Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Life in the US: War, Crisis, Crisis, War, Threats.

 “The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.” Hermann Göring

Big Basin State Park CA
Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I have lived in the US for over 40 years. I have been lucky here. I ended up with a decent public sector job after working in various low paying jobs for a few years. Well, I worked in factory for a while when I first came here which wasn’t so low pay by English standards but as anyone who has worked on an assembly line knows, it is grueling work and that damn belt never stops. It’s there when you leave at night and still there when you get back the next morning. Nothing changes unless it breaks down or we consciously stop it.

I can’t say what it’s like back in England really as I haven’t lived there for so long. I know things have changed since Thatcher and her US partners defeated the miners’ strike in the mid-1980’s, privatized everything she could and encouraged the selling off of council houses so British people could be “free” and individual owners like we are here in the US. Yes, debt peonage is freedom until you can’t pay the moneylender then you’re on the streets.

I live in a beautiful part of the US, the San Francisco Bay Area, the East Bay to be precise. Just two weeks ago I was an hour and a half away camping in Big Basin State Park, Big Basin is the oldest state park in CA. It is a beautiful place full of huge Redwoods a short distance from Santa Cruz.

But there is something that I cannot escape and that is how we in the US are constantly reminded that we are in a war, one war or another. I have mentioned the African Bees that were supposed to invade us and destroy our way of life but it is the militarization and violent culture in the US that I have never gotten used to (I’m leaving the ads on TV out).

When I met Americans back home as a young man, and I met many of them as we lived near a US base and my dad worked up there for a while, I was both shocked and perplexed when I heard that when they were at school they had these drills where they would get down on the floor or under their desks as a drill for a possible nuclear attack. I was aware of the cold war and the threat of nuclear war but we never had drills at school in preparation for it and I can’t say I worried about it much although I did write a letter to Kruschev about it once.

Then we have the violence on US TV where slashing and implied rape and all sorts of gore is OK but nipples cause a social furor. I still haven’t seen Janet Jackson’s nipple it just happened too fast. I don’t think anyone would have bothered with it had the media not made an issue then the religious folks get a hold of it (not the nipple) and it goes from there.  There is no way the video games, produced in collaboration with the US military, don’t have an influence on young people’s consciousness and how they see the world and their place in it. There’s one that keeps popping up on my phone when I play solitaire. It’s called Game of War and often has this blond woman with her breasts barely containable in her uniform that looks more like a bikini. War is not a game. But the vast majority of the games that are designed are about war, promote war or imply that war and sex with big-breasted women is the way to go.

Watch British TV shows or European TV shows and you simply do not see guns being pointed in people’s faces all the time as we do here like it’s an everyday occurrence. I watch foreign films a lot, films from all over the world and the people look different, the atmosphere is different. Even here it is not how Hollywood portrays it despite our excesses.  All the years I’ve lived here I’ve never seen a cop car speeding down a sidewalk knocking over fruit stands or coffee vendors and their customers.

On our TV here, violence is rampant. And guns being tossed around like they’re cigarette lighters, is portrayed in a way that it’s almost a friendly gesture. Have you ever had a gun pointed in your face? I have. When a gun is introduced in to a scene it’s almost like offering someone a cookie on TV, but in real life it is an extremely tense and somewhat frightening moment. The funny thing is, despite the violence in the media and the shows connected to violence or about violence life in America is not what Hollywood shares with the rest of the world. I lived in a very rough neighborhood for 20 years. I lived in what we call the “hood” or the “ghetto”. I was pretty much the only white person there too but this neighborhood, despite the poverty and certain conditions around us, had community and cooperation and friendship as people got on with their lives. I could leave my 10 year old in the streets and he could go to any number of houses if he needed help. We were collective babysitters.

I have lived through waves of various threats to our freedoms. There was the Stalinists and we were supposed to enter a new phase when that system collapsed under its own weight as we would have all that money we spent on arms freed for social programs. But no.  Then former US proxy regimes and the despots the US financed and propped up suddenly became the new fear as they got too big for their boots and turned on their masters. Saddam Hussein, Milosevic, Somali warlords, bin Laden Noriega, al Qaeda, ISIS and all the time China and Russia.

On Sunday two imbecilic representatives of that class that does no work, the people who really are our enemies,  Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, got in to slagging match in their competitive efforts to become the next president of the US.  Trump says 911 wouldn’t likely have happened under his watch because he’d have kept the “hijackers out”.

Some family: murderers, drug dealers, war criminals
Jeb Bush, a social parasite if there ever was one, bounced back. He accused Trump of not being qualified for the job and lacked the ability to defend the nation in a time of crisis according to the media. “We’re under grave threats again, and I think we need a president with a steady hand.” says Jeb.

“Crisis”,  “Threats”. It’s non-stop.

In 1971 I traveled to Istanbul and I used to sleep in the grounds of Sultan Ahmed, the "Blue Mosque" the third largest mosque in the Islamic World. I wished I'd have taken the time to go in it. I left there and took the train to Baghdad, German trains built during the Ottoman Empire days I guess. In southern Turkey the train stopped and left some carriages as the engine and a couple other cars took off for Allepo (Halep) in Arabic) to pick up some Syrians. It took a while, I think a day perhaps and then came back and we headed along the Turkish/Syrian border, down through northern Iraq to Baghdad. I remember stopping in Babylon and Nineveh and kids coming to the train windows with trays full of cigarettes, candy, water, and that delicious chi (tea) the Arabs drink in little glasses.  I am not religious but I was raised in a Christian country and I was astonished to think I was in Babylon or Nineveh as I’d read of these places in the Bible. US occupying forces have since built a facility on the ruins of Babylon.  I also disassociate myself from the criminal invasion and genocidal assault on Iraq by US imperialism.

Jonah before the Walls of Nineveh Rembrandt, 
No one harmed me. No Muslim threatened me. After a while in Baghdad I took the bus down to Basra and recall siting in this little place I had a room in, eating watermelon with these Indian traders from Goa who were dressed in what I can only describe as some sort of loincloths. They weren’t heavily clad let’s put it that way and they had long pony tails. People like these had made this journey for thousands of years. I was so excited and at home, this was the life.

The quote from Göring is apropos here. Bush, Trump and the unelected minority that govern our society wants us to be afraid of all foreigners. We are all “Americans” they say and we have to stick together. Everyone hates us. Well Bush is not my American. The Queen of England is not my “English”. I disassociate myself from these people and these nationalist ideas that we are all together.

I was treated well by Iraqi’s despite the dirty role British Imperialism played there and the violence it perpetrated. Traveling was wonderful for me. It introduced me to new cultures and people. I sat on the banks of the Tigris smoking tobacco out of these huge pipes with people who I didn’t know and whose language I didn't speak, but they had no problem sharing with a stranger.

Because of this permanent state of war my children will not be able to experience this except as a representative of a military excursion; we can’t go anywhere anymore. When I was 19 you could get trips from London to Johannesburg overland through the Sahara, Central Africa and all the way down. No more. That’s the way the Bush’s Clinton’s Obama's, Blairs and Trumps of this world like it. Humans are collective creatures, we are naturally inquisitive and when someone comes in to our particular culture or world we want to feed them, share our hospitality with them. We want them to leave feeling they have been treated with respect and will tell others of our generosity.

The exception to this is if we are convinced they are a threat or when we are sent to them with guns and with the lie that our world, our freedom, our way of life is at risk. The 1% benefits from this view just like they do from racism, sexism, gender oppression and religious sectarianism.

Their world is not our world.

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