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Love, American Style
Can the Brits feel the love yet? Exporting democracy, it turns out, means more than just showing unfortunate non-westerners the joys of having someone else write a decent constitution for them. We have now advanced to the point where we can tell even the land of the Magna Carta just where they went wrong. Apparently, they are so inept at running their own country that George Bush and his coterie of war criminals need to tell them just how to tailor democracy to American tastes.
The exported version, of course, is frighteningly like the domestic one. Free speech, first of all, is overrated, and is easily abused by misfits, peaceniks, trade unionists and other pesky troublemakers. Might we suggest a few important, um, improvements to make the whole thing run a little more smoothly? Really just a nip here and a tuck there. There you go-a Rolling Exclusion Zone would be nice. That way no one can ever get anywhere near a visiting head of state, even if he dragged your country into war and your people are plenty pissed off about it.
We'd also like you to basically shut down your capital, make our shoot-to-kill snipers exempt from your laws, and never have any negative image occupy the same TV screen (all for security, naturally) as our fearless leader. I guess I can drop the sarcasm now. This has got to be the most repulsive cabal ever to have seized control of the levers of power in US history. While we wait in vain for the fires of their hellish neocon psychosis to burn themselves out, they just keep getting worse and worse.
You would think that in the wake of revelations that the Bliar government begged desperately for Bush's cast of horribles to wait a bit before sinking its teeth into the oil-filled jugular of Iraq, that maybe-just maybe-Lon Cheney, George and crew might tread just a tad more lightly rather than swagger into town, oozing their misplaced and unfounded hubris all over London. You'd be wrong-again.
In fact, we're always wrong. Any vaguely humane assumption that might dampen our revulsion and cynicism is quickly dashed. Every time we indulge a human impulse to give these thugs the benefit of any doubt in any arena, we are reminded that there is no redeeming aspect whatever to this administration. But who's the wiser? Even with irony as rich as Bush and Bliar's mutual jitters about this visit, the only Americans awake enough to notice are the same crowd who noticed when a trillion dollars went missing at the Pentagon. Like I said, troublemakers.
Irony may be dead, but this safety obsession should raise more than a few eyebrows. It should be more than a bit alarming that the American pResident cannot safely visit his only ally in his gargantuan crime against humanity. I remember being within a stone's throw of the Nicaraguan president, surrounded merely by a few bodyguards in the midst of a civil war, and it begs the question of whether people like our good Boy George might be a bit safer if they were not so widely despised. But oh, wait, it's just because "they're jealous of our freedoms." Begging another question: if no one notices it, does irony still exist?
Peter Jennings bookended a recent newscast with two stories that should have made my head explode. Yet, in our new irony-free matrix, I merely shrugged. The lead story told of how the Americans in Iraq were "fighting back," hitting "suspected" insurgent hideouts, and so on. Leaving aside for the moment the thousand year old irony of "counterinsurgency" itself, the news ended with a nod to the Toledo Blade's courageous expose of US atrocities in Vietnam's Song Be valley three decades ago.
I had plenty of time to contemplate how much safer all this is making us as I waited in the ER lounge for a friend who had been shot in the head with a BB gun outside our school (true story). OK, I lied-I couldn't really shrug, with the irony liquefying my brain and leaking out my ears and nostrils. In the name of national security, these war criminals are making our world and our country incalculably more dangerous. Their macho swagger is not just an embarrassment, though it is that as well. Every month these people stay in office sets the cause of peace and security back a couple years.
And in the greatest of ironies, Bliar dreads the visit from his fellow occupier. Maybe Britain, having occupied perhaps more countries than Genghis Khan, should be jittery at the sight of its echo from across the pond. Centuries of brutal imperial terror melt away, and past becomes present. And why not? While they are securing the death of irony, the Bush junta might as well do away with the concept of time itself. Their war of terror in its current phase is desperate to find some wrinkle in time, a wormhole to another dimension where the time worn physics of occupation do not apply.
The string theorists of the Bush regime are wasting their time, aided and abetted by virtually the entire opposition party (notable exceptions Kucinich and Sharpton). Gravity still rules, and all imperial fantasy must needs return to earth. In this light, Bush and Bliar should enjoy their visit, perhaps with a song or two. George can quote from the Latin American resistance his own government spent the better part of the last century trying brutally to suppress: pueden cortar las flores, pero no pueden cortar la primavera. Tony can share songs from his own country's eight hundred year occupation of Ireland: "When the law can keep the blades of grass from growing where they grow/and when the leaves in summertime their verdure dare not show/then I will change the color that I wear in my corbeen/but 'til that day, plase God, I'll stick to wearing of the green."
They can reminisce about how their exports of "democracy" and the "rule of law" have brought smiles to the faces of those they have liberated. If they invited me, I would have shared my favorite anecdote about democracy. Watching late night election returns with a friend a few years back, our minds had all but been numbed into complacency when one candidate conceded with the requisite fought-the-good-fight-but-hey-that's-democracy shtick. My friend clicked of the remote with a snort: "Yeah, right, that's democracy: two virtually indistinguishable "candidates" spending a million dollars to convince as many people as possible that the other wet the bed when he was seven."
As far as the rule of law, Tony can dip again into his endless supply of Irish victims. I'm thinking of The Rebel, by Padraig Pearse: "Did you think to conquer the people? Or that law is stronger than life, or than man's desire to be free? We shall try it out with you-ye that have harried and held, ye that have bullied and bribed-tyrants, hypocrites, liars!" Sit back and enjoy it while you can, boys-there are a lot of songs yet to be written. Can't you just feel the love?
© 2003 Daniel Patrick Welch. Reprint permission granted.
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Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, USA,
with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The
Greenhouse School. Past articles are available online:
index on request. He has appeared on radio [interview
available here] and his columns have been aired as well:
those interested in rebroadcasting the audio may contact the
author. Some columns are available in Spanish or French, and
other translations are pending (translation help for more
languages welcome). Welch speaks several languages and is
available for recordings in French, German, Russian and
Spanish, or, telephone interviews in the target language. See