Filed under: Politics, War | Tags: Andrew Jackson, ethnic cleansing, immigration, Simon Schama
Above is a link to a great video on Bill Moyers journal. Shuma is a British writer who toured America making observations on how the cultural landscape is changing, including the rise in the fear of “the other.”
The US has harbored this myth of inclusion and moral superiority for decades. The myth of this being a welcoming land of immigrants is one created out of the convenience of the American people’s horribly short memory. The advantage of not having strong history classes in the public schools, is that what we don’t remember can’t affect us. How soon we forget that Andrew Jackson was the first master of ethnic cleansing long before WWII. The class and culture wars in the neighborhoods of Boston and New York, where each new wave of immigrants caused cries of the end of the country. First the Germans were going to destroy everything, then the Irish, now, as the woman in the video proclaims, “The Mexicans come with their diseases.”
Geography alone is an interesting factor in this perspective. Huge and isolated, we are both removed, and in a large way, protected from any country that might have a real problem with us. Our skewed and lacking view of the world comes in large part that the majority of Americans can’t afford to travel even if they want to. (I know that may be hard for some to believe, but remember that 90% of the wealth in America is owned by 1% of the people.) Now, this is a slippery subject, and I am not comparing poverty in America to poverty in a lot of other countries, because they are very different things, but 58% of all Americans will live below the US poverty line at some point in their adult lives.
And what does lack of exposure, combined with the memory of a time when you couldn’t afford groceries, combined with the fear of being in that place again – well, desperation, blame, and discrimination. In some people it inspires compassion and community, but I’m not getting the sense that we are leaning that way as a whole.
I read a lot of books about recent political violence, and I can’t help but get the sense that as an American, growing up in these protected lands, that, with the exception of journalist and soldiers, we really don’t have a clue. No one wants bombs dropped in their own backyard, but being privileged in this way has ruined our empathy, and our understanding. Put aside the moral highground, and notice that there is a lot more happening in the world then a bunch of people losing their houses to bad loans, at least if you live in a camper in Tennessee, as I do now, it’s not going to be blown-up while I’m in it. What I’m getting at, is that I have a real problem with a country that has never experienced war in it’s own neighborhoods, but has such huge opinions about it elsewhere.
I don’t think people really talk about war here. Sure there are political arguments about what Bush did, there are news reports on Gaza, but no one on the streets is talking about it. Life is the same here, shopping, work, dinner. Brush teeth, start again.
“Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.” Benjamin Franklin
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