an homage to Leilah Nadir
America is at the head of the first world. America is responsible for extracting and obtaining resources—from Columbian coffee to South African lithium—all at the lowest premiums possible. America is a set of economic policies that perpetuate global inequalities. America is a land of plenty that throws away 96 billion pounds of food a year, yet still has hungry citizens. America is 330 million people of all creeds and ethnicities. America is neither tolerant nor intolerant. America is confused. America is 106 million people watching the Super Bowl. America is constantly throwing money at the problem. America is changing. America is right, left, but never center. America is centered on dichotomies. America is a place that continually subjugates its loyal subjects. America is 1% of the top 1% of the world’s wealthiest people. America is all about gain with no pain. America is also on the cusp of being progressive and a reputable world leader.
America has used the guise of liberal democracy to disguise spoon-fed realities. We live in a country where popular and ever-present images and sounds perpetuate our daily routines. Our obsession with popular culture and technology has oriented America as the pinnacle of material society. When the new iPhone comes out is more important than signing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We care about Dancing With the Stars, but are unable to address the fallacies of our own geopolitical dances and cultural failure in the Middle East and the situation in Darfur.
I can sum up how I feel about America now very simply. Our society has become the most militaristic and belligerent on the planet. Will history remember us as a country of freedom or force? Failure to appreciate the way the world actually works brought desperate acts of violence upon us in the form of 9/11 and the like. For many in Afghanistan, options are limited to the poppy trade or joining the Taliban and sometimes both. Instead of fighting poverty—the root of such dire actions—we have taken the path of war. Bullets don’t offer increased opportunity where we extend our might. At home, we seem apathetic in our acceptance of the status quo and questions are thoroughly discouraged. I wonder why Americans wonder about our economic failure when we spend almost a trillion dollars on war and marketing for the NFL. It is a simple truth that the world currently exists as a system of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots.’ When one part of the world profits, the other suffers. We seem to prefer ignorance to truth. Da Chen refers to the need to “stay away from the untouchable truth of government’s corruption and blatant human-rights violations” in a Communist Chinese context. However, our popular media frequently neglects to pursue such issues. Democracy Now!, WikiLeaks and their are proverbial lepers; their popularity is certainly far from mainstream. For America, freedom is an empty signifier; a word of frequent use but misunderstood meaning. America is based on notions of freedom and bringing it to the world, yet we seem to be out of touch with what freedom actually is.