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Escape from America

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Philadelphia subway concourse, 2015
Philadelphia subway concourse, 2015
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Lin Yutang wrote, "What is patriotism but the love of the food one ate as a child?" Born in Fujian, Lin also lived in the U.S., France, Germany, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan, where he's buried. Whatever attachment Lin had to his childhood stews, fish balls, snails, clams and tofu, it didn't prevent this remarkable author and inventor of the first Chinese typewriter from globetrotting to improve his mind then, finally, to save his own ass, as his favored Kuomintang got routed by bad-assed Mao.

Should I stay or should I go? Ambrose Bierce glibly defined an immigrant as "an unenlightened person who thinks one country better than another," but between any two things, types of coffee, meat loafs, races, there is always a value judgment, so one thing is always better or worse than another, though the verdict is never unanimous, for some people are even fond of ingesting egesta, or watching television nonstop, even to the point of leaving it on through the entire night as they sleep, so they can hear it in their dreams, I suppose. My friend T.J. does this. To each his own, then, but since leaving one's country is never an easy step, logistically or psychologically, let's examine the reasons for such a radical departure.

Turning his back on all he has known, and his very identity even, an emigrant is fleeing from his inadequate or insufferable government. If hightailing from a war, he's trying to save his own skin since the state can no longer protect him. At other times, he's escaping the state itself, for it has become his overt nemesis.

Since Americans have never experienced a Pol Pot, Stalin or Hitler, they can be terribly dismissive of other people's historical trauma, so on the left, you still have naifs evoking Communism, of the dictatorship of the proletariat variety, as an ideal, while on the right, you have buffoons who mislabel crony capitalism as communism. Some dream of an American reich. Far from objecting to an overbearing state, they only quibble about its objectives, and nearly all have come to accept endless war as a natural American condition, and it is, quite frankly, for when was the last time the U.S. wasn't fighting or occupying an alien population? I'd say never, but don't listen to me. Submit your answer for a chance to win an all-inclusive, extended stay at the world-renown restive encampment at tropical Guantanamo!

A totalitarian state is one that can do any damn thing it feels like to you, without you having any recourse to fight back, short of being suicided by cops, and since the U.S.A. can now arrest, torture or kill anyone without due process, and it has, aplenty, it qualifies as such a monstrously criminal state notwithstanding the fact that all appears reasonably normal, sane and civilized, for now. If the law allows, say, a husband to shoot his wife at any moment, then that society has entered into hell even before the first woman has had her brains blown out.

Another clue to the state's totalitarian pivot is its heavy emphasis on travel restrictions, such as the secretive and illegal no-fly list, its perverted airport groping of infants and centenarians alike, its absurd and arbitrary ban on everything from baby formula to clam sauce, such as happened to me, seriously. Even with the image of spaghetti on the label, the TSA Einstein thought it was a beverage. He actually suggested I drink it.

Like any attacker, a terrorist is liable to hit you where you ain't heavily guarded, so there's no reason why he should consider airports when there is an infinity of other targets, and the more random, the more terror generated, for nowhere would be safe. In any case, the only terrorists we should fear are the ones who are recruited and coached or, at the very least, sanctioned by our sinister FBI or CIA. Since it's no secret our government casually and habitually massacres, should we be surprised that it also butchers innocent Americans? Far from being victims of terrorism, the United States is the world's leading generator of it.

The primary aim of our transportation security regiment, then, is not to thwart terrorists but to drum into your head that traveling is not a right but a privilege granted by the benevolent state, and if you don't grovel all the time, everywhere, and not just at airports or train stations, this special dispensation can be abruptly withdrawn.

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Linh Dinh's Postcards from the End of America has just been published by Seven Stories Press. Tracking our deteriorating socialscape, he maintains a photo blog.

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