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With an election year now upon us, the unfortunate U.S. citizenry is being constantly assaulted by those who would ‘make America great again’, as if it ever was. From the Republicans, we learn that such horrors as health care for the masses and food stamps for the poor will be done away. The ability for everyone to marry the person of his or her choice, which apparently is the height of immorality, will no longer be allowed. The possibility of affordable higher education, with low-interest, government loans, is not even to be considered. And Muslims will no longer be allowed in the country because, as we all know, they are all terrorists.
On the Democratic side, things aren’t all the much better. Before the so-called ‘safety net’, the taxpayer-provided assistance to the poor and needy, can be reinforced, or before the education system can be improved, or the nation’s infrastructure repaired, one must assure that Israel has all that it wants and needs. Now this is no change from the current administration; President Barack Obama wrote all the checks Israel demanded, but he was not pleasant about it. His successor, whoever that may be, promises to jump through all the Israeli hoops with a big smile on his or her face.
The level of political discourse among the lesser gods striving for office isn’t much better. For example, this writer last lived in the U.S. in Florida, and it is there that he is registered to vote. One Alan Grayson is running for senate there, and, until recently, this writer was on his mailing list. Among the qualifications Mr. Grayson listed in numerous and nauseating emails were more than one talking about how he has more U.S. flag ties than any other member of Congress. This is not what this voter needs to make an informed decision. He wrote to the candidate several times asking for his position on the Israel-Palestine situation, but Mr. Grayson did not see fit to respond. Oh well, maybe the question was simply too difficult for him.
Let us take a moment to discuss the legendary and mythical greatness of the U.S. Did it ever exist? Is there some ‘greatness’ that current politicians could bring the country back to? The irony of bringing the U.S. ‘back’ is lost on most of the candidates, and this writer will not insult the reader by explaining it. But let us take a short trip throughout U.S. history.
The nation started with thirteen colonies rebelling against the British government. That this was a people’s movement, with wide support, is a popular story, but then again, so is the Three Little Pigs. One must as readily believe in the porcine construction of three huts as readily as the myth of the common man in the late 1700s rising up in rebellion against the Crown. A more careful look at history indicates that roughly one-third of the people living in the colonies supported the revolution; another third was loyal to Britain. The remainder vacillated; when Britain seemed to be winning, they supported Britain. When the ‘revolutionaries’ had the upper hand, they sided with them.
Regardless of how much support they had, the ‘revolutionaries’ defeated the British, and quickly began their own empire. With an entire continent, rich in natural resources, the opportunity for untold wealth was unlimited. So what if several million natives lived on the land? What right did they have to it? The slaughter of the Native Americans began long before the country was established, but became policy once the Revolutionary War ended. Countless millions of native men, women and children were brutally killed, driven from their lands and exploited in unspeakable ways as ‘democracy’ roared across the continent.
As lands were cleared of Native villages that had existed from time immemorial, cotton became a popular product. Unfortunately, there simply weren’t enough people willing to pick it, at least not at wages that plantation owners wanted to pay. So how did the ‘great’ United States resolve this problem? Well, why not sail to the African continent, kidnap millions of people, and force them to do the work? ‘Yankee ingenuity’ at its best! These people were not white, and so in the view of the enlightened and ‘great’ United States, affirmed by the Supreme Court, they weren’t quite human. They could be bought or sold, treated worse than dogs, and forced to labor long hours under horrendous conditions. Countless thousands died en route to the U.S., and their bodies were simply thrown overboard. Never mind how this might have impacted the parents or children of the deceased; these were not people, but simply commodities. If a sack of potatoes went bad on board, simply throw it over! Black kidnap victims were viewed the same way.
As the years progressed into decades, and the decades into centuries, things weren’t much better. In their turn, Chinese workers, the Irish, Italians, Catholics, Mormons, Jews and many others were exploited, discriminated against, harassed, beaten and killed, simply because they were Chinese, Irish, etc.
Fast forward to Pearl Harbor and World War II. Concentration camps in the U.S. for Japanese citizens were mandated; many of these citizens lost their homes and businesses, simply because they were Japanese. During this time, anyone who might be considered a threat to national security was sifted out of the great melting pot, and the Japanese felt the brunt of this particular injustice.
We will do no more than mention the slaughter of Filipinos during the Philippine-American War, or the horrific massacre of over 2,000,000 Vietnamese during that tragic, imperial misadventure. Nor will we dwell on the dehumanization and murders of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis at the start of the new millennium. All part of U.S. ‘greatness’.
Today, little has really changed. Young, unarmed and defenseless Black men serve as target practice for police officers, often trained by one of the most savage and brutal armies in the world, that of Israel. Why police officers, who are supposed to ‘serve and protect’, must receive military training, and be equipped with vehicles appropriate for an invasion, is puzzling, unless one considers that the powers that be have every intention of staying exactly where they are, and instilling fear in the populace is an excellent tool for accomplishing that goal. And what passes for the justice system in the U.S. allows murderous police officers to escape any penalty for their crimes.
Muslims suffer persecutions that would be headline news if they happened to any other group. One can only imagine the response in the mainstream media, and the highest offices in the land, if a group of armed Muslims surrounded a church or synagogue during services.
The U.S. provides billions upon billions of dollars to Israel, whose Prime Minister refers to Palestinians as beasts. The U.S. government persecutes those who would shed light on its crimes, condemning whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden. And it glorifies such mass murderers as sniper Chris Kyle.
Yet we are told we should vote for a senate candidate with several U.S. flag ties, and a presidential candidate who made a small fortune speaking to Goldman Sachs, but will not reveal what it is she said. The Supreme Court has allowed unlimited corporate donations to candidates; one is naïve indeed if one thinks those corporations are buying power for the good of the people. A quotation, thought to have originated with John Maynard Keynes, is this: “Capitalism is the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all”. Former President Ronald Reagan’s ‘trickle down’ economics was the embodiment of this, and that practice hasn’t changed much since the Reagan years.
The average worker in the U.S. is required to work a certain number of hours a week; he/she is generally responsible for creating some kind of artifact: computer code, documentation, report, a physical product, a lesson plan, etc. A few weeks of paid vacation are usually offered with the employment. There may be other benefits: medical insurance, bonuses, etc. If the number of days off taken exceeds the vacation or sick time allowed, the worker’s pay is forfeited for that time. Excessive absences may result in termination of employment.
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate are under no such constraints. The can work as many or as few hours as they choose, and even the required number of days is not onerous. In 2014, Congress was scheduled to be in session about 133 days; the average, non-Congressional worker (e.g. you and me), works about 240. And many of them spend much of their work time looking for a new job: campaigning for the presidency, senate, or other role seen as more powerful than their current one, or simply raising money for their next campaign.
This is the great United States; this is the sacred union that is the ‘envy’ of the world, according to its Congressional cheerleaders.
The history of the United States is over two hundred years of blood, exploitation and oppression. The November election will cause nothing to change.
Originally published by Counterpunch.