This is not a long, profoundly philosophical or sociological essay on the American psyche nor is it a simplistic, generalising reflection on the nature of ‘all’ Americans. This post also does not neglect the role violence based on colonialism, racism, religious fanaticism and material/economic greed has put shame on other nations, from the distant past to the present. All I want to do is is to contrast America’s ideological billboard, describing that nation as the shiniest of all beacons of freedom, democracy and human rights with a small list of facts (and that list is small indeed and by no means representational – there is for example an endless number of social and global justice issues I’m not even touching on).
Here are the facts:
- since so-called white settlers set foot on what is seen as American soil, it’s people have been involved in 26 wars from colonial times to the present
- this number does not do any justice to the victims of the military history of the United States that has seen at least 294 extra-territorial and domestic military operations between 1775-2009; apart from a few internal ones, these operations took place in countless countries on the European continent (including Russia), in Asia (including India and China), Africa (from Morocco to Somalia), Central and South America and even Greenland – in other words; there are not many places on this planet that in the last 230+ years have not seen American military operations – always in the name of freedom and democracy of course, but mainly driven by America’s economic and hegemonic interests
- the above facts do not include the 50+ wars against and massacres of American Indians, military actions in slave rebellions, inter-state and county wars, local feuds, combats with internal paramilitary groups and guerilla forces, interventions against striking workers, riots, ‘disorders’ and ‘miscellaneous’ events ranging from smaller internal wars to the Mormon War, the Texan revolution, American embassy bombings, hostage crises, wars on drugs or the Waco siege (see Timeline of US Military Operations for details)
Without jumping to simplistic conclusions, it surely cannot be coincidental that
- 40% of Americans own a firearm
- the US had a homicide rate of 6 per population of 100,000, which is three times higher than that of Canada, four times as high as in Australia, six times higher than Germany and 12 time as high as in Britain and Japan
- the unofficial figurehead of the unofficial Tea Party, Sarah Palin, tweeted after the passing of the healthcare package: “Commonsense conservatives and lovers of America: Don’t retreat, instead – RELOAD”; her website featured prominent Democratic politicians and maps of their districts in the crosshairs of rifle sights; one of those politicians was the US senator Gabrielle Gifford, one of the recent Arizona shooting victims
- misguided Tea Party patriots, bent on taking back ‘their’ country, are extremely militant and openly violent
- a country with a history of murdering its presidents has right-wing politicians and Fox News commentators calling Obama, who actually is firmly entrenched in the country’s conservative ruling elite and establishment, a “socialist ideologue”, a Muslim, accusing him of “deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture” and of “Kenyan, anti-colonial” world views; that these commentators can get away with such baseless propaganda is not surprising in a nation in which 25% of Americans believe or think it to be likely that Obama was not born in the US (and therefore was not eligible to become president) and also believe that he (a nominal Christian) actually is a Muslim; Obama gets 30 death threads a day
- Fox radio personality Rush Limbaugh called for pressure to: “give [Fox News president Roger] Ailes the order and [then] there is no Assange, I’ll guarantee you, and there will be no fingerprints on it”; or that The Washington Times’ Jeffrey Kuhner titled a column “Assassinate Assange” and captioned it with a picture of Assange overlayed with a gun sight and the words “Wanted: dead or alive” with “alive” crossed out
We’re talking here not about a sub-culture of fringe lunatics but about the official America: leading news journalists and leading politicians openly and with impunity promoting the killing of others in their own country and outside of it. All this happens in the same nation that has a long history of hatred, bigotry, aggression, committing colonial and post-colonial atrocities, and inflicting war on other nations and their people. And while there are of course Americans who are peace-loving, tolerant, inclusive and humane, it is hard not to conclude that aggression, violence and hatred are an essential part of the American soul.