The United States of amnesia & questions of independence
Another Independence Day weekend commences, initiated by a July 4th where nationalist passions again expressed themselves in stadiums that the Romans would envy, Rockwell-esque towns, and meeting places all over the United States, with events illuminated by the glow of fireworks. Partaking in the festivities is of course fun. Myself and another Corsair staff member had a great time covering Santa Monica's annual Independence Day parade on Main Street this past Friday. And yet pressing matters give us a diagnosis of an ailing republic and its empire.
At the risk of being somewhat of a party pooper, the point must be made that Independence Day should also be a time to reflect on what needs to be addressed, not just amnesiac celebrations of the faces on our currency.
While the United States transformed from a mere republic composed of colonists into quite the ambitious expansionist state, a prime case being the 1846 war with Mexico, through which we attained this paper's home state,we now continue to wield immense global power and influence, especially since World War II.
We must be honest and concede that we are an imperialist state, except that unlike Caesars of old, we don't really colonize other countries, we instead support client governments like Honduras, Colombia, and Egypt (and they all tend to have very bloody track records at home). The peoples of some of our best friends are seeking their own kind of independence, and sadly, our superpower interests don't always coincide with their aspirations.
This week riots have erupted in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, where Palestinians are growing restless over Israel's refusal to end the occupation of the West Bank, the siege of Gaza and grant them a nation. On Friday, as Americans waved sparklers and waved flags, danced to bluegrass or rock n' roll groups on mobile floats, thousands of Palestinians expressed their rage during the funeral for a teen murdered by radical Jewish settlers (in reprisal for the murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank). The Palestinians are a people fighting for their independence, an independence denied to them by a government supported and funded by the United States.
In neighboring Egypt, journalists are being jailed, protesters tortured, and voices silenced by the new regime of military strongman (complete with dark shades) Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Again, a regime funded to the tune of billions by our supposedly liberal Obama White House. This is not a shining example of independence.
In our own hemisphere the ridiculous, 50-year-old blockade of Cuba continues. Despite the fact that all of Latin America and Europe now have diplomatic relations with Cuba, the U.S. continues to blockade the country because it has a socialist government we don't like. The blockade is a relic of the Cold War. It was an attempt at strangling the Cuban economy to try and provoke the population into overthrowing Fidel Castro.
It obviously failed. And yet, while we refuse to life the blockade, we insist on keeping a military base in the territory of Guantanamo, infamous for its quasi-legal and often inhumane housing of prisoners from Iraq and Afghanistan. A complex that Congress, the people’s direct representation in government, refused to allow President Barack Obama to close. How would we react if Canada, China or, gasp, Russia proposed opening a military base in California, Florida, or Texas?
Even if you don't like Cuba's Marxist government, is that any reason to deny an island nation full independence? Would it not be best to lead by example as opposed to leading through brute force? The 2003 invasion of Iraq did not breed any sort of democracy in the country, quite the contrary.
Here at home, our independent republic is showcasing some curious habits that question some general independence of its citizenry. The recent Supreme Court ruling granting Hobby Lobby the right deny coverage for birth control for employees based on religious grounds is an undermining of the independence of our female citizens, and, if the track record of the Roberts court holds, may have opened the door for a state sanctioned religion. It is as if the line between state and church is being blurred, and is being replaced by a new form of capitalism which dictates what constitutes as adequate health coverage based on religious views which belong to a realm apart from business, workplace, and the market.
As students, our own social and financial independence is greatly threatened by the rising costs of tuition and the immense labyrinth of debt that swallows students for years. How can a population consider itself independent when a proper education might depend on being beholden to creditors and corporate entities for decades? How can a student have the independence to create, prosper, and live when education itself is treated like a commodity?
The great, late Gore Vidal once termed this nation "the United States Of Amnesia." Amid the Independence Day regalia this becomes very true. The revolution against British imperialism should be celebrated, because it is a reminder of the human desire to be free and the right of peoples to revolt against tyranny and monarchy. The thinkers of that unique moment in history such as Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, provided illuminating thoughts that should always make us question the current state of things.
As citizens celebrate, ignite fireworks and lose themselves in revelry, we should not forget to ask pressing questions about where we are today, only then can we be truly and always independent.