Social Question

NowWhat's avatar

Does anyone have anything positive to say about America?

Asked by NowWhat (317points) August 22nd, 2009

I’m just a simple guy who reads and listens, and lately I’ve been hearing a lot of negative talk about our country. Much of it is from the internet.

Just to get things started, here’s a couple things I like about America:

- There’s still lots of opportunities for anyone to do anything they want
– We can go to any church we want to
– There’s food everywhere

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

164 Answers

dpworkin's avatar

Who is criticizing America? I guess I don’t see that too much. There are some changes I would like to see, to make it even better, but even the fact that you can openly speak critically says a lot about what a wonderful place this is.

sandystrachan's avatar

So the things you like about America are the things that happen mostly all over the world .
Am not American , but i would guess not being ruled by George Bush now is a good thing .

Judi's avatar

I love that America is founded on diversity! The whole melting pot concept is cool and amazing.

NowWhat's avatar

@pdworkin You haven’t noticed that bashing (like sandystrachan just did) that goes on on these websites? But you have a good point, it’s good that we can speak out so much. I’m a big fan of those tea parties

NowWhat's avatar

@Judi Definitely. This is the only place you’ll find just about every language and culture getting along as a country

rebbel's avatar

It’s the home of the Whopper.

janbb's avatar

I love that we could get rid of a President that many of us disliked and put in one that we expect to be much better without bloodshed or riots in the streets. And I love that so many immigrant group are able to come here, contribute to our culture (and yes, food), work really hard, and eventually have a better life. I also love the great variety and natural beauty of our country. and – did I mention the food?

sandystrachan's avatar

How did i bash America ? Would you rather Bush was still president ?

NowWhat's avatar

@sandystrachan As opposed to Obama? Any day.

Jeruba's avatar

What a strange question. I can’t believe there’s anyone here who thinks this country and its places and people are all bad. How can we answer this item by item? There will always be detractors, but they’re not going to come here and read a list and change their minds. The rest of us answer this with our whole lives.

Fyrius's avatar

I must concur with the critics that many things that are considered the good aspects of the USA are quite common here in Europe too. We too take freedom of speech and of so many other things for granted and pride ourselves in our great cultural diversity.
Not that those things aren’t great about the USA. But they’re just not unique to the USA.
And the rest of us would be very happy if more Americans would realise that.

“This is the only place you’ll find just about every language and culture getting along as a country”
I beg to differ. Have you ever been around here?

jca's avatar

in this country, you can walk into a social services department and apply for and receive money, food stamps, medicaid, help with your rent, power bills, etc. if you’re not a citizen, but you have a baby here, the baby is entitled to rent, medicaid, WIC, etc. where else can you go and get that?

sandystrachan's avatar

@NowWhat That is your opinion , i wasn’t bashing America i could have done . i chose not too , don’t use your dislike of Obama and say i bashed America .

NowWhat's avatar

@Fyrius That’s good. I wasn’t trying to bash Europe, and yes I’ve been there- but I was more so talking about the general national pride of Americans as a whole

ragingloli's avatar

that after 8 years they finally got rid of one of the worst presidents in history.
though that should be taken with a lot of salt, as the difference between mccain and obama was not that great. after the disaster that bush was, and what an unfitting canditate mccain with palin was, one would expect a more clear outcome. disappointing really.
shame on you

irocktheworld's avatar

I love how there’s food everywhere!!!
I love how it’s a free country and that things are not that expensive here. :)

ragingloli's avatar

but everyone knows that germany is vastly superior to america

Fyrius's avatar

Hang on. Thread starter, are you looking for things that are awesome about America, or for things that are awesome about America that you’ll find nowhere else?
The former would be quite easy to find, the latter not so. I’d probably have just as much trouble for the Netherlands, Germany, France, Russia or Australia. All first world countries look a lot alike these days.

Disclaimer: I’m not much of a traveller, admittedly. I never left Europe myself.

janbb's avatar

@Fyrius The question was not what is unique about America but what are some positive things about it. Europe is great too, and has much that is wonderful in my eyes. And I am finding it much easier to feel somewhat positively about the USA in the last six months than in the 8 years prior to that.

(I was typing this before your recent post but it looks like I am answering that, too.)

Darbio16's avatar

U.K. has freedom of speech? Oh yeah, just ask Michael Savage about that. Ever notice that when a freedom is taken away from western society it is taken first in the U.K.? You guys got weak, now Americans are becoming just as weak. They have your guns, but did they remember to at least give you some lube?

ragingloli's avatar

and the US has freedom of speech? enjoy your frivolous lawsuits for criticising corporations.

Darbio16's avatar

Hello, my Picture says ‘Warning Fascism’ you dont have to tell me

Darbio16's avatar

I was born into a country of 300 million sheep hell bent on working hard for some one else while at the same time denouncing anyone that want to help out and calling me anything but patriotic

Fyrius's avatar

Fair enough.

NowWhat's avatar

@Darbio16 haha
Hello, my Picture says ‘Warning Fascism’ you dont have to tell me

tinyfaery's avatar

I sometimes have a hard time finding positive things to say, but I’m a pessimist. I think that most of the world is broken.

Sarcasm's avatar

People are always complaining about America..
Something positive about America? Those people are free to complain without getting thrown into the Gulags.

CMaz's avatar

For all its “faults” I do love this place.

NowWhat's avatar

I thought of something else I like. We have every type of landscape there is, to include volcanos, arctics, tropics, and desert.

and @ChazMaz ditto.

Fyrius's avatar

I know you’re probably living up to your screen name right now, but still.
If you’re going to set your standards that low, you should also include it’s so great you can inhale in America and get oxygen in your lungs. Unlike on the moon.
Which is great, I agree, but…

There’s a good point.
Try finding a single canyon in the Netherlands. Heck, try finding a hill. It’s all flat here.

NowWhat's avatar

I will concede to Europe, though. You guys come out with some pretty awesome metal.

rebbel's avatar

@Fyrius I guess you forgot the enormous Vaalserberg (among other giants)?

Darbio16's avatar

We arrest more people than all other nations combined

kyanblue's avatar

America has California.
And as we all know, good cheese come from happy cows. Happy cows com from—no. Sorry, the advertising is getting to me.

America has California, which has Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and fantastic weather.
America has New York City, which is the poster child for big cities.
America had a great deal of diversity early on (and still does, mostly along the coasts).
America has many well-regarded universities.
America is excellent for long road trips.
America pioneered its particular brand of democratic government.

And America has the Getty museum. I’m in love with that place.

Fyrius's avatar

Haha, congratulations, you found one.
322 metres… and that’s the highest place in the Netherlands. Go figure.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

America is so vast that you don’t have to travel to another country in order to see all kinds of wilderness.

There’s great things about every country.

pikipupiba's avatar

America is amazing because I live there!!!!!

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I love my country, and to prove it, i make it a point ot shake the hand and thank every military veteran I meet. Without those that fought, lost friends and family, and sacrificed for their country, I wouldn’t enjoy the freedoms I enjoy as an American citizen.

About the only time you’ll hear me criticize America is when I am talking about politics, or people who want the government to hand them everything. Freedom isn’t free, why should anything else be free?

The only way to appreciate something is to work for it. No one appreciates something they never worked for.

pikipupiba's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra You are absolutely right! Millions of lurve points to you!

(or 5)

Jenniehowell's avatar

No matter the lack of democracy, overabundance of capitalist greed at the expense of others, no matter the hate, the poverty, the racism, the violence, the fear, the propaganda or the fact that some have more freedoms than others – it is still better than every other country, we are as individuals living a more luxurious life than most other countries even in poverty here we are better off than other countries, we still have the freedom to bitch about things & if/when we can sift through to find out our real truths & history THEN we really are the only place that is so close to having a true opportunity for freedom, success, & abundance in all areas – nowhere but here is that dream such a close possibility & that dream is not just an American dream it is a global dream that drives people everywhere to become Americans themselves.

ragingloli's avatar

Germany is better than any other country.

NowWhat's avatar

@gggritso What about Canada?

Zuma's avatar

America is great country, only its not as great as it thinks it is since it has been coasting on it’s laurels for the past 20 years.

We nearly brought down the entire world economy a few months back, and we may do so still because we delude and flatter ourselves that we are so great that we are above self-criticism.

If American weren’t a great country, and I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t bother to criticize it.

Fyrius's avatar

“it is still better than every other country”
This is what I was talking about earlier.
Do you really think the USA have anything desirable that all the other countries of the world lack? There are a lot of nations that are very much like America. You don’t have a monopoly on freedom or opportunity.

And there are many people in those nations that would be deeply insulted if you’d accuse them of wanting to become Americans.

Judi's avatar

I do hope we get our act together when it comes to healthcare. It is America’s shame that in the richest country in the world only the wealthy or those privleged to have reasonable insurance can be treated for preventable diseases before they become a crisis.
The working poor are so vulnerable here and it is shameful. I hope they get their act together in Washington to fix it. That will be a patriotic moment indeed.

NowWhat's avatar

Well then I guess I’m one of the priviledged since I have healthcare, even though I’m only making average salary where I live. 29K is filthy rich, isn’t it?

Judi's avatar

Your healthcare is probably worth about $350—$1000 a month depending on your age. You are very lucky. Many people who make more than you could be devistated by one emergency room visit. If they have a cronic illness like diabeties they may not be able to afford treatment until they loose a leg and go on disability. And don’t EVEN get me started on untreated mental illness where people could live fairly normal lives and have a job if they can get medication, but they can’t get a job unless they’re medicated and they can’t keep the job because when they go to work they loose their disability and medical coverage. The system needs to change!

gggritso's avatar

@NowWhat Oh sorry, I just meant to say that we also have a lot of cultures getting along pretty well, that’s all.

jamielynn2328's avatar

I don’t think that America is better than other country necessarily, but it is my home, it is where I am from, and I have national pride. The question is asking what makes America great. Not what makes America the best. I wish that Europe could know that so many Americans believe that there are other great countries out there. Just cause some extreme republicans believe that we are the one, the only, the best, and the biggest and that we should throw that around, we do not all individually feel that way.

I love America because it is my home. Because it runs through my blood. Because although it may not have thousands of years of history, there is such a richness to our culture. It involves all other cultures, the greatest melting pot there is. I am of German-French-Native American and Irish descent, and am American through and through.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Fyrius A mistake many people make is to believe that “everyone” wants to be an American, but in fact, if citizenship was thrown open, freely, to every other person, only a few million would take advantage. By far the majority of people are happier in their own country. What the majority of them do want is to be able to have the standard of living that we have enjoyed for the past century or so.

benjaminlevi's avatar

Something positive? Why its the third largest country in the world!

Jack79's avatar

I like the music. Most of my favourite songs are American.

And the films are always fun, even the crappiest ones will at least be viewable. Here in Europe (where people experiment a lot more) the quality ranges from masterpieces Hollywood would never dare touch to some (most) which are total waste of time and make you wonder why there’s no death penalty for directors who come up with such junk.

I’ve never been there, but I hear the people are friendly.

And apparently you’ve got lots of space, wide open areas, big roads, big cars, oh and cheap petrol.

And there’s always air-condition in the hotter places down south, and closed malls which are nice and warm in the colder areas up north.

And most people understand English. Some can even speak it.

growler's avatar

My good thing – I can rag on the government as much as I want (as long as I don’t threaten or harm anyone else) and remain a free man. That is worth a very great deal to me.

rooeytoo's avatar

It is a damned good place to live. Until one has lived in many different countries, it is hard to make a comparison.

Bill Gates managed to amass a little bit of money there and a few others so I guess if you work hard enough you can still get ahead.

If I don’t become wealthy enough so that I can afford the best of everything, including housing, healthcare, bigger cars then is it the fault of the country, or myself?

I never did become as successful as Bill. I had pretty much the same opportunities, but I chose a different path. Now my house isn’t as nice as Bill’s and unlike Steve Jobs I probably couldn’t get to the top of the list for a transplant. But should the USA be held accountable for that?

XOIIO's avatar

well, gorge bush is out, so it can’t go anywhere but uphill from here.

once you go barack, you never go back

PerryDolia's avatar

The USA is unique.

We never had a king. We don’t have a martyr or a dictator. We don’t have land barons, or chieftains or tribal leaders. We don’t have centuries of rigid culture controlling our future.

What we DO have is a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution written by a few of the finest minds that have ever put pen to paper. What we DO have is a Bill of Rights that sets limits on the government’s power and gives power to the people to choose and change their leaders. What we DO have is protection for the right to think and speak freely. This is the basis of our greatness and will continue to be.

We are an ever evolving experiment on how to live, work and play together. yea, there still is some work to do but We are a magnificent country like no other.

bcstrummer's avatar


ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

we make good cheeseburgers…

and um… and um… uhhh…

but yeah those cheeseburgers are damn tasty….

dalepetrie's avatar

Just because someone points out the bad in something doesn’t mean they don’t understand, recognize and accept the good…it’s not an either or situation. Of course there are many, many things that even those of us with about a billion bones to pick with the way certain things are run in this country do love about the US. And these things by and large are self evident at best or taken for granted at worst.

For example, on this very question we have people who talk about Obama like he was the best thing since sliced bread and people who talk about him like he is the worst thing since the black plague, and just about everything in between. Fluther has been home to people who believe in sweeping conspiracies and people who just live for today and everything in between. And since we’re in America, we can and DO say so. That’s about as good as it gets for intellectual freedoms. But just because this country has one facet of existence right, moreso than anywhere in the world, doesn’t mean we can’t knock the areas where America has its head up its collective ass. Indeed it’s this very power to criticize America which will hopefully ultimately lead to the ability to make it a better place.

Zuma's avatar

It seems to me that the things that are positive about America do not pose a problem, and so do not bear much comment. It is the deficiencies that we need to work on.

I kind of get the sense that this question is motivated by the sentiment that any self-criticism is somehow unpatriotic. Ann Coulter certainly seems to think so in her riffs on Liberalism, suggesting that Liberals are unpatriotic, even “treasonous” because they “blame America first.”

Well, what I have to say about that is, when confronted with any problem, the first thing a reasonable person does is look to see if they are in any way at fault, and fix that first. When you can’t find your car keys, the first thing you do is look to see if you have misplaced them, you don’t come out the chute accusing other people of stealing them.

Hence, when somebody drives an airliner into one of your skyscrapers, it does kind of make sense to ask what you may have done to make them so mad. To pretend that you have never done anything that might have provoked them is to live in a dangerous state of unreality, especially if it leads to overboard reactions that only antagonize these people further.

Judi's avatar

you kind of blew the water out of their “personal responsibility” argument when it comes to taking care of the less fortiuinate here at home, didn’t you!?

rooeytoo's avatar

@MontyZuma – so you figure Dubya should have called Osama and said something like “Hey Bin Boy, why don’t you come over to the ranch for a barbie and we’ll talk about your boys killing a couple of thousand innocent Americans, children, women and men, because we might have done something to piss you off.” And of course to get their 20 virgins as pay.

I don’t know, perhaps the response the USA brought forth was not the best, but really I don’t think discussion was what was called for at that point. And I am a pacifist at heart. But that was a cowardly and despicable act and deserved serious retaliation.

If you decide you have to pussyfoot around so as not to antagonize them further, they win, their scare tactics have succeeded for sure.

Zuma's avatar

@rooeytoo “perhaps the response the USA brought forth was not the best.”
“we might have done something to piss you off.”

Ya think? We invaded Iraq, a country that wasn’t even involved in 9/11. We tortured, disappeared and killed anyone who put up the slightest resistance (like trying to defend their homes and themselves) in a part of the world where any atrocity can form the basis of a blood feud that goes on for centuries. In the process we have further pissed off millions of Iraqis.

Its not as if the Iraqis didn’t have cause to perpetrate 9/11. During Desert Storm we deliberately targeted their reservoirs, aqueducts, pipelines, water treatment plants and chlorine manufacturing plants. After Bush I, the Clinton Administration continued our strict embargo on chlorine and other critical water-treatment supplies. As a result, of our deliberate and calculated attack on the Iraqi civilian population, an estimated 567,000 Iraqi children died of water-borne pathogens—more people than died at Hiroshima. We knowingly and deliberately wiped out a whole generation of Iraqis. Madeline Albright, Clinton’s ambassador to the UN admitted that she thought these deaths were ”“worth it”.

I think its safe to say that the Iraqis had ample provocation for the 9/11 attack, but they didn’t do it—nonetheless, we attacked them anyway simply, because we were in an angry tiff and felt like kicking some Muslim butt. And, of course, because in our arrogance, we didn’t think it mattered to get our facts straight, because we can do no wrong.

So what was Bin Laden’s provocation? It was basically two things: One was our policy of “extraordinary rendition” which consisted of snatching hundreds of foreign nationals off the street, disappearing them into secret CIA prisons, where they were detained indefinitely, tortured, and sometimes murdered. Some of the guys that got out of these prisons had been brutally tortured for years on end and were pretty ticked off about it, to say the least. Suppose Arab agents snatched US citizens off our streets and did the same to us? Do you think we might launch a cruise missile or two into a building in one of their populated areas?

As a matter of fact, that’s exactly what we do. We’ve killed hundreds of thousands of people in bombing, drone, and missile attacks, and we’re still doing it now. They, at least die in the attack. We just have some guy in a quonset hut in Arizona at a computer console, who drives to work, kills a bunch of people, and drives home again. So, who is the dastardly coward now?

Their second main grievance was that US troops refused to leave Saudi Arabia after Kuwait had been liberated. To Muslims, the Al-qsa Mosque and Mecca are the holiest places in their religion; indeed, the whole Saudi peninsula is considered holy ground where no infidels have been allowed for centuries. The presence of infidels was a grave humiliation and affront to all of Islam. The Americans were repeatedly asked and even begged to leave, but they wouldn’t. Hence, Bin Laden issued a fatwa declaring a jihad against America. After 9/11, Bush finally got the message and withdrew our troops, per their demands, and Al Qaeda hasn’t attacked us since.

“If you decide you have to pussyfoot around so as not to antagonize them further, they win, their scare tactics have succeeded for sure.”

Actually they have won. They have provoked us to levels of violence that have alienated us from our allies and further polarized our adversaries. We have engaged in atrocities that will make it nearly impossible to achieve peace with Islam any time soon. We practice torture. We imprison people arbitrarily. We have abandoned our own Constitutional judicial principles for the sake of military expedience. We flout international law. The rest of the world sees us as bullies and thugs, only out for ourselves. We have thrown away our own rights and liberties; we have trashed our constitutional checks and balances; we have saddled ourselves with a debt that is going sink us when it finally comes due. As a country, we no longer make anything; the way we get by in the world is they way all dysfunctional empires do: we run a protection racket. Give us your money and we’ll pay it back when you can defeat us militarily.

It doesn’t have to be, but statements like the one you just made about “pussyfooting around” shows just how far we’ve got our collective heads up our collective ass.

rooeytoo's avatar

So what you’re saying is they are the good guys and USA is the bad guys?

I believe that was what the original question addressed.

You even have the guy who says germany is vastly superior on your side, that proves it!

Zuma's avatar

Huh? Do you think its that simple?

Fyrius's avatar

“I wish that Europe could know that so many Americans believe that there are other great countries out there. Just cause some extreme republicans believe that we are the one, the only, the best, and the biggest and that we should throw that around, we do not all individually feel that way.”
I appreciate that. Thanks.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

We have the Driftless Region. Have you ever been there? It is one of the few places (if not the only one) that the mile thick ice sheet during the last Ice Age went around instead of over. There are plant species there that exist nowhere else in America. There is a range of mountains there older than either the Rockies or the Appalachians. It is an ancient land, mostly still untouched by our agricultural lifestyle simple because bluffs are impossible to farm.

Sure it’s not Yosemite, Rockies, or even the Badlands, but it is one thing I value in my surroundings. It is beautiful, mostly untouched, and quite possibly one of the most beautiful places in the United States.

janbb's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra How cool!

@Fyrius I completely agree with what @jamielynn said and want to reiterate it. Many countries in the world are far ahead of the United States in such areas as gun control, healthcare, environmental issues, etc. I’ve been in Europe many times and was in New Zealand a few years ago and am always terrifically impressed by so many quality of life solutions that have been made. No country has a monopoly on greatness, but since I live here (and have been feeling so down on it), it is good to think about some of the positives occasionally (without being jingoistic.)

NowWhat's avatar

@PerryDolia Awesome answer- wouldn’t add a thing to it

ragingloli's avatar

America is the only country in history that miraculously has gone directly from barbarism to decadence without the usual interval of civilization.

-Clemenceau, Georges

Jenniehowell's avatar

@Fyrius however offended people may be about me saying people are globally desiring to live the American dream our immigration numbers & the fact that every
person who came here from another country & became a citizen says the same thing. Despite all the valid complaints about our country plenty of people are migrating here & becoming citizens daily & plenty of others are coming here for business reasons. Our country gives some great benefits to immigrants who come here & start businesses (at the expense of those Americans already here in most cases) & as far as comparing it to other countries & saying it’s better – I must admit there are plenty of other countries I love & that have certain things that are better than America in various categories but in my opinion if a person lives in a place that they don’t think is the best then they shouldn’t be living there. We love whatever we connect with – some people love figgy pudding & others gag at the thought of it but it isn’t a contest or anything personal. I suppose I shouldve said its the best place for ME & all the immigrants who flock here daily & thrive in business.

Judi's avatar

I had a manicurist from Vietnam say she would have have perfered to go to England but their imigration policy was to dificult.

Darbio16's avatar

It seems every town has a Vietnamese manicurist

Judi's avatar

@Darbio16, only one??

pikipupiba's avatar

@MontyZuma We didn’t invade Iraq, we invaded the terrorists who happened to be, you guessed it, in Iraq. You make it sound like we hate all Iraqis. We know it was terrorists who caused 9/11. You can’t make an argument when you can’t even use logic to know who we are attacking.

ragingloli's avatar

“We didn’t invade Iraq”
So you didn’t enter iraqi territory with your military, fought their military and then proceded to dismantle their government?
Also, there were no terrorists in iraq before the invasion. Saddam made sure of that. It was only after the invasion that the suicide bombers infected the country.
in what parallel universe do you live?

pikipupiba's avatar

@ragingloli What I’m saying is, we didn’t invade Iraq because it was Iraq, we invaded it because that is where the terrorists are. We bombed Japan because it was Japan, but we DID NOT invade Iraq because it was Iraq, understand? Sorry for any confusion.

ragingloli's avatar

there were no terrorists in iraq before the invasion.
you invaded iraq because your idiotic leaders claimed they had weapons of mass destruction (false information gained from torturing a muslim extremist).

Jenniehowell's avatar

@pikipupiba we did invade Iraq pretty quickly after 9/11 aside from the time we invaded them while I served in the military during the gulf war era of Bush 1 – we invaded Iraq under the guise of WMD’s not terrorists. We are still there many of my friends are there invading & fighting daily & have been for years. As a natter if fact a good friend of mine just left in the last month for a year long tour. I assure you he isn’t going there on vacation he is a part of an invasion.

pikipupiba's avatar

@ragingloli So terrorist entered Iraq just to be killed by us? That doesn’t make much sense if you think about it.

ragingloli's avatar

They didn’t come to iraq to get killed by you.
They came to Iraq because you opened up a nice breeding and recruiting ground for them. You also offered them the valuable opportunity to kill you there directly without having to go to other countries.

benjaminlevi's avatar

@rooeytoo I think he is just trying to point out how we are in the wrong too. I didn’t see anything in his post that said what they were doing was right, or even acceptable. I think it is absurd for anyone to think we are blameless in terms of international relations. That doesn’t make it acceptable for people to blow up thousands of our civilians, but it does make it understandable why others would be lashing out in anger.

filmfann's avatar

@rebbel The whopper comes from Burger King, which makes it English, I think.

I think @NowWhat is confusing negative talk about our Government, and recent Governments, with talk about our Country.
I love this country! I fear for it from our recent trials.

NowWhat's avatar

@filmfann You’re right about that for the most part, but I just notice that a lot of people are attacking the very core of what our country stands for. Going way beyond just dissent. I’m talking totally bashing the entire American way of life. So I was trying to remind people that America is a pretty good place.

rebbel's avatar

@filmfann Fact-checking, rebbel, fact-checking.
Thanks for informing me, @filmfann.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

@pikipupiba dude what world do you live in?

Zuma's avatar

@NowWhat: ”...I just notice that a lot of people are attacking the very core of what our country stands for. Going way beyond just dissent. I’m talking totally bashing the entire American way of life.”

What, exactly, are you talking about? What is the “American Way of Life”? What is it’s “very core”? Where do you draw the line between “dissenting” and “bashing”?

@benjaminlevi Thank you, you got my remarks to rooeytoo exactly right.

@rooeytoo The world we live in is not a cowboy movie, with “good guys” and “bad guys.” We live in a complex multi-polar world where “good” and “bad” are often simply a matter of perspective.

Al Qaeda is dangerous and extreme. But they would still be a band of 12th Century goat herders if we hadn’t made them what they are today. We recruited them to fight the Soviets when the USSR invaded Afghanistan. We encouraged their extreme jihadist brand of Islam because it suited our purposes. We taught them how to fight, we supplied them with modern weapons and expertise. We bankrolled them. And, then, when we had no more use for them, we simply walked away.

Their leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, was a pious non-violent man until he was radicalized by three straight years of torture at the hands of the Egyptian secret police for selling weapons to a group that tried to assassinate Anwar Sadat, the first Arab leader to make peace with Israel. Up to this point, Al Qaeda was only interested in Mulim-on-Muslim conflict. That was until we adopted the Israeli policy of hunting down, torturing, and killing our real and imagined enemies. The problem with this policy, apart from it being murder, is that you create blowback from the countries where you snatch people and the people you torture an martyr generate more and fiercer enemies than the one’s you eliminate. And these displaced folks began collecting in Afghanistan thanks to our uprooting and radicalizing them.

Enter Saudi billionaire Osama Bin Laden, he arrives with a grievance about US troops on Saudi soil. The Afghanis, frankly, couldn’t give a shit, but its Bin Laden’s money, so they decide adopt his internationalist vision and take the fight to the United States, the principle backers of Israel. Al-Zawahiri, the real brains behind Al Qaeda, was killed by a predator drone about a year ago. Bin Laden is on the run and can’t access his money without alerting us to his whereabouts. So Al Qaeda, the great bogeyman of our war on Terror, has been reduced to a series of “roll your own” jihadist websites.

But here we are spending almost a billion dollars a day blundering around Afghanistan and Iraq, worrying Iran sick, getting our hands dirtier and dirtier by the day. No one in this mess has clean hands. To think that we are the “good guys” in this conflict may cost us $2 trillion when we’re done—a mighty expensive price tag for a delusion.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@MontyZuma awesome answer, and right on the money. I don’t agree with you very often, but in this case, you hit the nail right on the head. I gave you a GA.

filmfann's avatar

@MontyZuma I liked this part: Their leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, was a pious non-violent man until he was radicalized by three straight years of torture at the hands of the Egyptian secret police for selling weapons to a group that tried to assassinate Anwar Sadat, the first Arab leader to make peace with Israel.

Let’s shorten that a bit:

Ayman al-Zawahiri, was a pious non-violent man selling weapons to a group that tried to assassinate Anwar Sadat.

Ya, you gotta watch out for them peaceniks. Sneaky fucks.

Zuma's avatar

@filmfann Are you implying that selling weapons is a violent act?

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

@MontyZuma selling weapons to a militant group? yes. that’s like letting someone who you know is a pedophile baby sit your little cousin… sure you didn’t rape him, but your had to know he wasn’t getting out of that unharmed…...

filmfann's avatar

@MontyZuma You cannot regard yourself as a non-violent person, if you are selling weapons. You are enabling violence.

Nially_Bob's avatar

The US culture and society were built on conflict and although such may seem like a negative trait to possess when studying history one shall find that many of the greatest human developments that have proved so beneficial in modern times were built on or created as a result of conflict.
An additional (if somewhat less significant) upside to the US is that I, and i’m certain others, giggle with glee whenever meeting someone with an American accent, particularly those associated with the southern states.

Zuma's avatar

@filmfann Was George Washington a violent man?

filmfann's avatar

He was an army General. I think we can judge him to be not non-violent.
Perhaps you should study the works of Gandhi.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

@MontyZuma uh… yeah, the guy was absolutely brutal.

Zuma's avatar

@filmfann Anyway, what’s your point?

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

his point is, Washington was a Lt. Colonel in the french and indian war, he partook in his fair share of killing.

Zuma's avatar

@ABoyNamedBoobs03 “uh… yeah, the guy was absolutely brutal.”

“Washington was a Lt. Colonel in the french and indian war, he partook in his fair share of killing.”

Actually, I don’t see how we can know that, and there are a couple of reasons why it is unlikely. First, Washington was an officer and a gentleman and, as an officer, his role in that war would have been to see that those under his command did the killing rather than doing it himself.

Second, there’s a book by Lt.Col. Dave Grossman called On Killing in which he reports a startling finding based on battlefield archaeological findings, and other data, that up until relatively recently, most soldiers in most battles did not kill. In the Civil War, for example, only 15% 20% of the troops would even fire their weapons at all. And of those who did, most fired into the air or the ground and not at the enemy. They found battlefield after battlefield strewn with abandoned muskets, most of them loaded, many loaded with multiple charges, suggesting that the soldiers were just going through the motions of loading and firing without actually doing so. Only about 2% of the soldiers were involved in the actual killing. And this was true in Europe as well as here. Even if Washington had fired a weapon at an enemy, these were not all that lethal.

Knowing this, can we really say that George Washington or the non-killing soldiers under his command were “violent” (or non-non-violent) because they were complicit or “involved” in the violence of war? If so, does this mean that George Washington’s humanity is forfeit and that he is undeserving of our understanding and sympathy or the honor we accord him? I don’t think so, since we can readily see that he was acting within the larger moral context of the Revolutionary War, and thus he is acting morally.

However, it seems to me that @filmfann is insinuating that Al-Zawahari is not acting within any larger moral context; and that his sale of weapons to the Muslim Brotherhood was a morally bankrupt act, on a par with selling matches to pyromaniacs. And because Al-Zawahari’s was acting without moral justification, we can safely ignore the three years of torture that he endured because he has no claim on our sympathy and understanding as a fellow human being, because his humanity is forfeit because of his complicity in enabling violence?

What does minimizing Al-Zawahari’s humanity accomplish? It makes him a more detestable demon for having attacked us. It allows us to deny that he might have had any principled reason for doing so, and so we absolve ourselves of the excesses we have committed in bringing him down.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

@MontyZuma a little excerpt about a skirmish that took place during the French and Indian war.

“At daybreak on May 28, Washington and Tanacharison stole up on the French camp. Some were still asleep, others preparing breakfast. Without warning, Washington gave the order to fire. Those who escaped the volley scrambled for their weapons, but were swiftly overwhelmed. Ten of the French were killed, one was wounded, and all but one of the rest taken prisoner. Washington and his men then retired, leaving the bodies of their victims for the wolves. Jumonville, the French commander, and most of the other wounded French were subsequently massacred”

they attacked a scouting force of 30 french, that’s an initial kill rate of 33%, with the rest being killed later, washington had 40 soldiers under his command. you’re right, those aren’t brutal tactics at all.

yes yes I know, A national hero, but to say that soldiers and officers during those time periods didn’t employ exceptionally brutal tactics whenever the chance arose is slightly naive.

Zuma's avatar

@ABoyNamedBoobs03 Thanks, I stand corrected.

But I think my larger point stands: brutal and violent men can sometimes act within a moral context which preserves their humanity.

rooeytoo's avatar

Right after 9/11 an aussie aboriginal turned muslim boxer said that Amercans got what they deserved. Even here where anti-American sentiment can run quite high (well until yankee help is needed) cried out against such a statement.

But it sure sounds as if you are saying the same thing. You are criticizing the USA for a myriad of sins but then go on to say that the actions of the 9/11 were a reasonable reaction to the sins committed against them.

The original question was does anyone have anything positive to say about America and you apparently don’t. It is sort of like the bumper sticker that says don’t talk about farmers with your mouth full and I guess you could also say don’t talk about your country while you are still there enjoying its perks.

ragingloli's avatar


rooeytoo's avatar

Your avatar is cute but I don’t speak your superior german language so what I assume to be sarcasm is wasted on me.

filmfann's avatar

@MontyZuma It would be nice if you didn’t read so much into what I post.
My original comment was that you were calling Al-Zawahari non-violent, and saying he sold weapons (before his torture) in the same sentence.

Jenniehowell's avatar

@rooeytoo “don’t talk about your country while you’re still there enjoying it’s perks” – that mentality is used by many an oppressor from the home to the job place to those running groups & countries. It’s a cop out for those oppressors to feel better about what they are doing just because of the pacifiers they put in the mouths of babes who know no better. Perks=pacifiers in many cases. Dint get me wrong I love my country & other countries across the globe but that doesn’t mean I’m not for improving upon it or exposing it’s bad side/faults with that same improvent based intent. To be in denial of our faults is gonna get us nowhere. Improvement doesn’t come when people haven’t admitted their problems & admitting them without stopping until they are resolved is to love your country enough that you want to make it better. Just like our children we teach & help to improve & those who don’t are generally accused of being neglectful/bad parents despite whatever good traits they may possess. Our country is the same with it’s great traits & yet it’s neglect of those it claims to have under it’s care at one point or another. Though we all have good & bad traits as both countries & individuals & shouldn’t be judged based on just one of those traits to say that we can’t complain while still enjoying it’s perks is like asking a molested child not to cry while he’s being raped simply because his rapist feeds him warm food & provides him with shelter. Obviously he has something to cry about & a couple if perks as pacifiers do not suffice to improve his situation or the situation of his oppressor despite how charming & generous the oppressor may be. Oppressors often bank on people acting like sheep & following along. & before you ask I will answer two questions 1— yes I love my mother country USA despite her many faults & 2— she is an oppressor of many at home & abroad as us any country that does not grant the same equalities to all it’s citizens &/or who hops from one place to another uninvited to fund & whoop up on others for it’s own gain. Additionally, re: the violent vs. Non-violent argument regardless of their level of participation anyone who knowingly incites, funds, orders violence is themselves violent at least in that moment. Being nice & sweet before & after the act won’t change the act/our enabling of it no matter how many times we put on our ruby red slippers & pretend that there’s no place like home

teh_kvlt_liberal's avatar

here are some good things about America
Slayer, Megadeth(can’t wait for endgame), Exhorder, Dead Kennedys, Death (RIP Chuck), Cro-mags, Deicide, Mr Bungle, Overkill, Pentagram, Saint Vitus, Suffocation, Jimi hendrix, Witchfinder general and anyone else who’s not death/metalcore/screamo.

dalepetrie's avatar

@teh_kvlt_liberal – what about Slipknot, Pantera and Anthrax? Just an oversight, or not your bag?

teh_kvlt_liberal's avatar

I don’t like slipknot and Pantera, but the early belladonna anthrax era was good

dalepetrie's avatar

I’m more a John Bush guy myself, but fair enough.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Jenniehowell – guess I have an oppressor’s mentality then. Perks=pacifiers is an interesting phrase. Perks should = something I didn’t earn but have been granted anyhow.

So many people have so many words but how many actually do anything to try to change all the perceived or real injustices.

If you have all the answers that the gathering of brains who are running the show can’t seem to come up with, then why the hell are you wasting your time fluthering. Go solve the ills of the world and the country! Bitching doesn’t really change anything does it?

But it is a lot easier to be an arm chair monday morning quarterback with the luxury of hindsight to fix all the ills of the world. Throw in a little substance of choice and then you can really do the job! Go to it!

Zuma's avatar

@filmfann “My original comment was that you were calling Al-Zawahari non-violent, and saying he sold weapons (before his torture) in the same sentence.”

What I am trying to do, filmfann, is deconstruct what you are saying. Why would you feel compelled to make the point that non-violence and selling arms didn’t belong in the same sentence? It would appear that this is because you consider it self-contradictory and therefore invalid. This assessment, however, depends entirely on your reading of “non-violent,” which you seem to take in a considerably more expansive sense than the more literal sense I am using here.

In a strict literal sense Al-Zawahari is non-violent. From his earliest childhood, he used to avoid “playing rough” with the other boys. He stayed at home with his mama; he became a cleric, and a spiritual advisor the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist patriotic movement in Egypt. And he did not personally engage in the violent attempt to kill Sadat, though he facilitate his compatriots to do so.

In this respect, he is not much different from our own beloved patriot, George Washington, who most Americans think of as an officer and a gentleman who did not personally stoop to killing, until @ABoyNamedBoobs03 pointed out that the historical record shows he was actually a brutal killer. This new information somewhat muddies the point, but not really. Both men were acting in a moral context. And although they were not acting in the non-violent tradition of Gandhi or Christ, they were nonetheless moral actors, insofar as they were patriots engaged in an attempt to bring about revolutionary change.

It is clear from the discussion that follows that your purpose in reading “non-violent” in the way you did was to impugn Al-Zawahari’s motives, making them akin to letting a known pedophile babysit someone else’s children (not your words, but that was the sense that @ABoyNamedBoobs03 had picked up in his comment). Your comment was an attempt to discredit his character and motives without coming right out and saying it.

The reason, I submit, is that It is easier for you to believe that Al-Zawahari was an irrational religious zealot, rather than an honorable, principled, perhaps even thoughtful person who had been radicalized by a three-year assault on his humanity. They tied his hands behind his back and hoisted him off the ground by his wrists. The weight of his body pulled his arms out of their sockets. This went on for weeks at a time, long after he had given up any information he had. And it was all done in support of US foreign policy, insofar as we were backing Sadat as an instrument of brokering a peace between Israel and Egypt, a peace that would allow the Israelis to mistreat their brothers in Gaza.

So, @filmfann, your comment was not an idle musing about the correctness of my usage of the term “non-violent.” It was a declaration straight from the heart of the moral universe you inhabit, which I will now address in my remarks to @rooeytoo.

Zuma's avatar

@rooeytoo “it sure sounds as if you are…criticizing the USA for a myriad of sins but then go on to say that the actions of the 9/11 were a reasonable reaction to the sins committed against them. The original question was does anyone have anything positive to say about America and you apparently don’t.”

Actually, I don’t actually say anywhere that Al-Qaeda’s actions were, moral, reasonable, or justified. I simply lay out what those reasons were, from their point of view. It is you who takes that information and forms the judgment that the motives were “reasonable” or “justified.” But you can’t accept these assessments because you too are declaring that you live in a moral universe in which such judgements would be unacceptable.

Do you ever look at all the sectarian fighting in Iraq and think, “Geez! Why can’t the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds all pull together, they’re all Iraqis and Muslims, aren’t they? Why can’t they see each other as fellow Iraqis? Well, it its because if you are a Sunni, then you are the “good guy” and the Shiites and Kurds are the “bad guys,” and if you are a Shiite, then you are the “good guy,” and so on for each in turn.

Why can’t we see Muslims and Al-Qaeda as fellow human beings? Its because we inhabit a moral universe in which we define ourselves as the “good guys” and anyone who is not enthusiastically for us is against us, and we label them the “bad guys.” In other words, we have arrogantly placed ourselves at the center of world’s moral universe and we simply do not accept any other valid points of view.

Once you begin looking at all people as human, then all this “us” and “them” nonsense starts to fall away. You begin to acknowledge that other people have legitimate grievances against you, and you can begin to take steps toward rapprochement, reconciliation. You stop accusing other countries of stealing your car keys every time you have misplace them. And you no longer see anyone who is trying to make the kind of point I am making now as “not being positive” about the country.

One of the things that makes our country the Hope and the Light of the World, is the foundational principle that all men are created equal, and that all have an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This is the real American moral universe, and what makes other countries look fondly toward us is that, for a long time, we were the only engine of transformation in the world working to realize this moral vision. When we started out, we didn’t recognize the humanity of slaves or the Native Americans whose land we inhabited.

We have now moved forward to bring blacks into the fold of humanity and we strive to give them a seat at the great American table. We fought a war to abolish slavery. In the 1960s, we had another intense period of self-criticism and struggle that resulted in the passage of various civil rights legislation, which abolished most of the vestiges of legal discrimination, known as Jim Crow. We have since reached out to women and gays to bring them into the fold. All of these projects involved intense criticism of America the way it was and struggle with people who thought the country was just fine the way it was, and between people who saw it as racist, sexist, and unfair. They too were charged with “bashing the country,” and “running it down.” But, in fact, they were simply holding the country to it’s founding ideals, of liberty and justice for all.

In a couple of threads over is a man in the military complaining about having to take a shower with a gay man. In another thread there are people bitching and moaning about having to pay higher taxes so that everyone in American can have health care. In another is someone bitching about “illegal aliens” who conveniently overlooks that all the land from California to Texas to Colorado is land we illegally took from Mexico. In another thread is somebody railing against the ACLU. In each one of these cases, there is a guy who sees himself as the good guy, and the other guy as having an invalid or illegitimate point of view.

We like to think of ourselves as an unqualified force for good in the world. After all, we fought a Civil War against slavery, a World War against fascist totalitarianism, and a Cold War against communist totalitarianism. But we have also behaved like imperialist bastards for reasons having more to do with empire and private profit than American ideals. We have sided with authoritarian dictators; we’ve equipped and funded death squads; we’ve assassinated leaders; we’ve sold drugs to our own people to fund illegal clandestine wars, etc., etc. To not speak out against these betrayals of our most cherished American ideals is something far worse than what the defenders of the status quo accuse us of when they say we are “running down the country” when we bring up this sort of thing.

If challenging Americans for putting loyalty ahead of truth, and the solipsism of their parochial moral universes ahead of a moral universe which includes all of humanity is “not having anything positive to say about the country” then so be it. Then I say that the question is fundamentally un-American, insofar as it seeks to deny us the fulfilment of our American ideals. Self-criticism is only possible in a free and democratic society. It is what’s right, not’s wrong with this country.

rooeytoo's avatar

Well thank goodness in your very last sentence, you finally came up with a positive and I agree.

I also have to admit that I had to look up solipsism in the dictionary, in all my years of life and conversation (not to mention a lot of reading) with some truly intelligent people, I never heard the word before.

Now I am finished with this thread, my eyes are tired.

filmfann's avatar

@MontyZuma You said: The reason, I submit, is that It is easier for you to believe that Al-Zawahari was an irrational religious zealot, rather than an honorable, principled, perhaps even thoughtful person who had been radicalized by a three-year assault on his humanity.

I really do wish you wouldn’t read so much into my comments.
I do not believe he was irrational, or a zealot. He certainly believed in his religion, but that doesn’t mean he was crazy, or went overboard.
I am saying that if he sold weapons to kill Sadat, he is, by definition, NOT non-violent.
And it doesn’t make sense that you keep bringing up the torture he endured later. That didn’t make him sell weapons.
I have studied Gandhi, and The Bible. That doesn’t make me a religious zealot, but it does mean I am well aware of Satyagraha. Al-Zawahari doesn’t fit the bill.

Zuma's avatar

@filmfann Why do you make the point he was NOT non-violent?

filmfann's avatar

You are saying he sold guns, but was non-violent. I am saying there is a conflict in that sentence.
It’s not that difficult.

Jenniehowell's avatar

@rooeytoo I’m laughing. I agree with you – too many people bitch without doing much of anything but bitching. I think there is a place for complaints/pointing out faults but you are definitely right we have to do something after the bitching. I feel like we have to do what we beleive in if we want to make changes. However cliche’ it is we do truly have to be the change we want to see in the world. We can’t have world peace without having inner peace – can’t detox the Earth if we can’t manage to do it to ourselves. It is exactly as I read the point of your statement really to be however humorously sarcastic it sort of is… quit being hypcritical and do something!!

Doing something about the situation makes sense & doing nothing makes the same amount of sense as pretending there aren’t problems to begin with. That’s why I joined the military, that’s why I started my own business, it’s why I became ordained etc. To make the world a better place at one time or another. It’s still a great country when it comes down to it and I stick by my original statement despite the bad it’s still good enough for me & I love it.

Zuma's avatar

@filmfann The only “conflict” in that sentence is the one you bring to it by your interpretation of “non-violent” which I point out is possibly self-serving in this context. Alas, we quibble.

mattbrowne's avatar

1) More than 200 years of democracy (checks and balances made sure it never turned to extreme totalitarianism. Believe me even 8 years of Bush is like a minor hiccup compared to the Third Reich, Stalin or the aftermath of the French Revolution)

2) Immigration: Drawing the best talents from all over the world

3) Ivy league universities and the ability to think big – highest per capita rate of Nobel Prize winners in recent decades

4) Pioneering mentality, visionary, innovative and risk-taking entrepreneurship (meant in a positive way e.g. Sun or Google in the silicon valley, not the corporate crooks creating speculative bubbles)

5) Applying self-help / community organization (Obama is a great example for that) instead of always waiting for the state to fix everything

6) Friendliness, openness, welcoming visitors

7) Optimism (I think the recent 4 years are the exception if you look at time spans of 100 years or more)

Judi's avatar

thanks for an outside perspective. That made me feel all warm and fuzzy about my country. I’m glad that you can see all that in us.

dalepetrie's avatar

@mattbrowne – I’m reading a book you ABSOLUTELY must read, as should anyone who values intellectualism, debate, thought, and the declining ability to distinguish reality from PR in our current “trash” culture. It’s called Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle by Pulitzer Prize winning author Christ Hedges. From the description, the book is ostensibly about how today, we, “live in two societies: One, the minority, functions in a print-based, literate world, that can cope with complexity and can separate illusion from truth. The other, a growing majority, is retreating from a reality-based world into one of false certainty and magic. In this “other society,” serious film and theatre, as well as newspapers and books, are being pushed to the margins.”

But the reason I mention it (other than I think every smart person on Fluther should read this book) is specifically because of your bullet point #3. Indeed, this book is broken into 5 parts, and the third part examines how our corporate power structure where everything is broken down into systematic specialties, devoid of thought but full of elitist jargon is actually a byproduct of the Ivy League universities which by and large have corporatized, no longer concerned with providing students the ability to think and ask the big questions, but rather with actively quashing intellectualism, the arts, the humanities in favor of training people to become conditioned to perpetuate the corporate culture. In other words, he argues (and provides some very compelling evidence, sources and arguments to support this hypothesis) that the Ivy League is a place for the wealthy to convince themselves that they are better than everyone else, and to train them for a life of highly organized, hard working, but morally devoid pursuit of capitalism for capitalism’s sake. In short, many of your best trained, elite, Ivy League graduates are completely out of ideas, because they are not trained to value ideas, they are trained to value procedure and process, hard work and connectedness, but not the ability to think critically or ask the big questions.

This book is something ever Flutherite should read.

Darbio16's avatar

Finally someone has just agreed, without saying the word, that we are indeed a fascist nation.

dalepetrie's avatar

@Darbio16 – One argument that was made, and it seems very true of our society is that we seem to fear this Orwellian vision of a society where books (and ideas) were banned, which is one for of fascism. But it contrasts this with what Huxley feared, a society where ideas were ignored and drowned out by a sea of irrelevance, which is another form of facism. Here’s a passage that REALLY made me think about what is going down in this country, it’s actually taken from Neil Postman’s 1985 book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business” and what I take from this is that our society isn’t so much in danger of fascism, I think it’s more self-delusion that causes our problems:

“What orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions. In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us.

Now I think Huxley was right, and all I have to do is look around me. I believe our government and all our power structures combined have become increasingly about maintaining status quo. I think a lot of what I’ve seen you saying is on kind of the right track, but I still take issue with some of the more extreme conspiracy theories you have championed, simply because our culture is so driven to distraction and conditioned to believe the lies over the truth, that certain things you have accused our government of, such as engineering 9/11, are completely unnecessary, and because these leaders who employ this more insidious breed of facism to control such huge swaths of the population are such creatures of process, doing something like engineering 9/11 would be essentially unnecessary and inefficient, when all it would take is allowing something like 9/11 to happen (or waiting for the inevitable), and exploiting it with a stream of sensationalized misinformation.

So we don’t have the brand of facism that outwardly makes it illegal to pursue intellectualism, we have the brand of facism that destracts us from the desire to think intellectually by feeding our baser instincts and emotions rather than our brains. You DEFINITELY should read this book.

Zuma's avatar

@dalepetrie Are the two kinds of fascism mutually exclusive? I’ve been observing a marked tendency for the law to grow more punitive over the past couple of decades. We have a war on drugs, a war on crime, a war on illegal immigration, a war on terror. This militaristic rhetoric, coupled with talk radio violence, couple with and a violent theology (see also Hedges’ American Fascists) is producing a savagely punitive and vengeful populace. People here on Fluther seem pretty tame, but people posting under news articles seem to think nothing of recommending mass murder for people they consider “human garbage” or “scum.” You want to believe that they are kidding, but if you rattle their cages by challenging them a little bit, you find out pretty soon that not only do they really hate they fantasize about acting on it.

Our elites have been cynically governing through crime for decades now. It seems to me that the infantilization, trivialization and the dumbing-down of the population you speak of, goes hand-in-glove with demonizing the “others” who are to be excluded from the charmed circle of “real” Americans.

Have you seen the movie, Idiocracy? Instead of amiable dunces permenantly distracted, we seem to be also getting grim thugs who seem to emboldened to shout down and attack anyone who seems rational or compassionate. I’m sure you have seen people of a certain ideological persuasion completely unable to reason logically—and the distrubing thing is, the further they are into it, the less able to think they become. And this is not just a trick of bias.

filmfann's avatar

@MontyZuma said:The only “conflict” in that sentence is the one you bring to it by your interpretation of “non-violent” which I point out is possibly self-serving in this context.

No, the conflict is the difference we have in what the word “non-violent” means. You think someone can sell weapons meant to kill a specific person, and be non-violent, and I don’t. I don’t see how you think this is self-serving.

dalepetrie's avatar

@MontyZuma – Hedges book reminds me very much of Idiocracy, one of my favorite movies which I believe to be very plausible, and the end of this book, as well as the content overall, he paints a very bleak picture. Essentially the thuggish elements are the corporate interests, but they are not seeking to ‘censor’ dissent as much as make it uninteresting and irrelevant (and too painful to look at) for the masses. He talks about for example September 8, 2002, Cheney’s people “leaked” false intelligence to the New York Times about our government stopping Iraq from acquiring aluminum tubes they would need to enrich uranium. This type of intelligence would never have been something the administration would be able to talk about, but as it was leaked, administration officials were able to talk about it, and Cheney was able to refer to it on Meet the Press…the very fact that it was in the New York Times made it true. Even the late great Tim Russert did not question the source, it was in the NYT, and he was getting Cheney to comment on it, never once even considering that the sources hadn’t already been vetted. Essentially our collective mass media, which is controlled by 5 for profit companies (with few remaining exceptions catering to the minority of Americans who actually see what is going on). So, they become carriers of the message put forth by the corporations who seek to control everything. What then happens because the vast majority of Americans get the vast majority of all their information about the world (aka news) from these 5 large corporations, when something like this happens, the financial incentive for the companies is certainly not to get to the bottom of anything, and the people they hire to impart the news to us, the talking heads who are highly compensated and are turned into household names, real celebrities, have no incentive to question what they’re told to push. He speaks of the opposition, those of us who have retained the ability for critical thought and the desire to keep things in check, as essentially being completely powerless in this country, mostly because even if there IS a large protest, like we saw against going to war in Iraq, it’s no longer like the 60s where the ideas supported in these protests were broadcast nationwide and were allowed to germinate and take hold in the minds of Americans. Instead, the corporate media relegates all protesters to the margins, the media paints them as radicals, and lumps them in with other troublemakers and even criminals.

So there is really no need (yet) to strong-arm the dissent when the corporate interests which control everything can control what the majority thinks by burying them in a flood of irrelevant information and using advertising, misinformation and outright lies to make people believe what the corporate interests want them to believe. However, what the book concludes is that our culture is dying, our form of governance and our way of life is unsustainable, and that like every civilization throughout history which allowed the elite interests to subvert the interests of the people, it’s on the way out and hasn’t got much time left. Essentially, and here’s what scares the shit out of me, unless more people wake up to what’s really going on (which is impossible with the flood of distractions) and becomes pro-active in changing it, OR our government moves sharply away from our current system wherein money and power ultimately decide our economic policies (again, even with Obama in office, not going to happen), ultimately we’re not going to be able to return to a bubble economy no matter how many trillions are invested, China and others are going to stop investing in US currency, money will become worthless, and millions of people will be destitute, and they will rebel. But unfortunately, revolution will not be something that results in the people taking back power…because we are so conditioned to follow the distractions and to buy the easy answers, he suspects our culture will follow the charlatans from the religious right and the radicals and we will descend into utter lunacy.

Yes, I see parallels to Idiocracy, though this time, it’s not funny, this as someone he quoted called it, participatory facism, is what thinkers have been warning about for 70+ years. I always suspected our downfall would be our own indifference, I just never realized before reading that book just how much of our indifference was by design.

filmfann's avatar

@dalepetrie Idiocracy is a good movie. I was disappointed they released it without finishing it properly. The studio looked at it, and said “we ain’t making any money on this one”, so they cut funding, and slapped it together. Despite all that, it’s still fun, and too close to the truth.

dalepetrie's avatar

@filmfann – no, it wasn’t because they weren’t going to make money on it. Think about it. It was funny as hell. It was done by Mike Judge, who was behind Office Space, King of the Hill and Beavis & Butt-head, it starred Luke Wilson, it would have made money. The studio pulled the plug on it because it was too critical of the corporate culture which owned the studios wholesale. It was too subversive, and one way to wake up the sleeping masses to what’s really going on is to use humor. They wanted to bury it. It aired in ONE THEATER for one week.

Zuma's avatar

@dalepetrie I have seen the future and it is prison. It is the only “social program” that Republicans are in favor of and seem actually willing to support, even though you could support four families on AFDC for what it costs to incarcerate one prisoner. When you are a prisoner, you are officially a second class citizen, but the guards will go out of their way to let you know that they consider you “human garbage,” and “a piece of shit.”

A lot of the white guys you see in prison are young, uneducated, rambunctious knuckleheads, born in the sticks in trailer parks, who never had a chance at the middle-class American dream. You see them cycling through, become progressively more demoralized as they see their buddies coming back on one petty bullshit parole violation after another, mostly for things that are not even crimes. You see them regress back to being adolescents as the prison takes away their control over their lives. And, as anomie takes over; they drift inexorably toward the only moral code available: the code of the prison, which is, surprisingly, all about dignity and self-respect. This, of course is exactly what the guards and the prison try to take away from you, because this is class war with the gloves off.

There’s a game cops play in prisons and jails. It’s called “stop resisting.” I saw a black guy once in Sacramento County Jail. He was in the strip-out area, being processed in. He had a pair of boxer shorts on and the cop told him to take them off and put them in the bag. He didn’t want to. They were his shorts, he had them on, and, for the time being, he wasn’t going to give them up. The cop started screaming at him; he still didn’t want to give them up. Four cops rushed in and threw him on his back. Two of them held down his arms, one held down his legs, one put his knee on his chest and started punching him in the face as hard as he could, while they all yelled “Stop resisting!” Stop resisting!” Of course, every time they would hit him, he would try to raise his arms in self-defense. And they would, punch him in the face again harder, and again, and again, yelling “Stop resisting! Stop resisting!”

This went on for over a minute, which is a very long time when you are being bashed in the face. Eventually, the guy went limp; and while the guy was rolling his head coming to, one of the cops reached down and grabbed the elastic waistband of his shorts and yanked them off, tearing them as he did. They shut the door, so I didn’t see what happened to him next, but the cops were strutting, swaggering, and smiling, mightily pleased with themselves. You could tell from the ease with which they coordinated their efforts, that this was something they were accustomed to doing, and that they took great satisfaction in “putting the nigger down.” (I’m not going to mince any words here, because that’s what it was.)

This, in a nutshell, is the whole prison experience. They put you in a demeaning situation where your self-respect is on the line, then they demand that you humiliate yourself. If you refuse, they assault you; and if you try to defend yourself from the assault, they assault you even harder, and they keep on assaulting you until you are literally incapable of resisting. We have about 40,000 people in this country who are being kept in solitary confinement. Their lives have been reduced to having their food shoved through a slot in the door. Many of them have been driven quite insane, and yet they resist the insults that the guards hurl their way—having their food thrown at them or the water in their cells turned off. They refuse to return their tray in the slot on command, even though doing so results in them being tear-gassed and beaten by leather clad guards in riot gear.

For these people, it is no longer their dignity that they are protecting; it is the very core of their sanity, their sense of personhood itself. Some of the blacks in prison are going on their second or third generation of this kind of treatment, and it shows. There is no doubt in their minds that white society is trying to destroy them, and from everything I could see, they are. They seethe with anger from every pore. If you ever wondered why gangster rap is so all-fired angry, this is why. Their alienation and hostility is so complete that they reject white civilization in its entirety, resulting in a profound sort of anti-intellectualism. They morph the language with a mixture of purposely “incorrect” grammar, slang and made up words to make themselves completely unintelligible to whites.

And since their hope for any kind of decent life as been foreclosed then they become the very thing the very thing that whites fear and despise most: niggers. I don’t mean this disrespectfully, they call themselves “nigger,” and greet each other with “Whassup nigga?” which its code for “hello, my fellow outcast brother, united in hatred against the white devils.” Acting like stereotypical “niggers” is strangely empowering, because instead slinking off in shame, it disconcerts white people to have people they regard as “pieces of shit” get up and loud in their faces. And, it is in this respect, that “niggers” are made in prison, not born.*

White racist America creates its own “nigger problem,” much the same way it creates most of it’s problems: by not accepting the humanity of others. And, its happening not only to black folk; its happening to poor rural whites who come out of prison as scary-looking, alienated, tattooed skinheads and peckerwoods. They are easy to demonize and juries convict them on the flimsiest of evidence.

Prison has become a way of forcing cultural differences between poor but decent lower class folks and “respectable” middle class people by turning the lower classes into a disreputable rabble. When middle class incomes decline due to elites blowing up the economy, they look with horror at the prospect of descending into the disesteem of the lower classes, and instead of going after the elites, they go after the people who are easiest to bash. They declare to themselves and to others, “I may be poor, but at least I am not a criminal.”

The trouble is, they are not immune from the encroachment of the carceral state. There was a 72-year old great grand mother in Texas whom a cop tasered for refusing to sign her speeding ticket. What is truly amazing is that Fox News ran with the story, but played it up in such a way as to make it seem as though she deserved it. The interesting thing is that when people view the straight video of one happened, they are sympathetic to the woman, but when they view the Fox News presentation, they side with the armed power of the state. One commentator wrote in “How about complying with the police. Keep your big stupid mouth shut. Why is that so hard for some dumb assed people to do.?” But he doesn’t merely side with the cop, he has a seething hatred for this little old lady. Sure, she was out of line, but she didn’t deserved to be tased.

I see this kind of vitriol more and more, and it bespeaks a total lack of compassion on the part of the speaker. It seems to be endemic to people who self-select to watch Fox News. It also bespeaks a spiritual crisis, of being unable to identify with the underdog, or to empathize with people altogether. This is a little more than being brainwashed; it is a kind of pathological callousness, a kind of moral deficit that I can’t quite put my finger on.

When I read @mattbrowne listing above one of America’s positive attributes as “Friendliness, openness, and welcoming of visitors.” I couldn’t help but think of the many forums I’ve been in over the past few months where I’ve encountered people seething with hatred toward “illegal” Mexicans in this country, writing in under news stories, how we should round em all up and shoot them over the border with a catapult. Don’t they know that California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Utah and Colorado were all once part of Mexico before we stole it from them? But these people only turn their vitriol on you when you bring that up.

There is a serious spiritual crisis in this country, when we no longer see other people as human. I read of a similar thing happening during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. It used to be a very tolerant place, allowing Christians, Muslims, Jews, Kurds, Armenians, Croats, Serbs, all in a patchwork of peacefully co-existing ethnicities and religions. Toward the end, the policy of the empire became officially intolerant toward non-Muslims. Hamlet turned against hamlet until the whole empire was nothing but a seething cauldron of ethnic cleansing. I worry that we have gone from empire to decadence without an intervening period of civilization.

For now, the only thing I can think of to do is raise people’s consciousness about fascism and call it out when I see it in forums like the ones I have described. But people are anything but interested in expanding their awareness, since they seem perfectly content with the knowledge they have.


* I want to be clear that most of the blacks I met in prison were pretty decent when you approach them one on one as human beings. The embracing the stereotype is a kind of group defence mechanism that swings into action when they are disrespected or under attack.

mattbrowne's avatar

@dalepetrie – Thanks for the tip! Sounds very promising. I will get the book. I think the “trash” subculture is mainly due to bad parenting and the disintegration of families and supportive neighborhoods. There’s a wonderful African proverb

“It takes a village to raise a child.”

There might indeed be a trend toward short-term thinking, even within Ivy League universities. Some MBA schools and others seem to worship the false god called quarterly results and it infested corporate culture and its power structure as well. But I think that among the best trained, the elite, there are some graduates who are not completely out of ideas, because they had a special mentor or they trained themselves to value ideas or maybe they value Eleanor Roosevelt’s proverb

“Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.”

America and other countries as well are full of great minds waiting to be discovered, minds strong enough to resist certain trends and hypes. Barack Obama resisted the temptation to start a top-paying job in New York, instead he became a community organizer because he values good ideas more than money. He promotes good parenting and the idea that good grades in school must become a cool thing once again. I really think that’s the key for our future.

mattbrowne's avatar

@MontyZuma – All attributes like “friendliness, openness, and welcoming of visitors” are generalizations and of course there are always exceptions. Not everyone in America is a pioneer and not everyone in France is a good cook.

Jenniehowell's avatar

@MontyZuma I can see/grasp/agree with the majority of your points accept the granny tasing – I’ve watched all the videos out there & if we’re talking about the same video I’m supporting the taser. She mouthed off/taunted the cop over a ticket acting about 1% of her age then at times in her ranting became physical with her utterances causeing the cop to have to step back toward interstate traffic in preparation for her to charge him – he had a choice between do nothing & risk them both going into traffic/wrestle with her still risking an unsafe traffic situation & possible damage to her feeble elderly body (at least comparatively)/or tasing her which minimized bodily harm & traffic risks both. That old lady did just what children do to one another by baiting & creating a situation where their parent has to discipline them & then they want to cry wolf & accuse mommy of abuse instead of discipline – out come the authorities like fascists to yank mommy from her legal ability to discipline under the guise that a spanking is now considered extreme abuse – the same for the cop stuck between traffic & a childish old lady & now we pacified Americans will side with she who is baiting vs. the one who took the bait.

ragingloli's avatar

you are not honestly comparing spanking to tasering, a process that can lead to cardiac arrest and death?

Judi's avatar

I agree that the entire prison system is broken (although I have no idea what the solution is, the current system sucks. )
I can tell you, as the mother in law of 2 correctional officers, that at least these guys have one 2 main goals while at work. 1. To keep the inmates safe and 2. To stay safe themselves.
California has gotten a lot of flack because they pay their correctional officers pretty well. The truth is, it’s an awful job and the only reason anyone would pit up with it is for the money.
If they didn’t pay well, they would end up with officers who did the job because they LIKE having power over people and Like that environment. Those are the guards that Hollywood demonizes. Guys like my son in laws who do their job and try to keep people safe are rarely recognized.

Zuma's avatar

@Jenniehowell Tasers are supposed to be an alternative to lethal force. Period.

They are not to be used to compel obedience, or to punish people who seem to be “asking for it.” Anyone who thinks otherwise simply hasn’t been tasered enough. I don’t want to get into a discussion with you about this here. If you think tasering people for being obnoxious is acceptable, ask it in a question and we can take it up there.

NowWhat's avatar

@ragingloli and @Jenniehowell I’m a cop and I think I know which video you’re talking about. That lady definitely deserved it, but if I were that officer, I personally wouldn’t have tased her.

I’ve been tased before, and it’s not pleasant but one thing’s for sure: there’s never been a proven death caused by the taser. And even though people think it would cause a heart attack, I don’t think that woman had one. She had a lot of energy, so I doubt it caused anything bad.

The worst part about getting tased is the actual experience. There aren’t any effects afterwards to worry about.

filmfann's avatar

@NowWhat There have been numerous deaths following being tazed. Source

Sarcasm's avatar

@filmfann You forgot to update your link, that’s the “Don’t taze me bro” video too.

filmfann's avatar

@Sarcasm A thousand pardons! Source

filmfann's avatar

@NowWhat Here is a second study.

Relation of Taser (Electrical Stun Gun) Deployment to Increase in In-Custody Sudden Deaths

Byron K. Lee, MDa, Eric Vittinghoff, PhDc, Dean Whiteman, BSa, Minna Parka, Linda L. Lau, BSb, Zian H. Tseng, MDa

Received 3 October 2008; received in revised form 18 November 2008; accepted 18 November 2008. published online 22 January 2009.

Despite controversy concerning their safety, use of electrical stun guns (Tasers) by law enforcement agencies is increasing. We examined the effect of Taser deployment on rates of (1) in-custody sudden deaths in the absence of lethal force, (2) lethal force (firearm) deaths, and (3) officer injuries (OIs) requiring emergency room visits. Under the Public Records Act and the Freedom of Information Act, 126 police and sheriff departments from California cities were mailed surveys requesting rates of each of the outcomes of interest for each of the 5 years preceding Taser deployment through the 5 years after deployment. To control for population size and crime rates, we used total annual arrests per city as reported to the Department of Justice. Fifty cities provided predeployment and postdeployment data on in-custody sudden death, 21 cities reported firearm deaths, and 4 cities reported OIs. The rate of in-custody sudden death increased 6.4-fold (95% confidence interval 3.2–12.8, p = 0.006) and the rate of firearm death increased 2.3-fold (95% confidence interval 1.3–4.0, p = 0.003) in the in the first full year after Taser deployment compared with the average rate in the 5 years before deployment. In years 2 to 5 after deployment, rates of the 2 events decreased to predeployment levels. We observed no significant change in the rate of serious OIs after Taser deployment. In conclusion, although considered by some a safer alternative to firearms, Taser deployment was associated with a substantial increase in in-custody sudden deaths in the early deployment period, with no decrease in firearm deaths or serious OIs.

Dr_C's avatar

i can haz cheezburger… nuff said

Darbio16's avatar

Noooo, mah buhket!

Zuma's avatar

@NowWhat Maybe we do need to have this discussion here, because it is symptomatic of the decline in empathy that is allowing fascism to take hold and flourish in this country.

What if the cop had gone up to the woman and punched her in the face as hard as he could. Would people still be cheering him on because “she deserved it” just because she was being “mouthy” or “uncooperative”? Just because the punch is invisibly delivered by way of an electronic equivalent to a baseball bat, and leaves no marks, does not make it any less of a blow to the person. No, you just don’t treat people that way.

This was not a challenge to the officer’s life and safety; it was a challenge to his authority. The officer was essentially giving her a beat down for disrespecting him. The officer does not require this woman’s respect, what he requires is her compliance. And he had many options at his disposal to secure her compliance, starting with talking her down, to get her into a calmer, more compliant mood. He could have called for backup, or he could have simply taken her keys away from her until she calmed down. But, what we see instead, is that he starts threatening her with the taser right away. There is no attempt to be calm and reasonable. It is one of those “RE-SPECT MA A-THOR-A-TAY!” kind of situations, that he escalates. He is the one who can’t back down from a dare. Totally unprofessional.

Anyone who sides with the officer in this instance, apart from showing an appalling lack of empathy for the woman involved, tacitly affirms that punishment, especially violent punishment is the way you are supposed to deal with difficult people. They are, in effect, giving the police permission to beat them down when feel they are being “disrespected.” You may be able to get away with that kind of bullshit when you are dealing with black people, you don’t get to do that to anyone you please.

I’ve written extensively about this elsewhere, if anyone is interested. It is all a part of the paramilitarization of the police. Over time, it leads to a sense that this is an acceptable way to treat people. Note, that these are people awaiting trial, who have not been convicted of any crime.

No wonder there was so little outrage over Abu Ghraib! No wonder so few people stood up and denounced our use of torture as official American policy. We are a country who can watch video of a 72 year-old woman being tortured right in front of us and say without qualm or embarrassment that “she deserved it.” No one deserves this kind of treatment. No one. It truly amazes and disgusts to see how morally and spiritually adrift we are. No wonder other countries look at our human rights record with a mixture of horror and disgust. Torture isn’t the exception, it is the rule. And it is aided and abetted by attitudes like the ones expressed here. We are truly dying spiritually as a nation.

Jenniehowell's avatar

@ragingloli no not comparing spanking to tasing comparing the old lady to a child who deserves a spanking yes

Jenniehowell's avatar

@dalepetrie @MontyZuma @NowWhat sorry for that distraction – I’m thinking the tased discussion is for another room – funny how the discussion went right along with what the referenced books/films kinda said with us getting easily distracted off the real question. Just an observation of things after me endorsing old lady tasing

dalepetrie's avatar

@Jenniehowell – doesn’t bother me, a discussion goes where it goes. :)

benjaminlevi's avatar

Oh, and we win more gold medals than anyone.

Dr_C's avatar

@benjaminlevi sure we win more gold medals… but other countries have their advantages also

Sarcasm's avatar

I would’ve figured the Europeans had gotten belts imported by now.

ragingloli's avatar

@Sarcasm that fat woman doesn’t have a belt either.

Sarcasm's avatar

Right, but that fat woman is wearing pants not designed to have belt loops.
The skinny, allegedly European, woman is wearing jeans. Pants which generally do have belt loops.

ragingloli's avatar


benjaminlevi's avatar

only 1 belt?

JLeslie's avatar

Freedom of religion, muliticultural, the great vastness of our country from the mountains to the prairies to the oceans la la la, seriously :) so many wonderful things about America. An entrepreneurial spirit, great universities, various climates, freedom of speech, appreciation of the arts, we have so many choices.

BBQsomeCows's avatar

shame on us for inflicting freedom on the oppressed peoples of the world!!!

Zuma's avatar

@BBQsomeCows What peoples would those be? The blacks we brought here as slaves?Native Americans? The Mexicans from whom we stole Texas and California and everything in between? The Palestinians? The Nicaraguans? The El Salvadorians? The Iraqis? The Iranians? The Chileans? The Panamanians? The Cubans? The Afghans? The Vietnamese? Is that why they all love us so?

Darbio16's avatar

We are tools of the NWO here in America. As long as young men offer their services in death dealing, we will never see peace. As long as people assume what they hear is true, then we will never have justice. We are imperialistic, but we are all humans. We all have the capacity for good and bad.

Pazza's avatar

I think America is positively screwed!.......but then again us Brits are heading for a mighty fall aswell.

Answer this question




to answer.
Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther