Wednesday, 14 September 2011

And we walked off... to look for America.

Warning: Political Post Ahead.

I saw an image of graffiti on a blog I follow yesterday. It couldn't have been more appropriate. "Speak the truth, even though your voice trembles"

My voice doth tremble. But sometimes maintaining silence is simply no longer possible.

I am about to speak the truth as perceived by me. This blog post will undoubtedly cost me followers, I don't set out to be malicious, vindictive or spiteful, and this is certainly no knee-jerk reaction, it's a post I've had 10 years to think about. What I say below is out of concern and love for a people and nation I adore.

When I was 12 years old I was in awe of America - a land where you could find liberty, democracy, freedom, justice and equality - there really was nowhere on the face of this earth that came close to the United States of America. I wished I was an American. In my desire to realise that wish I sent off a hand scribbled letter to the state of New York asking how I could become an American and then become a Police Officer there. Several months later, my local postie handed me an envelope with an American postmark. Inside, the letter explained what I had to do to become an American and further explained what I had to do to become a Police Officer. But what really caught my eye was the big bold lettering at the top "We are an Equal Opportunities Employer". Through my 12 year old eyes, here was a nation with no class system, no differentiation based upon religion, gender, race or starting point in life. Here was a nation which had realised, the physical and political embodiment of centuries of struggle and philosophy. It starkly contrasted with my own nation, riddled as it was by a pernicious class system, and sectarianism.

By the time the Americans caught up with me at 18 years old, I had already become a Police Officer in Scotland and so I then politely declined their formal invitation to go through the application process.

And so it was that my future developed in Scotland and England but being a keen political activist and observer, America was never far from my thoughts.

Then in 2001, the world changed.

Four aeroplanes were hijacked and the terror and grief unleashed on 911 reverberated around the world. As I watched the twin towers crumble, I realised my heart was doing likewise and so too would billions of others across the planet.  A plethora of new legislation was introduced, most notably the Patriot Act. As ever, my own nation followed suit acting like the USA's shadow.

Allied forces then attacked Afghanistan before moving into Iraq, both these actions were questionable and problematic but it's not the resultant foreign policy I wish to discuss here. It's domestic policy.

I remember watching a Democratic Presidential candidate debate which included Barack Obama but the individual who caught my eye was Dennis Kucinich, why? He was being berated for being the only politician there who voted against the Patriot act. I was impressed by his response, "I voted against it because I'm the only one here who actually read it and knows what's in it."

Today I watch in shock and disbelief as four and five year old boys and girls are pulled aside at airports in the USA and have the contents of their underwear examined. I see former breast cancer sufferers being asked to remove their prosthetic breast in the most humiliating of circumstances so that they can be examined for possible terrorist equipment. I read of the demands of the United States that an autistic young man from Britain be extradited to the USA for possible "terrorist" offences (he found his way into a military computer whilst looking for information on ' aliens '). I read of right-wing commentators demanding that Julian Assange be executed. I read today of a woman, a US citizen, being taken handcuffed from an aeroplane in Detroit by officers wielding machine guns and then being subjected to interrogation and a full strip search. Her crime?
"She looked suspicious" (for the full shocking account of her ordeal please read her own words at this link). I read of Internet hackers whose misguided behaviour in interrupting the flow of communications between corporations leaves them not with a slap on the head or six months in the slammer - they face possible terrorism charges formulated under the Patriot Act. I read of ordinary men and women who simply happened to have a camera handy when something unusual was going down on the street outside and who now face 20 years in prison for having the audacity to film what was happening. Making images of something unfolding in public is not ordinarily a crime (although I now believe seven differing states have made it so if you photograph or film an officer of the law performing their duty). Why has photography in public suddenly become a criminal act? Officers of the law are public servants, it is your tax dollars employing them. In fact the vast majority of police officers in the performance of their duty are filming you with cameras mounted in their vehicles.

You know, my understanding, my experience of the United States of America has largely been gleaned through movies,  music, novels and documentaries. They probably represent the United States of America's biggest and best, most important export.  In those movies, in that music, in those novels and documentaries there was a freedom, particularly of young people,  which was so appealing, so charming, so desirable. A month or so ago  I watched a video of two young sisters neither over 12 years old, who wanted to make some extra pocket money so that they could both go to a funfair. They did what I believe is a tradition in some parts of the United States - they made lemonade to sell to passers-by from the lawn outside their home. Until the police moved in that is - it seems in this day and age kids can't even sell lemonade without some kind of retail license, or health and hygiene license. The screw is being tightened but not on terrorists!


Have anti-terrorism laws been formulated as a means of social control knowing the economic bubble would burst eventually?

Just yesterday I was horrified to read that there are now more Americans living in poverty than have been since the 1950s. I looked in disbelief at images of tented villages springing up in woodland all over the USA, where the poor live beneath tarpaulins and this wasn't just out in Hicksville - this was in New Jersey! In this particular community in New Jersey to protect themselves from a harsh winter, they had erected three or four wooden structures including a little church - however the ' authorities ' felt this was in contravention of planning law and so demolished all of them, even though this endangers their lives. They now have to have open fires inside their cloth covered, plastic tarpaulin roofed hovels.

Something is wrong in America, something is fundamentally wrong and ordinary men and women all across that great land are suffering as a consequence. It's more than an economic malaise, there is a wedge being driven between those who have and those who do not, between those at the top and those at the bottom, between those who can purchase protection from the law and those who are open to exploitation by it, between those whom the powers that be deem fit to protect and those they don't.

Was my America mythical? Did it ever really exist? I believe it did, so where did it go?

On 11 September 2001, it wasn't only four aeroplanes which were hijacked; it seems to me, it was the United States of America.



  1. Welcome to a "Brave New World"! I read this book by Aldous Huxley when I was in Uni... I feel like America's is a perfect portrait to what Mr. Huxley envision. Never thought it would become reality.

  2. You aren't alone in your worries, believe me.

  3. I wasn't aware of the Patriot Act - or the ordeal passengers are now being put through at airports! thank you so much for info.. I shall now look into it
    Personally - I think you're spot on in your analysis Rory! and it's a sorry state indeed

  4. Let me just say, "What a tangled web we weave..." As someone being on the outside looking in, you are clearly seeing what very few of us Americans are seeing. Such a small voice cannot be heard over the cacophony of the majority of Americans either burying their head in the sand or trying to tell us, the small few, that we're wrong. "Everything is going to be fine. Don't worry your pretty little head about a thing."
    I have my theories about 9/11. It breaks not just my heart, but my spirit that people died and are still dying because of what happened that day. Our rights are being chipped away a little at a time. We have a politician who is actually trying to point this all out to the masses and you know what? They refuse to mention his name or that he has even won any political debates. They're trying to silence him by refusing to acknowledge his existence.
    It is a sad time to be an American. Those movies and books you've read, yes, those times were once real. Now they're just tattered memories flitting in shadow because people in this country are afraid to speak their minds.

  5. Thank you creative, Autolycus, Dawna and Caledonia Lass.

    Caledonia Lass - You just hit the nail on the head. I have quite literally hundreds of friends in the USA - and the more feedback I get from them the more it reads as 'It's not safe to say this anymore...'

    What happened to being able to speak out in America? Even if someone is hopelessly, helplessly wrong - for God's sake let them speak their mind that we can show them the error of their ways or at least understand where they are really coming from. There's a bullying mentality in the USA, bullying by the authorities and it's backed up with some pretty horrid penalties for those who fall foul of them.

    I think I know the politician you speak of - I've watched the votes 'on line' where every candidate is listed with a percentage from votes cast by a TV Audience. He never gets listed and is included in the 'Other' category - and 'Other' usually wins the vote by a huge margin. Yet they still won't publish his name. There are many things I disagree with him over, many things. But I respect his opinion and I am appalled at how he is being treated. Even if I detested his politics I would be appalled at his treatment. The American people are being duped by the Powers that be and the media colluding with them to narrow the options.


  6. In my mind the first thing that a country loses after perspective and freedom...
    oh add to that mix a certain amount of common sense too

  7. We watch from across the border and pray that the infection doesn't spread...but it will....

  8. I can't say that the US meant all those things to me that they meant to you. I grew up as American imperialism was beginning to tighten its grip on the world, but I read about a different America. It was a tolerant, honourable, humourous, hospitable place that I read about, a place where civilised people lived at the forefront of art, science, and philosophy: a creative place full of creative people. Yes I read about problems - racism, poverty, political corruption, and crime - but there seemed to be a will as a society to deal with them. Could there have been a more uplifting programme than Roosevelt's New Deal, or a more extraordinary and seemingly unlikely reformer than Lyndon B. Johnson with his Great Society and War on Poverty legislation. Johnson is now mostly remembered for tragically escalating the Vietnam War, and perhaps that marks the point where things started to go wrong. I don't know why fear suddenly gripped Americans or how they allowed themselves to be manoeuvred into today's position, where the world's perception of the country is of Sarah Palin, Tea Parties, militias, Columbine, rampant gun culture, aberrant greedy bankers, Waco, child beauty pageants, Guantanamo Bay, Manson, extraordinary rendition, arms sales and armed interventions, the cult of celebrity and lunatic life styles. My mind's perception of apple pie America may be as much rose-tinted as the image of a seemingly hysterical modern America is too harshly neon lit. Nevertheless, whatever the reality, my perception has changed and I don't think I'm unusual in that. I loved the America I found in my reading, and I don't think I'd love the new one. Perhaps I'm a mirror of where the world now is on the U.S. of A.

  9. What a post, Rory. I certainly don't think you're offensive for speaking the truth. It's sick the way 911 has been used to invoke fear and control over the masses. With the Cons in government in Canada, with Harper-wanna-be-Bush in charge, things are changing here that scare me. We're not supposed to be a "war" country. Our population is tiny, but we all seem to be following the leader.

    My grandma was on a flight back to England a couple of years back, at the Toronto airport. She was about 83-years-old at the time, practically crippled with arthritis and struggling to walk with a cane. They took her cane, patted her down, then made her stumble without her cane to wait at the end of the conveyor while they scanned her belongings. No apologies. Nothing. Proud to be Canadian? I think not. The U.S. holds the currency and we're all stuck... it feels like being on a sinking ship at the moment. England has changed too. When I left, no one had credit or fancy cars. It was a different scene when I visited four years ago, before the crash, and now they've gone Con too. I don't know, but I see some kind of crazy alliance cropping up between the U.S., Canada, and England.

    I feel rather suffocated by society at the moment; trapped by money, insurance, licenses, "safety" rules... it's no wonder their handing out drugs like candy.

  10. I think you summed it up pretty well, Rory. Bush and his minions were the last group of terrorists we had, but guess what? Obama hasn't changed the Unitary Executive bullshit, and Congress re-upped the friggin Patriot Act! I have a fridge magnet "Bush and Dick, we're gonna get screwed" except it didn't start with them and didn't end with them.

    These last ten years have been shameful to we Americans who seem powerless to stop this madness. No matter who we vote for, they do the Fascist thing. Except for Bernie Sanders, Dennis Kucinich- a handful in the vast government of hundreds of Congresspeople- we seem to be goosestepping ahead to a Brave New World of Fahrenheit 451. The US hasn't been a bastion of wonder and freedom in many years, but it's become a force of oppression now, to its own people and to the world. Weep, the Beloved Country.

  11. Think we could all chip in for an island and start our own thing, by chance?

  12. We could invite that poor naked Scotsman along...

  13. Hoping that the sickness that has been spreading in America stops, I fear it won't. That's the reality of it, Rory. I overheard a woman here in Virginia say, "we didn't invite them here" as she spoke of Yankees. I'm a Yankee, Rory and having chosen to live in for Virginia for the past eight years, I could not believe my ears. There is so much prejudice and bias here...I see it, hear it every day...about the blacks, the Hispanics, the Italians, the Irish...yesterday someone made a remark about another person being Jewish! Hatred comes in all sizes and shapes and unfortunately our leaders have now begun to hate we, the people, who put them in office. The rules of engagement may change slightly, however, the true evil doers will continue to threaten and maime us...all of us...:)JP

  14. I'm not one to usually talk much about politics, or religion for that matter...while I do have strong opinions on both subjects, I tend to keep them to myself. I just wanted to let you know how your post struck me Rory. I respect you so much for being able to express yourself in such an eloquent manner. You were able to convey what so many of us can see from the "inside"....

    Thank you. You may feel as though your voice was trembling, but you sounded loud, clear, strong and rational to me.

  15. Your post brought tears to my eyes. Not because I was offended, but because there is way too much truth to it. But I still have hope that history's pendulum will swing back again, and freedom (and sanity) will in the end prevail.

    I fear that one of the biggest stumbling blocks is the majority of the citizenry doesn't follow the news, and doesn't seem to give a diddle what's going on. If something doesn't affect them right here and now, right in their own homes, they simply don't care and don't want to know about it. Ignorance and apathy leave entirely too much power in the hands of the politicians.

  16. America has been transforming for about a century, since Wilson was president. FDRs new deal and Johnson's Great Society programs have accelerated the bankruptcy of our great nation. The majority of our politicians have forgotten their oaths to uphold and defend the Constitution from enemies, both foreign and domestic. They have forgotten that they are public servants, thusly their jobs are a public service, not an entitlement program. They work to silence opposition and differing opinions. There are few politicians that remember what they are and what they're to do. Supreme Court Justices are beginning to challenge the Executive and Legislative branches. The America you've read about still does exist, and the majority of the citizens have been defending their rights for years. Government is a necessary evil, that is why our Constitution severely limited the powers of the Federal Government. It's grown over the decades for the sole purpose of controlling every aspect of our lives. The TSA is a prime example of government regulation, with the pat-downs and searches. The unions and news media have gotten in bed with the government to aid in our decline, silencing and scaring normal citizens into submission. But we refuse to give up to the will of the minority. Citizens must be proactive in their governance, lest they willingly become subjects.

  17. I read through all the comments, and realized that the fear threaded through each one had silenced any optimism. Yes, we sure can grumble, and rage at the system that is snow-balling around the world. But, it is not just America. Because America is so big and dominating, countries have ceased to think for themselves.
    It is time for each person to be a little more introspective and seeking answers, without striking out in fear and anger when an old woman is frisked at the airport. Someone in that line should have said, "Wait a moment, here,..."
    It is time for every person to demonstrate integrity in their beliefs, not to simply rage about the inequities and injustices. Stop naming names and pointing a life that reminds others what each are capable of being.

  18. Excellent post, Rory. America, I think, has become a victim of its own PR. It's impossible to live up to all it espouses to be and the spangled stars in its eyes have blinded its people to the things that must be done in order for real change to happen. I'm so happy to be Canadian - we've always thought of our lack of patriotism as a curse but our introspective demeanour allows us to see our problems and, usually, fix them. What scares me the most is our admiration for the U.S. and our desire to be just the same. Susan's right, integrity is the most important thing.
    And Rory, I love the song 'America'... always have, always will.

  19. First time visitor here and found a lot I like. Its said " the truth will make you free " keep speaking the truth !

    All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Lets hope more truth speakers will stand up and say stop !

    RJR daydreamer

  20. So many comments to respond to - it's difficult to know where to begin.

    John Gray - I completely agree and in all honesty I don't believe it's 'accidental' - it gets consciously manipulated.

    Lawless - I sincerely hope just as you do.

    Alec - thank you - If truth be told your idea of America is more like it was and mine was an idealised perspective. I watched video of the protesters in Wall Street yesterday and was struck by the 'elite' on the balconies above sipping champagne whilst looking down on them. Unbelievable.

    CarrieBoo - The suffocation you feel is being experienced by so many at present. I remember a University Lecturer asking me before I graduated 'What do you want to be when you leave Rory?'
    My reply was 'To be left alone'. Never has 'life' crowded in so severely as it does now.

    Sue - Thank you - sometimes I really do think it's me that is 'out of touch' - Your comment was reassuring.

    Susan - You're right. People are so hypnotized by the trappings of modern day life, especially the cult of celebrity that the 'important stuff' is rarely contemplated let alone dealt with.

    A quiet Corner. I was reading of an eighty year old Jewish man from California who is selling up his home in California and moving to Israel - reason? "America has become too intolerant of difference". He fears for the future there.

    Julius - such is the relationship between all forms of authority in the USA that I sincerely don't know who to trust as 'acting in the best interests of the people' anymore. Nothing ever seems to be what it is presented as.

    Susan - I think you just called for an end to apathy - and it is apathy which led us to the point we're at. People do need to speak up. I completely agree.

    Cathy - if I may digress for a moment :) 'America' by Simon and Garfunkel really touched me not just because of the poetry of the lyrics - but this weird 'discordant' background music going on throughout. I felt it mirrored so much about America, the subdued, suppressed unrest simmering beneath the beauty. I was really surprised to discover that although Simon and Garfunkel did the singing - the musicians were the British Rock band 'Yes' including Rick Wakeman which gives it and explains that 'threatening feel' behind the beauty.

    RJR - Thank you - Welcome to the Good Ship Madness :)