It's hard to be an American these days, at least if you are Michael Moore. The Large One was in Toronto recently to attend Toronto International Film Festival, a vertitable love-in for the Hate America First crowd, and told the assembled glitterati of his "contingency plans to flee to Toronto if things got much worse in the States."
"Much worse?" I thought. Am I missing something?
No roadside bomb has delayed my commute to work recently, and work seems plentiful enough for those who seek it (including several thousand new immigrants each day). I turn on the tap, and out comes potable water, hot and cold. The lights burn brightly at the flick of a switch and the radio plays that forgotten song. Neither jackbooted police nor political death-squads threaten me when I go to the 24-hour grocery store to pluck from the shelves fresh foods from the world over, and in such quantities that I could never possibly eat it all. That new hospital is five minutes away, but if I dial those three numbers, the paramedics will be be here in two.
Back in my home, the one that I own, I choose from the 300-odd cable channels available to watch uncensored news from across the globe. Then I read the opinions of a host of voices in the newspapers delivered daily to my door. After I've decided which candiate to support for office, I can, if I so choose, cast my secret ballot. Later, I can petition my governments to do, or refrain from doing, certain things that I like or don't like, and then write on my blog pretty much anything I want to say about that, or anything else.
How much worse can things get?
"Plenty and peace breed cowards" Shakespeare wrote.* While cowardness has never been a national trait, it would seem that, despite all of our wealth and education, fear has become a national malady.
The shock of 9/11 is gone, and the anger over those attacks appears to have ebbed as well. In its place has grown a kind of self-inflicted terror that saps our strength and clouds our vision. A perfect example of this unfounded fear is how in Toronto Mr. Moore "worried aloud that the administration had 'a whole list of places we still have to invade.'" On the face of it, Mr. Moore's statements appear to be nothing more than another bit of Bush-hating rhetoric delivered to the Liberal faithful. But such senitments reflect the creeping paranoia that is now being foisted daily upon the American people.
Think about it. Cindy Sheehan states that she fantasizes about going back in time and murdering an infant named George Bush, and it's news. Spike Lee claims that the Bush administration blew up the levess to flood the Ninth Ward, and it's news. More a third of the country believes that the Bush administration had a hand in the 9/11 attacks, or knew about them in advance and did nothing to stop them. Never mind that the Supreme Court did more to curb civil liberties with its decisions in Kelo and Raiche than Bush could have possibly accomplished, Bush is out to "trample" your civil rights by listening to international cell phone calls made to suspected terrrorists. And as to free speech, why just look at what Bush did to that poor Joe Wilson and his unnamable wife! Absolutely chilling, I'll tell you!**
Nevertheless, it should be remembered that it is none other than George Bush that is inciting fear among the American people.
I'm not just picking on the Left here, nor on the Main Stream Media. I recognize that there is a good argument to be made that elements of the right-wing are equally engaged in fear-mongering. Seriously, if gay marriage signals the End of Days then set 'em up all around, Jim, 'cause I'm going out tanked to the gills and reading the Sports Page.
What is really going on here is not simply the exercise of political partisanship. It is the public expression of America's frustration with the fact that it can no longer control its own destiny. Our borders are porous. Our way of life depends on foreign commodities, goods, services, and investment. Our elected offficials no longer hold our respect, and our faith in our system of justice is flagging. Our enemies grow bolder while we vacillate and backbite, seemingly resigned to our own perpetual insecurity.
The new national self-loathing is typified by the reaction of so many citizens to the recent news that CIA, the very people Bush relied upon for pre-war intelligence, discovered last fall that Saddam and al Qaeda weren't all that chummy after all. Hallelujah! We were wrong! YAY! WE SUCK! Patriots all. And the devils laugh.
A friend of mine, a very bright guy, asked me yesterday why it is that America could win World War II on both fronts in less than four years, but after five years Bush still hasn't captured the one man most responsible for 9/11.
I responded (with all sobriety) that it was because following the events of December 1941 the United States was prepared to incinerate entire cities and kill millions of soldiers and civilians, the guiltyalong with the innocent, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of our own troops and all the treasure in the world. "Is one man worth that kind of moral capital," I asked?
He didn't say much after that, but the way he looked at me indicated that he thought that perhaps I am a very dangerous person.
I'm not a dangerous person. I don't propose, as Don Imus once did, that we burn everything east of Beruit. Historical facts are sometimes hard to swallow, as are the options available to us when we animate our enemies with our own values and traditions. I doubt that our parents' will to survive as a nation, by whatever means necessary, could ever be rekindled in America today. And maybe that's a good thing. And maybe not. Time will tell.
Perhaps it is because we Americans are too fat and too successful that we are failing to convince the rest of the world that ours is the better plan, and/or that this experiment in personal liberty will not soon fade away, at least not without a fight.
But ask yourself: Why it is that we should fear those that would enslave the world, and not the other way around?
Indeed, why should we fear anything at all?
* Cymbeline, III, iv.
**(Of course, free speech apparently does have its limits, depending upon your point of view.)