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The baby blue house with the quite coral columns

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“Ooh -- muy bonita!” cooed the young saleswoman in San Ramón, Costa Rica.

 

She was examining the paint she’d just mixed, obviously impressed with the results of her labor. Me, I wasn’t so sure. How would the bright reddish-brown hue (“Quite Coral”) look on the support columns of my new hillside casa whose exterior was a vivid baby blue?

 

Quite coral, as it turned out. And quite good, too, I mused. As for what my gringo neighbors thought: Who knew? Then again -- who cared? My house is in the tropics, hence its tropical colors. Besides, a primary reason for my impending move to Costa Rica is to experience anew something decidedly deceased in America:

 

Freedom.

 

A few days later as I was driving back into Sacramento from the airport, I remembered the paint episode while passing the endless, look-alike suburbs “inspired” by the faux Taco Bell school of architecture (only without the classiness of the original), moribund conglomerations whose CCRs thankfully at least provide residents a variety of wildly indulgent exterior colors from which to choose:

 

“Which would you prefer, Mrs. Jones: the drab, or the less drab?”

 

Welcome to the Stultifying States of America, where incurious conformity is king and individualism, proof of Satan’s existence.

 

How did we get here? Well, ‘tweren’t by accident:

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America’s ruling elites, despite all their flag-waving lip-flapping to the contrary, in truth have long secretly admired Europe’s basic economic system. ‘Course, this would be the Europe of a few centuries ago, and the system, feudalism. These über-wealthy ache to recreate those halcyon days right here in America and, through a decades-long, well-orchestrated scheme of suppressing wages, eliminating pension plans, slashing benefits, weakening unions and manipulating markets, are close to realizing their dream.

 

The massive transfer of wealth and gutting of a too-large middle class (for their liking) have been abetted marvelously well by an unquestioning, deliberately undereducated, jingoistic, religion-addled, knee-jerk consuming citizenry rendered sufficiently inert by the average 2.4 electronic doping tubes inside their over-mortgaged death boxes to deaden even token objection to wars waged non-stop in their names to keep the whole sick cycle going.

 

Besides, it’s much easier meekly allowing one’s lifeblood to be sucked slowly dry while sleepwalking through life, mindlessly discarding precious days one by one, thereby handing to the Matrix owners on an evermore silver platter exactly what they desire: obeisant consumer/workers whose fear of not belonging assures an even greater paucity of dissent.

 

Ah, conformity: it’s the stuff that drones are made of.

 

I knew Americans’ desire to fall in line was terminal (both for liberty and lives) the night in June 2003 I was attending a Giants-Dodgers game. I stood for the seventh-inning stretch to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” only to hear the public address announcer ask that caps be removed for the playing of “God Bless America,” a ploy instantly recognizable as an effort by Major League Baseball, with corporate America’s blessings, to promote unquestioning nationalism at contests countrywide three months into the U.S. occupation of Iraq. After refusing to comply, I heard angry shouts of “Take off your hat!”

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In San Francisco, no less.

 

Creativity-snuffing standardized school exams; cloned clutches of fast food joints materializing every three miles like some garish Twilight Zone scene with anonymous strip malls devouring what remains; sexual repression so thick and twisted god forbid a nipple appear on TV but eviscerations are just hunky gory while in the (sur)real world the same desensitized viewers yawn off a million dead Iraqis whose only crime was to live in a land awash with oil; slavish-like adherence to the number one conformity-former of all time, religion, resulting in legions of frozen-smiled, fanatical fatheads who’d rather believe in fairy tales (cribbed from ages-old legends and poorly re-told at that) than think critically and who wouldn’t recognize a true Christian value if it refused to smite ‘em in either cheek -- all of it, and myriad more, produce a populace so petrified of fresh thought it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing witch-burning again. (No doubt available on Barbecue Pay-Per-View.)

 

I’ve had it. I’m through living amidst millions of compulsive rules-followers convinced since infancy that one size fits all. I am different, I love being different, I want to surround myself with people who’re different, I want to live in a country so different it doesn’t crow about loving peace while slaughtering millions but rather one that proves it by having constitutionally abolished its military fifty-eight years ago.

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Mark Drolette is a writer who lives in Sacramento, California.

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