more and circulate among folks who are not pseudo-intellectual, anti-American cultural Marxists. I’m sure they feel that they have been “terrorized” into “silent acquiescence” because they are not, since 9/11, finding such a ready market for their Hate America First and Always communistic propaganda.

What a shame.

And the “war on terrorism” is, so far, “ineffective”? Tell that to the Taliban who were evicted from Afghanistan.

Arab-Americans, Arabs and those who “look Muslim” — whatever that means — have been attacked, discriminated against and indefinitely detained by our government.

This is a claim — is it not? — this is a claim that “our government” has “attacked” and “discriminated against” Arab-Americans, Arabs, and those who “look Muslim”.

Who? When? Where?

How can any living, breathing, thinking human being make a claim such as this? Well... “thinking” may be the clue-word here.

True, “our government” has “indefinitely detained” enemy combatants. How else to (1) prevent them from continuing as enemy combatants and (2) find out what they know? Would Nelson rather have us send them questionnaires by air mail, hoping they won’t try to hijack the planes and fly them into buildings?

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., whose father retired as an Army lieutenant colonel, received death threats after she was the lone vote of dissent last fall against giving the president sweeping war powers. Average citizens have been verbally bludgeoned into unquestioning silence by an attorney general and a vice president who have suggested that to question U.S. policy is to potentially aid the enemy — frightening thoughts from the country’s chief lawyer and second in command.

I’m not quite sure what point there is in mentioning that Lee’s “father retired as an Army lieutenant colonel” except in highlighting the striking contrast to his daughter’s lone-vote attitude. I suspect, though, that that is not what Nelson intended.

The vice president and the attorney general have been “verbally bludgeoning” “average citizens” into “unquestioning silence”.

Who? When? Where?

I think, once again, that Nelson needs to get out more and meet some people who are not left-wing extremist race-baiters. (I throw that in because some Internet searches lead me to believe that Nelson is what Fred Reed politely calls a “racial professional”.)

Oh, I do not question that some folks have been “verbally bludgeoned” into “unquestioning silence” on matters concerning the war on terrorism. But the folks who have been doing the “verbal bludgeoning”, to the best of their ability, are the average, ordinary American Joe and Jane — whom, I suspect, Nelson alternatively despises (especially if they are white) and patronizes (especially if they are black). This, because the masses — who are not smart enough to intellectualize themselves into stupidity — realize that effective opposition to U.S. military action in response to the Massacre of September 11, 2001, would indeed be aiding the enemy.

I have read only one thing else that Nelson has written, which I will quote later. God willing, I won’t ever have to read another. I would like to state, however, my very strong suspicion — not an opinion, merely a suspicion — that Nelson’s real objection is to being on the receiving end, for once, of the “verbal bludgeoning”.

What will be left to win if the very rights we Americans profess to hold dear — free speech; privacy in our homes, e-mails and houses of worship; probable cause and a speedy and fair trial — are sacrificed in the name of defeating terror?

What will be left? Cuba.

Seriously. All those things have been gone in Cuba for about four decades now. Especially to the point, if Nelson were a Cuban as critical of Fidel Castro and his cronies as she is an American critical of George Bush, Dick Cheney, and John Ashcroft, she would be in jail by now. And probably for ever. If they let her live that long.

Wanting to know how Jill Nelson feels about Cuba — if you’ve been paying any attention at all, I’ll bet you know already how she feels about Cuba — this is all I could come up with, from an article by Norman Podhoretz, April 12, 2000, on the Elian Gonzalez affair. But I think it is enough:

Thus, Michelle Singletary, a financial columnist for the Washington Post, expressed near-envy at the absence of Barbie dolls and store-bought toys in Cuba (while accepting at face value the discredited claims about the wonders of free health care and education there). Mary McGrory, also in the Washington Post, and David Corn, in The Nation, fished up almost the same details. Ms. McGrory, too, was troubled by the toys Elian was being given, and Mr. Corn ridiculed the child’s relatives here who “asserted that Elian’s future would be brighter were he raised in the land of Disney World and Toys ’R’ Us.” (This... was evidently Mr. Corn’s notion of an adequate definition of the U.S.) Finally, Jill Nelson, in USA Today, denounced the thought that Elian would have a better life in America as “cultural imperialism.” [emphasis added]

Nelson is worried, now, that Americans might lose “free speech; privacy in our homes, e-mails and houses of worship; probable cause and a speedy and fair trial”. Back then, though, she thought it “cultural imperialism” to suggest that a land with all those things provides a better life than a land with none of them.

It might occur to you that she is being inconsistent. Do not be so hasty. She is not inconsistent. Not at all. Either way, she is Hating America First and Always. And that, I’m telling you, is what all her bloviation is all about, all the time.

These are dangerous times in the world. While the need for skepticism and dissent is greater than ever, so is the demand for silence as proof of patriotism.

The need for skepticism and dissent is not greater now than ever. (If she can make a bald assertion, so can I.)

Forget questioning George W. Bush’s declaring certain countries an “axis of evil,” or his demand that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat step down before negotiations can begin toward Middle East peace — or exactly how he became the U.S. president in the first place after the debacle of the 2000 election. We’re not even supposed to inquire as to the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. Remember him? The one whose capture, dead or alive, was the ostensible reason that the United States invaded Afghanistan?

I don’t personally know any of them, Deo gratias, but I am quite sure that thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of Americans “question” the president’s words concerning an Axis of Evil and Arafat’s continuing leadership of the Palestinian Authority. They do it repeatedly and loudly. In fact, I hear rumors that readership is up among the left-wing publications in which, I am sure, all kinds of “questioning” of the president go on all the time. As they probably hadn’t in the eight years previous to this administration.

Nobody comes around knocking on the doors of the editorial staff to haul them off for re-education at a workers-paradise boot-camp; nobody revokes their license to write and publish, because no such thing is required in America; and, nobody comes around to confiscate any issue deemed to be offensive. (In America, that only happens to right-wing publications on college campuses.)

No. What’s really bugging Jill Nelson is this: nobody is paying any attention to what she and her Hate America First and Always comrades are saying about the war on terrorism. And she can’t stand it.

What a shame.

George W. Bush became president of the United States, in the first place, because scheming Democrats were not able to steal the election away from him in Florida — no matter how many times the Florida Supreme Court, dominated by Democrats, tried to let them get away with it. Thus, he won the required popular vote to win enough electoral votes to win the election. Exactly.

And who says we are not “even supposed to inquire” after the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden? I must have missed that edict. But let me go on record now as saying I think he is D. E. A. D. Dead.

A few days ago, in one of the few recent events that indicated that democracy may not crumble under the political manipulation of our fears and desire to feel safe, Santa Cruz, Calif., declared “Barbara Lee Day” in honor of the congresswoman who alone said no to the president. Whether we agree with Lee’s vote is not the issue; her right to vote her conscience is. As Lee has said, “The lifeblood of democracy is the right to dissent.” If as Americans we no longer believe this, we have willingly given up much more than any terrorist attack could take from us.

“Democracy may not crumble”? Oh, how desolate... despondent... despairing we would be were it not for Jill Nelson to give us some meager measure of hope.

Is there hope? Really? Really?

For crying out loud. A general election is scheduled for this November. All of the seats of the House of Representatives, and a third of the Senate, are up for grabs. So are numerous offices at the state and local level. That general election will continue to be scheduled until it happens, and then it will have happened. Another general election is scheduled for November 2004. Again, all of the House seats, and a third of the Senate, will be up for grabs — and so will the White House. And numerous offices at the state and local level, again. That election, too, will continue to be scheduled until it happens, and then it will have happened.

There will be quite a few elections, of many different sorts, in the meantime and for long afterwards. And that is the lifeblood of democracy in the USA.

Jill Nelson’s views haven’t changed much — ossified now, it seems, they will probably never change — since the following was published last fall. I think this just goes to show us that she is not really worried about what she says she is worried about. Her real interest is finding any excuse whatever to bash the United States of America, any time, any where, any way:

I’m disturbed and frightened by the calls for war and vengeance that immediately followed September 11, 2001, and the collusion of so many people, particularly people of color and journalists, who should know better. I don’t feel comforted by the flag waving, declarations of a new national unity, and demonization of Muslims, Arabs, Arab Americans, and — my personal favorite — people who “look like” Muslims. In fact, I’m more terrified by it than I am by what happened September 11.

The last two weeks have opened yet another window on white supremacy and white entitlement as so-called white people decry their loss of innocence and feelings of safety. As a woman of color, I’ve always known that I and people like me are fundamentally unsafe here in the USA. Welcome to the Terrordome.

Welcome to the Terrordome? No thanks, Jill. I have already gotten much further into your head than I ever want to be again.

ELC 2002


 Volume 2.17 This View’s Column December 30, 2002 

The View from the Core, and all original material, © 2002 E. L. Core. All rights reserved.

Cor ad cor loquitur J. H. Newman — “Heart speaks to heart”