This is shaping up to be one of those days. After reading this Mondoweiss post, and several other pieces recently pointing out America’s current moral #fail, I thought it was a reasonable time to post this.
I wrote it a few days ago when I was reminiscing and frustrated by something, but it’s relevance will not decline until something radically changes in American – and global – society.
In retrospect – I noticed but did not think of it at the time – all of the names on the wanted posters at the Canadian border crossings were Arabic names. Not just Arabic, but Muslim. Every conceivable English transliteration of Mohammed, Mahmoud, Abdullah, Ahmad, even Fatimah appeared on that poster. Surely there must be criminals worth pursuing who are not Muslim? The border patrol obviously doesn’t think so. It became so obvious: why would CBP in rural Vermont care so desperately that I’d been in Jordan, had stamps in a script they’d only seen associated with terrorism?
We think we live in this utopia free of discrimination and we scorn the rest of the world self-righteously. As Americans, how can we know this truth about ourselves and scold everyone else so disdainfully? We are liars, fooling ourselves, and little better than countries who openly admit to being dictatorships or racist or xenophobic. At least they’re not trying to hide it.
Our best friends are worse than us, yet we coddle them into thinking no matter how much suffering they inflict their punishment is no more than a slap on the wrist and a stern look.
This behavior, mimicked in other places around the world, draws sharp reprimand from U.S. (“us”), the holy saviors of equality and dignity. But when “ethnic cleansing”, systematic discrimination, forced compliance – all symbolic of totalitarian fascist rule – takes place here, our dedication to true freedom and democracy ebbs. Not because of some special preference (although surely that is part of it), but because we agree. Secretly, deep down, we share an enemy. Not the administration, not the lobbies, but the voters.
The American public is afraid of the Arab for all the usual reasons. Ignorance. Difference. Propaganda. Even after so much publicity and attempted enlightenment, the Americans en masse see Arabs as Muslims and Muslims as Arabs and Arabs and Muslims as the enemy.
What they don’t see is that we are making fools out of ourselves. Our obliviousness and blind-faith commitment to protecting our version of the free world has instead caused us to destroy its future. We support governments that, worse than being openly discriminatory and theocratic, are underhandedly so. Governments that bat their eyelashes and hold up a gold-plated electoral legislative system whose gaudy reflection in the sun blinds us into thinking we are befriending democracy when it is nothing more than the newest in a long line of power-hungry narcissists who care for nothing and no one but their own kind, and even then, barely so.
Perhaps if America, as a voting public, could own up to its own self-centered xenophobic ignorance and remember the reason we are Americans – that once upon a time, we too needed somewhere to call home, somewhere we would not be discriminated against based on race, color, religion, or creed – perhaps then we might actually be able to engender change, to turn the tide of this place and all others where such phenomena of terror exist. We – a democracy – cannot sanction these acts of racism, of discrimination based on someone’s name or religion of place of origin. And yet we do, every day.
Until we change at home, until Americans realize the error of our ways, until we accept, come to terms with, and change our own prejudices on our own soil, we cannot expect to implement policies abroad any more open or democratic or just than the ideals in which we believe at home.
We come here hoping to change the world, yet barely even recognize our own hypocrisy in this act. Until we do, we remain as we are: self-righteous spectators in the game of ethnic power politics. A game we cannot play because we don’t recognize our role as part of the guilty party, as the oppressor. Like this “democracy”, we are in denial about our own commitment to our ideals. This is our betrayal of the American dream.