By Dave Lindorff
I'm going to say it: I am ashamed to be a US citizen. This doesn't come easily, because having lived abroad and seen some pretty nasty places in my time, I know there are a lot of great things about this country, and a lot of great people who live here, but lately, I've reached the conclusion that the US is a sick and twisted country, in which the bad far outweighs the good.
I can remember first feeling revolted about my country several times. The first was when I realized, at the tender age of 17, what an atrocity the US was committing against the people of Vietnam in my name -- the rape and murderous destruction of peasant villages and the napalming of children in the South, and the carpet bombing of North Vietnam (including dikes, schools and hospitals). Later, I was shocked and revolted when I belatedly learned how my country had rounded up native born and naturalized Japanese-Americans and Japanese legal residents into concentration camps during WWII, and how the national government had been complicit in the taking of those vilely incarcerated people's farms, homes and businesses by conniving white fascists in California.
But those crimes, horrific as they were, pale in the face of what I see this country doing now.
Let me count some of the ways that this country makes me sick:
1. It's not just the latest release of a heavily redacted report on the Bush/Cheney administration's deliberate program of torture, launched in 2001 in the wake of 9-11, and carried on for years against not just alleged terrorists, but even against people known or suspected to be completely innocent of anything. It's that nothing has been done, or likely will be done, to punish those who authorized and advocated for these war crimes and crimes against humanity. And it's not just that, but that so many of my fellow Americans are okay with that. Even in the media, including on NPR, I hear reporters saying that one of the "questions" about the government's torture program is whether it "worked" or not in obtaining information about acts of terrorism. Because it doesn't matter whether torture "worked" or not. The US and the rest of the nations of the world signed a treaty after World War II saying that torture is a criminal act (the penalty includes death under international law!). And so is covering up or failing to punish the crime of torture.
2. The police in the United States have become so militarized in both a physical sense and in terms of their training and self-image, that they are now more of an army of occupation than "peace officers" (there's an anachronistic term you don't even hear used anymore). Over and over we see police aggressively using force, including deadly force, in situations that call for calm and understanding. The most sickening thing to me, was watching a squad car in Cleveland race directly onto a park lawn right up to an enclosed gazebo where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was sitting, alone, playing with a toy gun. In less than two seconds, one of the cops exits the car and shoots the boy fatally in the stomach. There was absolutely no call for this execution. No one was around being threatened by the kid. The cops should have pulled up safely at a distance, assessed the situation, and then called on Rice to exit the gazebo and drop the gun, even if they feared it was real. Or they should have ordered him to stay put and drop the gun, and then, if he didn't comply, waited for back up, including a trained negotiator. Instead, they just raced in like it was a hostage rescue attempt, and blew a little kid away. Then they did nothing to help him after shooting him. Ugh! And yet, there is not a wave of universal outrage over this monstrous police murder.
Nor is there universal outrage at the cops involved in the execution slaying of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO or in the completely pointless choking death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York, both of whose uniformed killers were exonerated by grossly manipulated and misled grand juries. Instead, we hear whites interviewed on TV shows saying that the cops did the right thing.