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I Feel Ashamed of My Country

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Message Susan O'Connell
I Feel Ashamed of My Country

I've been saying this for a while. And I feel it so strongly today. I heard on CNN this morning that the U.S. is backing a new leader in Egypt who is in charge of the police there. This can only mean one thing, that the U.S. (my country) is cracking down on the tens of thousands of protesters who glimpsed freedom and decided to try to claim it. Egyptians have been pouring into the streets at great personal risk to demand the ouster of Mubarek. And we, apparently, have not only not advocated Mubarek's ouster, we're possibly helping to install someone worse!

That the U.S. is backing Omar Suleiman (our go-to guy for renditions and the head of the dreaded Egyptian intelligence service) is no surprise to me or to my fellow Progressive activists. In fact, the opposite would be a surprise, a welcome one.

While I enjoy daily life in the U.S., I have come to experience my identity as an American as one of deep shame. I reject the foreign policy of my government. I reject much of "American culture" and indeed the whole American brand as it has become known in the world. I really have come to question the moral compass of my fellow Americans who do not themselves question the routine suppression of other peoples by our government. What business do we have meddling in another country's internal affairs let alone invading other countries, occupying them, torturing their citizens, attacking their citizens directly or covertly with unseen drones? I think that the individual who lives in the United States with his head held high, who simply lives his own life while ignoring what his country does to the rest of the world is someone I don't want to know.

I feel that to live a good life, to be a good person, you have to: 1) not do things you consider to be wrong, 2) do things you consider to be right, and 3) don't let anyone (especially your government) represent you with words or deeds that you find abhorrent. I just want to ask each and every American -- how can you know the kind of actions in which your government has made you complicit and not want to take to the streets screaming like our Egyptian brothers and sisters? And if you don't find it abhorrent to torture other human beings or to oppress them, how can you call yourself human?

There is one young man who is emblematic of what I would like to consider American. His name is Bradley Manning and he's spent at least 7 months in solitary confinement at Quantico military base. I have come to believe that he amassed and posted tens of thousands of Wikileaks not out of anarchy but out of what we used to call a high American ideal, freedom of the press. It's hard to find a good news article or commentary in any magazine or newspaper in the past few weeks that doesn't cite its source as being Wikileaks, most probably the leaks provided by Manning. Thanks to this young army private, for a brief while we have enjoyed real news, we have been able to read about what our country is really doing, what the thoughts of American diplomats are, what the experience of soldiers in each of two wars is really like. Indeed the uprising in Tunisia that led the citizens of other countries in the Mid-East to get the courage to revolt was probably largely fueled by Wikileaks. But I have no doubt that the U.S. -" the country that is, even as I write, squashing the dreams of Egypt's long oppressed people -" could soon squash the dreams of Progressive Americans by cracking down on Wikileaks and/or further punishing our young national hero, Bradley Manning (who right now sits in prison, while not yet charged with a crime).

One person I know (and otherwise admire) says that imperialism has always been a fact of life. This may be a fact of history to date, but it can't continue to be a fact of our lives. We don't have to continue to live lives of luxury on the backs of the rest of the world. To say we are superior doesn't make it so. To say we are a superior nation (or people) and therefore entitled to more than our share is a view composed of two lies.

I know I am not alone in feeling that U.S. imperialism, while part of our identity since day one, has gotten worse in the last decade (since Bush 43). My friends actually say the ramp up began with Reagan in 1981. No longer does our government even try to hide its plans to run the affairs of other countries. I know I'm not alone in feeling that the U.S. government will do whatever it wants and the will of the U.S. people be damned, even though we, as citizens, are complicit in the actions of "our" government.

Personally, at 52, I often feel that I want to some day move to another country and live the last years of my life there. I need the experience of not feeling sickening guilt and shame every time I turn on the news or pick up a newspaper. Really, unless this country finally changes and turns away from its long tradition of imperialism and oppression, how can those of us with a conscience feel good in saying we are Americans?

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Periodically I have to come up for air in my anti-Bush, anti-Cheney rant to realize that I owe W a debt of gratitude for one thing, making me an activist. Although always outspoken, I've graduated to activist during the Bush (43) years. Member of (more...)
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I Feel Ashamed of My Country

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