Categories
America: Society Iraq War Journal Musings

Why Non-Americans Often Hate America

I am so angry I can barely find words to express what I want to say here.

Tomorrow my Brazilian wife has to go to the American Embassy in Tokyo to be subjected to an “interview” (substitute that with “interrogation”) to determine whether or not she will be eligible to transit in Houston, on her way to her home country of Brazil. She has to get a visa for transit! Not to stop and spend any time in the States, just to transit! And get this, she has to pay a non-returnable “fee” (read “extortion”) of Â¥18,000 (about $180.00) for the privilege. On top of that, she has to be fingerprinted while in transit. And furthermore, she has to do the interview in English, even though she doesn’t speak English very well.

There is no other country which does this. Transit for God’s sake! I wish the world would hit back and force only Americans to be subjected to such “interviews” every single time they cross a border, to be fingerprinted with indelible ink on every finger at every port of call, to be forced to undergo the “interview” in every language but English, and to pay $200.00 every time they even fly over another country not their own.

What makes me hopping mad is that this is being done to my wife, one of the gentlest, kindest, most unassuming people I’ve ever met. The whole New York tragedy and Iraq war insanity was something that made so little sense to her that just watching it on TV was like watching a conversation between lunatics. She’s so scared tonight that she can’t sleep. And since she’s alone in Tokyo, I can’t even comfort her. I cannot forgive people who scare those whom I care about. There is no reason whatsoever that my wife should have to feel any kind of fear about going home. And since several of her Brazilian friends have been plucked out of lines in the American airports and strip searched, she’s worried about being subjected to indignities.

God damn it! How I wish that Americans would get their come-uppance for how they’ve treated the rest of the world for the past five years!

Categories
America: Society Iraq War Journal

Bile

My apologies to everyone who reads these pages, for my long absence. I just moved to a new place (albeit temporary housing for now) and started a new job at a university. The whole start has been so harrowing and busy that I had no time for even my own thoughts, let alone writing here in the blog. I would probably have ended up writing about all my complaints about the absolutely antediluvian (and feudal) Japanese university system. Since I want to keep this blog as sane and contemplative as possible from now on, I decided to wait until my heart had settled down into the new lifestyle before I wrote about what’s happening. I want to start a new section called “Compass Walks”, in which I start out in a new landscape and try to learn about its natural personality, but since I haven’t had a moment to myself yet and haven’t even taken one walk yet beyond an evening run one time, I still don’t feel I can write an honest assessment of the new place I have arrived in since I haven’t had a chance to really concentrate on using my senses there yet. So allow me, for now, this bit of a commentary below, however distasteful it might be to some.
____________________________________

Today, after a more-or-less media-slanted series of so-called “fair trials”, Saddam Hussein was sentenced to death. I am no fan of the death penalty, believing it to be little more than an emotional reaction of revenge that has no place in a justice system, in which people’s personal feelings toward an accused person should have no bearing on the outcome of a verdict, and so personally the verdict seems meaningless, in that nothing was learned, nothing bettered, nothing gained for society, Iraq or the world. I have no affection for Hussein either, however, and so feel ambiguous about the retribution that Iraqis rightfully claim for his punishment. He has done some awful things to which he should be held accountable. His passing will leave no hole in the landscape of human morality.

But from what dubious beginnings Hussein’s downfall precipitated. Like Robert Fisk I feel that all the justifications that the United States and Britain used to attack Iraq neither make right having attacked a sovereign, non-threatening country in the first place nor excuse the disgraceful way in which Hussein was dragged through media and used as Bush’s scapegoat. By America’s own too-oft-touted standard of “innocent before proven guilty”, Hussein should at least have been given the benefit of the doubt in his own trial and, considering that he was supposedly tried for crimes against his own people and not against a single American citizen and therefore only the Iraqi judicial system should have been involved, the American government should have had absolutely no say in what went on in the trial. That so often during the trial the Americans were consulted and their ultimatums heeded made the entire affair a grand farce, a public hanging in the town square of American media discrimination.

If the standards used for condemning Hussein are to be considered just and inevitable, then America and Britain and any other country which falsely accused and then went ahead and attacked Iraq against the wishes of the majority of nations in the world, then it stands to reason that Bush and Blair and all other ministers involved should also be standing trial for “crimes against humanity”. Nearly every accusation used against Hussein to bring him to trial apply directly to Bush and Blair, most especially Bush with his Hitler-like railing against the United Nations during the lead-up to the Iraq War. Not to mention the scale at which Bush committed his crimes.

And yet, Bush is getting off scott free, no one able to lay a finger on him, the American media protecting his image as if it were above reproach. The Iraq War is now openly and almost universally recognized as having been wrong, hundreds of thousands of people have “needlessly” died, and now the Americans are talking about pulling out, leaving Iraq in a truly dismal state, much worse than anything under Hussein. Why is it that there are no universal calls for Bush’s answering to his crimes against humanity? Why is it that my writing something like this conjures up fear as I write it, echoing the same repression that Hussein used against any of his detractors? Can anyone explain to me exactly how Bush is any different from Hussein? Or how Blair is any different from Wormtongue?

These last few years have turned me into a reluctant cynic. I trust very few people now, even some people whom I formerly called friends. The tragedy of New York, but much more so the crimes of the Afghan and Iraq Wars have given me glimpses into the human heart that I never really believed before. In some of the ensuing arguments about going to war, arguments with people, every one of them American, whom I would before have counted to always be there no matter what, people with whom I made precious memories during my years in the States, suddenly the divisions in belief left rents that, even after three years have never healed. I saw the ugliness in people, of what war claims of people’s hearts and minds, of the aftermath of rhetoric and media propaganda, how people can become so committed to their idea of the truth that they become blinded to the bonds of friendship and love that once had crossed borders unheeded (and I’m including myself here). I am bitter with having lost friends, people who had meant more to me than the justifications for war would ever match. The lies and deception that brought on the shaky world view we live with now, though they seem distant and unrelated to our personal lives, have in fact affected each of us very deeply, in ways from which we may never be able to extricate ourselves within our lifetimes.

If for nothing else, I condemn Bush for having taken from me the trust and loyalty of friends, for having sown the seeds of doubt and fear. I condemn him for having brought to the world a sense that there is more evil in the human heart than goodness and beauty, for having made the word “terrorist” a part of our daily vocabulary. I condemn him for having forced so many of my very close Arab and Moslem friends to live by looking over their shoulders. And for, though all my life before I have never carried any kind of hate within me, towards anyone, for the blinding, wordless fury that erupts through me every time Bush’s face appears on the television or in a magazine, a face now so repugnant and so associated with war, hypocrisy, intolerance, irresponsibility, and destruction that I have to turn off the TV the moment the visage appears before I lose my cool.

Hussein has been condemned to death, but nothing at all has changed, except a greater sense of world weariness and sadness.

Categories
America: Society Iraq War Journal Musings

When You Fall, Get Right Back Up

I slept like the dead these past two days, giving in to my body’s demand for reconnection to both the grounding of cellular reality and the votive healing of dreams. The sun and the stars vaulted overhead twice before my eyes stopped the light and measured time once again. The fever and the coughing had receded and my throat felt dry. I got up to get a glass of water.

It was very reassuring to read both Pica’s and Numenius’ reactions to the seminar they both attended. Seeing people gather and talk about how to solve the problems encourages me to keep up hope. Part of the difficulty for me is that even though I know that there must be similar gatherings going on here in Japan, I find them hard to locate because my Japanese reading is poor, rendering me practically illiterate in a country of people rated among the most literate in the world. At the same time there is little sense of urgency here. Most people hardly refer to any big issues when conversing. A nation of people in complete denial, even though their prime minister is sending troops to Iraq against the wishes of 90% of the populace, the economy has been in a 12-year slump, and their precious landscape is going to ruin, mainly because of government farm subsidies which render nearly half the farms unattended to, indiscriminate government sponsored road construction, and complete lack of imagination when coming up with schemes to revive local economies. Because there is so little protest going on and grassroots movements are so insular and are actively discouraged by the government and social mores, it is difficult to make a stand on any issues. While politicians yearly inundate neighborhoods with blaring election campaigns from loudspeakers mounted on vans driving through the local streets (something I can’t imagine an American or European town would tolerate), citizens who protest are openly derided on the news as being “too noisy” and “dangerous”. Even one of my close Japanese friends, when I took her to her first anti-war demonstration in 2003, voiced almost hysterical fear of “the mob” before she experienced the peaceful bonding that often occurs in such gatherings. All because of a lifelong subjection to a government-favoring education and society, promoted entirely by a very conservative government.

I’ve been trudging through emotional mud since the American election, trying to find some redeeming bit of news to give me reason to feel I can still trust the human race. It seems as if the world is descending into hell, and that we are teetering on the edge of the anihilation. It is all bathed in pain and I thrash about in my words like a fish snagged by a hook. I am so angry. I am so hurt. I struggle with the urge to hate, though I have no idea which face it is that I am supposed to hate. The Iraq war, the political climate, the threat of nuclear bombs, the impending collapse of the sky and oceans, the holocaust of other living things, even the danger to the very food and water we consume… How can we maintain sanity with such an overwhelming doom-sense hanging over us?

Hate is simply a knee-jerk protest against pain. Surely I have matured enough to draw the pain nigh and encompass it? Surely I can learn from this pain and evolve within the moral landscape? Surely there must be a way to evoke recognition of the fundamental common denominator of being children of this planet? Surely it cannot all be debatable, that there exist some universal truths that cannot be denied?

It is so easy to forget that the TV snatches only a smattering of the leaves of reality fluttering through the air. And like trying to catch snowflakes, you only get a tiny collection of insights into all that is happening. All you can know is the little that your senses bring you, and even that is selected by corridors of concentration.

I glanced up just now at the stillness of the branches and leaves outside the window, burning yellow in the November evening sunlight. Amidst the stillness scribed a hawk moth, wings blurred and hot, all energy tight and focused on the white camellia blossoms she touched and whirled around. She was like a restless scholar with her nose buried in a book, life too short and precious for anything else. An orange-brown speck in my eye, her feeding swept through the moment in an angry delight, arriving out of the air for those traces of sugar, then darting off towards whatever tendrils of taste she followed, out of sight. There and back again, with nary even a word of greeting.

These four years have eaten away at the roots, both in my personal life and in the life of the commons. Sometimes I shiver before opening the front door. But it is all momentary and there is nothing else. You might start by loving, intensely and with all urgency, your immediate surroundings. Recognize that they will soon pass and that nothing will ever again hold quite this shape or pattern. So that when we look up and look further, it is all connected and one, a matrix of pulsing energy and, yes, the glue of love. For what else is life and the world but the congelation of grace?

It is grace that I seek when I scramble for hope.

Categories
America: Society Iraq War Journal Musings

The Ugly Little Man in the Closet

American tortureI had to remind myself today why it is that Bush cuts so deeply into my soul. It felt as if I had almost forgotten. The zoetrope of news images, flickering by so quickly that one outrage blends into another cause the colors to mash into a sickly brown that no longer has any distinction. If you look back on the last four years, though, you have to ask how it is possible that so many American people could have systematically and so quickly forgotten something as stark and irrefutable (yes, I know nothing is irrefutable in political spin) as the torture in Abu Ghraib. It is as if nothing happened. No one of any consequence was held accountable. Like oily slivers of rope the leaders most responsible slipped away into forgetfulness, like so many other things they slipped out of. If you are at all a decent human being and sincerely believe in all the hype about American ideals and greatness how can you possibly turn your eyes away from this, or to even let it sink into oblivion, and then smugly go ahead and vote for the people most responsible for it?

I visited The Memory Hole again and sat for a long, long time whispering prayers to myself and for the victims in the pictures. I couldn’t turn on the news for fear of being presented with those images of Bush and his wife strolling about like royalty. I wanted to be sure that I was grounded in the reality of my outrage for Bush and to keep reminding myself why I can’t loosen my grip on the armrest. So many people tell me to relax and not let these things bother me, because there is nothing I can do about it. I just wish there had been someone there to tell that to people like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Geronimo, Chief Joseph, or Aung San Suu Kyi, or even Jesus Christ.

As a non-American living far away on the other side of the world the elections were more of a sticker shock value than a potential reordering of the universe. It was sobering and enlightening to report to work earlier this evening and have not one of my Japanese co-workers so much as mention the elections. It was sobering because the true place that America has in the world and in the hearts of people around the world was made abundantly clear: America figures not much in most people’s lives and the elections were nothing more than an enormous fiasco of people blathering to themselves. My sense, in the Japanese silence, was that Americans tend to take themselves entirely too seriously, raising themselves upon media pedestals all out of proportion to the honest reception that most people in the world are willing to give them. “Yeah? So what is new,” could have been the reaction here. It was simply perplexing to see this glittering pageant, like some kind of coronation, over-running the airwaves. Let no one say that the Americans have abandoned the monarchy or subservience to the overlord.

Perhaps it is the very desire to find conflict in every little discussion or statement that twirls Americans around with such contention. Even blogs, like this one, seem to survive on contrasts, and little stories behind the back. The entire Bush strategy resides within a bubble of inflated fear and controversy. In this climate it will always remain impossible for communities to flourish and nurture one another, or for diversity to strew an odd mix of seeds among the roots.

Let no one forget Abu Ghraib. Let no one render it merely an anecdote or a behavioral anomaly. When you find yourself wavering in the effort to nurture peace and understanding, or grow weary of the unrelenting madness of Bush, go back to the pictures of the tortures and remember how it all started. That should jump start the old cables and fire up that engine again.

Categories
America: Society Iraq War Journal Musings

Dread

Gutless Liars
Cartoon I drew last January before the war started, in response to a cartoon that the well-known American cartoonist Ted Rall sent me, claiming inspiration from a letter I wrote him.

I can’t stop switching on the TV and trying to glean what exactly is happening in the States with the election fever right now. It is like an obsession; for three years now I have religiously logged onto Antiwar.com, and any other source of information I could get my hands on on the internet, every single day, reading and reading for some kind of doorway to enlightenment, a way out of the shell of intolerance and anger that seems to have gripped everyone since the New York tragedy. Three years of gut wrenching horror and anguish, of at times rage so great it threatened to overwhelm my sanity. In all my life there has been nothing political that has affected my life in quite such a simplistic and visceral way or with such devastating effect upon goings on in my personal life. For three years I have focused on finding some way to influence the tide that is Bush threatening to overwhelm the entire world’s well-being. So much emotional build up, so much fear and sadness and choked up hope, that in the last few months words can no longer express any of the vast relief that Bush’s banishment would serve to fulfill. This is not just a president that has injured the world; this is a man whose hubris and ignorance would, without a moment’s hesitation, bring down the whole stage set just to fit in the last piece of the warped jigsaw puzzle of his aspirations.

The election day is looming and my guts are roiling. I don’t know where to turn or how to sit still. It is like waiting outside the doctor’s door for the results of the biopsy. As a non-American citizen I can’t even vote so that I might at least carry an iota of weight in tipping the balance, and yet the outcome will affect all our non-American lives around the world just as if we were, somehow, citizens of that country. A tremor of disbelief and nausea overcame me when I watched the huge flags waving over and throngs of mob-mentality humanity surrounding that tiny little man shaking that impudent little hand at the world’s cameras… this little man who had been handed the scepter of life and death over an entire planet. I keep asking myself, “What will happen if Bush is re-elected?” What should I do with all the eggs of decency that I put into one basket, hoping for a fairer world?

If, the morning after, I sit there having to further face that hateful face for another four years and not knowing what the world had further in store for it, Bush were to win again, what could I say about the democratic process? Bush winning by a majority will never convince me of the wisdom or righteousness of his continued presence. It is more than just the future of America as a nation… it is the very foundation of the decent ideals that we all thought we were trying to uphold around the globe that is at stake. This has gone beyond merely political… it is about right and wrong, and everything in my very fibre of being tells me that Bush is a thing wrong, an abomination. And I struggle very deeply within myself with my feelings about a nation of people that would allow someone like him to continue to hold power.

Someone recently told me that when I write about these kinds of political asides, when I go off on my tirades, that my writing is boring and disengaged from who I truly am. I wonder, though. Must I shy away from the ugliness in my life and the world around me, and stick only to painting pretty pictures of the woods and mountains in order to say anything of worth? Bush came to power and abused that power because of the illusory platitudes that those who would follow him and those who would deny his existence weave around themselves in order to avoid all sense of reality. Hide in our shells and wish it would all go away.

But whether Bush or Kerry win tomorrow will not erase the reality of the Iraq War or the heavy handedness of America’s preoccupation with “security” or with the rumblings from places like North Korea or with the failing of representation in politics. All the hoopla will not make the mornings any brighter or safer for Iraqis or Afghans, nor will the world miraculously turn into a fairy pumpkin. It is all denial and shunting aside of responsibilities and connections.

Writing this brings me no clearer picture of what to do or how to feel than before. I don’t have any idea what the better answer is to all the painful things that have gone on and continue to go on. All I know is that I need to speak and to call out amidst all this darkness. We all seem to be flailing about in blindness, fear caught in our throats because it seems the night will never end. I get the feeling though that the best thing to do is to wait it out. Eventually the morning will come, and waking. Hopefully.

What else is there to do?

Categories
America: Society Iraq War Journal Society

What About Within the States?

Another question needs to be asked: all those September 11th suspects who were secreted away in the States and who have not been mentioned in the news for a very long time now, what happened to them? Are they being abused, too? Is anyone going to force an inquiry into this, or is it just too unpalatable for Americans to ponder? If there is nothing to hide, then why are they being held in secret?

Categories
America: Society Iraq War Journal Society

Shaking My Head 2

Just look what Bush has evoked in the world! Chaos. One man is doing all this. One insane, deluded, pitiless, fanatical man. All this. If there is one thing Bush has secured in history, it is the honor of being the single most hated human being ever, by more people round the globe than even hated Hitler, if simply because of the range of the media today, if not because he has threatened so many more people on a scale never known before.

And the article talks about just Europe… Think of all the other countries, everywhere, where people despise Bush, where the chaos is spreading. He will never in his life be safe to walk anywhere on his own again.

If there is one good thing that can be said of all the madness it is that it is bringing people together, even people who were not talking before.

But then, Bush probably has another card up his sleeve, namely the much talked about Extra-terrestrial invasion hoax, first openly referred to by Dr. Werner von Braun, the German rocket scientist. . (See The Disclosure Project). When all is seemingly lost he will most likely conjure up this ruse to continue building up weapons and the military.

Has anyone ever wondered why, the 2 years before September 11th, 2001, so many movies about the destruction or invasion of the earth from outer space came out: Independence Day, Armageddon, Men in Black, Deep Impact, all targeting New York, to name just a few?

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Categories
America: Society Iraq War Journal Society

Coming Home

In reading yet more news about all the tragedy in Iraq, I thought this evening about the Viet Nam vet roommate I had back in college and the stories he told me both of what he experienced over in Viet Nam, and what it was like to return to the States and become “something like a ghost”. I can still clearly recall the darkness of our dorm room after speaking for hours after seeing the movie “Deer Hunter”, and lying there unable to find words to reassure him.

I fear, that with all the madness going on right now and the government’s scramble to find someone to blame and get themselves out of the spotlight, once again those young soldiers are going to come home to public shame and invisibility. And another generation will have to live with the awful demons that war awakens, forced upon them by leaders who can wriggle and lie their way out of anything.

Categories
America: Society Iraq War Journal Society

Saddam Hussein

With all the hullaballoo going on about the prisoner treatment it suddenly occurred to me today that there has been no news about Saddam Hussein in a long time. Makes me wonder what has happened to him and if perhaps he is being badly treated just as the other prisoners are. Whatever he may have done he deserves a fair trial and to be treated humanely. What exactly is going on with him? Anyone know? There is a lot to worry about with his being secreted away somewhere.

And what about the Guantanamo prisoners? What’s the true story behind that?

I don’t normally wish ill for any one, but I certainly hope that, at the very least, all this uproar ruins Bush’s career. At best, I’d like to see him tried for international war crimes and genocide.

Categories
America: Society Iraq War Journal Society

Shaking My Head

All I can say about all the collapsing of American pipe dreams in Iraq is that this is what I stated from the very start, before the descent into the Afghan war, would happen; what all the people who shouted for deliberation and tolerance before losing our minds to stupidity and knee jerk reactions, were trying to tell everyone? It is truly bitter to see all the worst of my fears coming true (not that I’m surprised any more). And I have to ask, why is it that people like me can see all this coming, while so many others can’t? Why does it take the deaths of thousands and the flashes of horror to remind everyone, over and over and over and over again, that war is ugly and that it has never, ever left its participants with satisfactory and morally acceptable results? Why does war awaken nightmares? I lost friends because I stated, the day after the New York tragedy (an event that I REFUSE to reduce to some media slogan by referring to it with the trite name of “9/11” as if it were a football game) that the American reaction would lead to war without reflection. I stated that the New York tragedy was an opportune moment for Americans to once and for all examine their place in the world and what their unrestrained power and arrogance has done to others. But no… they had to react in the predictable and immature way, by going to war. A bully punching out bystanders because he can’t find the culprit. Really I shouldn’t be concerned about how Americans feel or what image the US has in the eyes of the world, but in fact I deeply care about the States and many people there, and would hope it would learn to grow up.

Charley Reese ponders why it is that the Iraqis have treated their captives with respect and dignity, whereas the American occupiers haven’t. I feel the very question arises out of naivete and disrespect, making an assumption that somehow Iraqis ought to be less civilized than Americans. But all evidence points to America as a nation that loves violence, cares little for people outside its borders (and even for its own citizens within), sets the military upon this unrealistic and ridiculous pedestal ( went to the video store last night to look for a movie… I was very disturbed by just how many war movies and movies about murder and destruction there were… almost all of which were American… I decided to rent the French documentary “Le Peuple Migratoir”, a beautifully filmed account of birds migrating around the world), and absolutely adores war (as long as it doesn’t touch its own borders). How many times have I heard an American tell me that their joining the military made them into a better, more mature person? I always guessed that meant that people who don’t, and don’t want to, join the military are somehow not mature or are “lesser” people. Reese talks of “dishonoring the uniform”. Exactly why is it that the military deserves such a cult status? It is a job that those in it joined of their own free will. Why is this idiotic “giving their lives for freedom” dogma followed, instead of giving priority to learning how to talk with other people to achieve peace and understanding before needlessly throwing away such a valuable gift as a life. “Dying for one’s country” is treated as if it’s the epitome of all that should be aspired to in life.

So many questions of “why” that I have to ask. I’m not so much angry any more so much as stumped for sense. I feel like I am witnessing a prison yard full of blindfolded murderers all fumbling about and beating each other because they refuse to take off the blindfolds. I have turned off the TV. I don’t think I can stand watching Rumsfeld or Bush tell another face saving lie.

Meanwhile, while the Iraqi deaths soar outside the baseball stadium’s wall, unseen, the media tallies up the numbers of Americans dying like counting home runs. There are no screams, no entrails spilled in the street, no charred meat, or clouds of flies. No death. Deaths. Dead. Dying. The “Ultimate” debt, a finality that cannot be paid, and which never had a price.