Since childhood, I have been told how European I am in outlook and practice – in careful contradistinction to American. When I finally made it to Europe in my very late twenties, I was not at all surprised to discover how much at home I felt there. But I was surprised discover what was American in me: an ability – nay, a predilection – to speak to anyone, regardless of their position in life, as an equal.
In the end, though, I came to understand and accept that I was neither American nor European. I was, forgive the bombastic phrase, a citizen of the world – a child of many cultures and languages – of disparate and even contradictory intellectual and spiritual heritages – in short, a man of many hyphens.
Ten years ago, I found I had to go to Canadian, British and Australian news organization to find anything resembling a balanced picture of what was happening to the world outside my door. My American sources had become nothing more than an echo chamber of hatred and, what’s worse, a fount of ignorance and shameless manipulation. Ten years later, not much has changed, except for the hypocrisy. It is everywhere now, in everything. We are all a little bit hypocritical, I know – and so we ought to be forgiving of that little bit in another – but when politicians embrace it as their one and only God… well… I find myself battling them.
It’s not a war I sought out. It’s a war that came knocking on my door, day after day, year after year – like some crazed peddler of religion with a stack of tracts and a merciless quota to meet. I could not leave my house without him confronting me every time and in every possible way.
Ten years ago, and non-stop ever since, I have been told that “we” are totally innocent victims of a single and singularly terrible atrocity. That no one could have foreseen it or kept it from happening. That nothing like it had ever happened before in the whole history of mankind. That because of it, there were certain carefully delineated groups of people I had to hate utterly and oppose uncritically – and yet other groups of people I had to love and obey without question. That in order to preserve “our” freedom I had to give mine up. Furthermore, I shouldn’t object to everyone else being forced to give up theirs, as well. Because that’s what you do, they said, when you “preserve” freedom. I was told I had to support – morally and financially – the killing hundreds of thousands of brown people thousands of miles away, and the destruction of their homes and heritage – so that the freedom I and everyone else had been forced to give up could be “preserved”. I was told the best thing I could do was to shop for things I did not want nor could afford. That that was the only true patriotism left us – as if “patriotism” – the unconditional love of one place to the exclusion of all others – was some sort of virtue.
Now, when I speak ill – that is to say, the truth – of the hypocrites and fear-mongers, I’m told I’m being divisive and unfair. Argumentative. Disrespectful. That I should compromise myself and my principles and defer to their wants and needs, however selfish and destructive to the common good. That I should forget my own wants and needs and the wants and needs of everyone BUT them and their tiny group of immensely rich and powerful friends. That the poor, the elderly, the disabled must necessarily be sacrificed to make the world of those favored few better. That the world itself should continue to be despoiled and destroyed at an ever increasing (and ultimately unsustainable) rate so that that tiny group of selfish old men can abscond with even more of what little good in it is left.
Well, fine, I say. Call me divisive, unfair, argumentative and disrespectful. I wear those badges with honor considering who it is that bestows them upon me.
Let me take this opportunity to quietly whisper to your shell-like ear (hear the roar?) that your day of comeuppance is on its way and, because you will have it no other way, it will be bloody and destructive and full of as much pain and horror as you can manage to wangle into it. Because that’s how you like it. You understand nothing else. It’s what you are. It is, sadly, allthat you are – you have nothing but that to offer. Nevertheless, I assure you, your day will come. And you will pass, as all who have been like you throughout the course of our common history, have passed before.
Someday there may be a time when the rest of us can see beyond our differences to celebrate our common humanity. That day has not arrived and I suspect it never will. But until it does, I will speak truth to lies and I will not “respect” what does not deserve “respect.”