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No innocent bystanders in America

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Message Mickey Z.
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The next time you're feeling "free," see how far you can walk without being legally compelled to let cars drive past. The light turns red and viola: you are no longer free to continue walking because in America, the car culture rules. This essentially invisible totalitarian salvo was recently complicated when a big white SUV crept up into the crosswalk, making it virtually hopeless for yours truly to cross the damn street even when the light changed to green. I fixed my gaze on the mechanized monster before me and immediately saw all that is wrong with America.

No, I'm not just talking about how the gas guzzling properties of that SUV directly result in military interventions, human rights violations, global poverty, rampant war crimes, and everything else on that lurid laundry list. This is not just another screed about the myriad highways that crisscross America, draining tax dollars, shattering communities, and devastating eco-systems. No, this is all about dissidents finally blaming everyone who deserves blame (including ourselves).

The neatly dressed man in the passenger seat-"Dad"-was talking loudly on a cell phone. Global demand for columbite-tantalite (a.k.a. "coltan"), a common cell phone component, is fueling war and environmental destruction in the Democratic Republic of Congo...but leftists aren't supposed to acknowledge their complicity. We don't reproach everyday Americans for their callous indifference because,'s all Bush's fault, right?

The woman driving this death machine ("Mom") sported diamond earrings. Although we're aware how the diamond trade exploits both humans and the landscape, Mom's given a free pass based solely on her ignorance. It's Bush's fault.

Both Mom and Dad proudly call themselves "liberal" and voted for Kerry in 2004. Their participation in the two-party farce and their acceptance of lesser evilism, however, are not seen as the problem by those in the know. It's all Bush's fault.

In the backseat of that SUV sat a teenage boy wearing Nike sneakers, a Gap shirt, and eating a Big Mac. I'm not supposed to point the accusing finger of blame at his family's willingness to financially support sweatshop labor and factory farming because it's Bush's fault.

Next to Big Mac boy was his older sister: drinking Coke (sorry India and Colombia) and putting on nail polish (too bad for the animals it was tested on). This girl's compliance is not the problem. She's merely a product of the times. Besides, it's all Bush's fault.

The light that temporarily halted this SUV went green and Mom put the pedal to the metal. As she drove away, I saw a bumper sticker that reads: "Our son is a U.S. Marine." Ah, here we have the Holy Grail of free passes. Condemn the war but support the troops, we're told, and the SUV owner's progeny only joined for the educational opportunities. It's not his fault. Leave him alone. He's only following orders. He had no choice. He has no culpability. It's Bush's fault that poor sonny boy is stuck in Iraq.

Reality check: The excuse of ignorance is not valid when graphic images are available within minutes. It's not lack of knowledge; it's denial...or perhaps even acquiescence. There are no innocent bystanders when our money and/or rhetoric support the world's most powerful military and the corporate status quo. But if we just keep telling ourselves it's all Bush's fault, we can sleep better-our innocence wrapped around us like a big white SUV.

Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at
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Mickey Z. can be found on the Web at
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