united crepes of amygdala

5/17/05

Okay, this is going to be short and terribly unsweet, but I’ve been getting a lot of emails and the occasional comment over last Thursday’s blog (the title of which, “Holy Shi’ite” was aped by the New York Post today!) concerning the whole “dumping the Koran in the toilet” thing.

First off, the story has not been proved false, just not proven. And though my rant on the subject is definitely incommensurate with a rumor, the salient point remains true: Americans have grave difficulty understanding anyone else’s culture AT BEST, and at worst, we are the biggest bunch of assholes on the planet at a time when we need the most friends.

I don’t “blame America first,” I just look at the research, the sources, the continuing path of behavior, and then assess that it’s pretty easy to blame America within about .04 seconds. If it makes you feel better, just insert “Abu Ghraib” or “indiscriminately bombing Afghan wedding parties and killing 35 members of a single family” in place of “Koran in the toilet.”

To paraphrase Bluto in “Animal House,” what the fuck happened to the country I used to know? I still have love for America, buried deep in piles of heartache, but I think it might be two things: a vestigal remnant of childhood innocence growing up during the Bicentennial, and perhaps the sobering, existential notion that no other country is much better.

When I was a kid, I thought we were the good guys, the benevolent giant that swooped in to help those in need, a self-questioning, beautiful oaf that gained its power by always remaining in ideological balance. The future of this place was decreed by a certain kind of tacit righteousness: how could we be destroyed if our hearts kept being the right place? I was so sure of our overall path, that I didn’t even see the need to join the political discussion until I was almost 25.

Now, I’m sickened. Any country that could go through four years of George W. Bush and re-elect him is just crazy. It shouldn’t have been close. We consume 26% of the world’s resources, and we have 4% of the population. Does that not give ANY of you pause? We are one of the only civilized countries in the world that legally kills its own people. Oh God, I’m Boring My Audience.

I’ve had to look inside myself and ask: is my problem with my country just a logical extension of my problems with myself? I have been known to go on terrific rants about my own flaws; does this just fit neatly in the same category, as if I get off on the self-loathing? Well, yeah, probably.

But do you think about America and still feel the same about it? Not in an “I’m older and wiser now and have less expectations” kind of way, but I really would like to know if any of you have looked at your country like a girlfriend that you have suddenly fallen out of love with, and don’t know how to break it to yourself.

As for me, it’s made me a unique blend: a casual survivalist. We drive a hybrid car, our farm is entirely solar-powered, we have stocks of non-perishable food – but in daily life, I don’t really care. I’m anxious as to how it all turns out for my daughter’s sake, but I still watch “Alias” and eat dark chocolate.

0 thoughts on “united crepes of amygdala

  1. brent

    “the salient point remains true: Americans have grave difficulty understanding anyone else’s culture”
    In this case please insert “Newsweek editors” for “Americans”
    What I find most tragically offensive is that this fkn bullshit report lead directly to mass riots and the deaths of 20+ people. Not that people aren’t on the fkn verge of rioting for a whole host of reasons at any given point of time against the US but the fact that some jackass reporter trying to “get the story out there” without checking all the facts before dropping a bomb similar to the one that hit the Afghan wedding party is criminal treason. This is the second high profile media outlet debacle related to a direct assault on George Bush’s policy and actions. No, I am not a huge supporter of George Bush and consider myself a centrist, but if someone wanted to make the case about the “liberal media” this bullshit and the Dan Rather national guard witch hunt makes it pretty fkn easy. It already one of the most difficult endeavors we as a nation, rightly or unjustly depending on your view, have ever undertaken. The attempt to overcome these long odds and bring some stability to the region does not need Newsweek’s help to undermine the process.

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  2. oliver

    The main problem with witch hunts is that nobody is guilty of witchcraft. Bush’s only complaint about Rather’s report is procedural. He truly is guilty.

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  3. Berl

    Ian wrote : >
    You are correct Ian, that is why the majority of people did not vote for Kerry, Kerry supports the killing of unborn children with beating hearts.

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  4. Berl

    Ian wrote : “We are one of the only civilized countries in the world that legally kills its own people. Oh God, I’m Boring My Audience. ”
    You are correct Ian, that is why the majority of people did not vote for Kerry, Kerry supports the killing of unborn children with beating hearts.

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  5. Chris M

    What hath American stupidity and George W. Bush, the Stupid American-in-Chief, wrought now? The Washington Post provides yet more evidence to be ignored by those clinging to their anti-American faith:
    “DAMASCUS, Syria, May 17 — Beset by U.S. attempts to isolate his country and facing popular expectations of change, Syrian President Bashar Assad will move to begin legalizing political parties, purge the ruling Baath Party, sponsor free municipal elections in 2007 and formally endorse a market economy, according to officials, diplomats and analysts.
    Assad’s five-year-old government is heralding the reforms as a turning point in a long-promised campaign of liberalizing a state that, while far less dictatorial than Iraq under Saddam Hussein, remains one of the region’s most repressive. His officials see the moves, however tentative and drawn out, as the start of a transitional period that will lead to a more liberal, democratic Syria.
    Emboldened opposition leaders, many of whom openly support pressure by the United States even if they mistrust its intentions, said the measures were the last gasp of a government staggering after its hasty and embarrassing troop withdrawal last month from neighboring Lebanon…”

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  6. Radical Cleric James Dobson

    Did you know I once saw John Kerry rip a fetus straight out of a woman and eat it! It was amazing Ian, you would have been disgusted and voted for Bush immediately! My God, John Kerry would have eaten all of us if he hadn’t have received only the second highest amount of votes ever for a United States President. Can you even imagine that 49% of us want to eat babies!?! It almost makes you want to vote for me doesn’t it? Good thing the liberal media slipped up and kept reporting good things about Bush – I don’t know what we would do if people had actually known that Saddam had nothing to do with 9/11 or that we actually *didn’t* find weapons of mass destruction. That was a close one, thanks liberal media, we complain but we did make you!
    The Radical Cleric James Dobson

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  7. Deb

    On a trip to Europe when I was 12, I was shocked to see beat cops in Italy carrying oozies, shocked at the French employees who ignored a couple with three young children, shocked at the relief and pride I felt when we returned to (fireworks) *AMERICA* (fireworks). Sixteen years later, I am shocked that, if only my friends and family would follow, I’d move to Canada (or England, if they’d quit that horrible animal quarantine). I’d passionately miss NY and miss my kids knowing NY, but I’d move. The Puritan permeation of this country is at the least, frightening.
    What shouldn’t be surprising about the Newsweek debacle but is, is the Administration’s reaction. Did they really come out and harshly admonish the paper for responding to misinformation? According to Scott McClellan, “The report had serious consequences. People have lost their lives.” I mean…seriously?

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  8. craighill

    piglet and oliver – you guys need to take a page out of brent’s book and apply a more dialectic approach to your thinking he may not be right, but at least he comes across as having a brain. go heels…c

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  9. craighill

    piglet and oliver – you guys need to take a page out of brent’s book and apply a more dialectic approach to your thinking. he may not be right, but at least he comes across as having a brain. go heels…c

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  10. GregJAK

    This guy is brainwashed by the liberal media, the second after NEWSWEEK says something, he jumps on their bandwagon and is bashing America. No wonder Dan Rather and CBS and Newsweek think they can do whatever they want, when they have such knee-jerk sheep out there who don’t even question the authencity of a Newsweek report, they just eat it up as if its the truth.

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  11. Ian

    The question really was: do you feel the same about the USA that you did ten years ago? But since that seems to be a boring topic, I guess we can go back to talking about – um, let’s see…
    1) “Afternoon Delight” by the Starland Vocal Band
    2) masturbating without getting caught
    3) chimney sweepers

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  12. lyle

    i’ll start habitually questioning the authenticity of reports from newsweek, cbs news, bbc et al when fans of fox news start doing the same for everything aired by their fave news source.
    readers who still believe in a liberal U.S. media establishment might enjoy reading al franken’s “lies and the lying liars who tell them.” it becomes a bit repetitive and over the top by the end, but it’s quite funny and the result of franken’s well-documented research will surprise the skeptics out there.
    if you don’t have time to read the book, you can google “rupert murdoch” to learn more about where mainstream journalism is really heading.

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  13. Chris M

    Why only compare U.S. consumption with U.S. population? Probably because it sounds like solid support that the U.S. is greedy, exploitative, and even *steals* resources. But the statistic that makes sense to compare with consumption is *production.* The U.S. share of world’s gross product is huge (and so its share of global income is 22%) and must also be compared to population. America is highly productive which is precisely the reason its people can consume so much. On top of that, foreigners loan the U.S. money so it can consume yet more. Americans work hard, work smart, and take risks. Accordingly, they have money to buy lots of products and services. As people in other countries are becoming more and more productive, they too are increasing their consumption. But this just leads the anti-consumptionist-enviro-puritan back to an unprovable axiom, the article of faith, that truism of all truisms: we’re doomed!
    There are going to be serious, global problems from time to time but they are unlikely to be predicted with any accuracy by these variety of mystics.

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  14. lyle

    oh, after i posted my comment i saw ian’s re-phrasing of his question, whether we feel differently now about the states from how we felt 10 years ago.
    in 1995 i thought everybody loved us all around the world. i traveled with my husband in spain, the u.k., turkey, thailand, hong kong, and indonesia — everybody we met loved bill clinton, wanted to know who this george clooney guy was, asked if we’d seen michael jackson in concert before, etc.
    by 2005 i’ve lived in thailand for four years. i have been mercilessly jeered at, at a comedy show revue, after raising my hand as the lone american when queried if any of us were in attendance. i had about 48 hours of sympathy after 9/11 before the criticism and “well, you guys deserved it” comments started. i have been told by people who thought they were being complimentary that i’m ok “for an american”, etc., etc. all i can say is, the ranting is ok if fellow americans do it about ourselves (because, for instance, yes, i see how past U.S. foreign policy contributed to the anger that led to 9/11), but i can’t stand that people from everywhere else feel compelled to slap their labels and stereotypes and arguments on any americans they meet. we are seen as heroes and villains wrapped up into one, so we are targets for adulation and vitriol. you can’t please all the people all the time, but these days we are pleasing very few of the people any scant amount of time at all. i feel less safe as an american abroad, not safer, with the bushies running the show.

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  15. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Ian, if you had posted a photo of Chopin, as I have been asking for a while now, the post today would not have taken this turn!
    I’ll answer your question. I probably love America more now than I ever did. When I was in college, I was very liberal. Very “Multi-culturalism is so important”. Very “the US is run by the evil racist conservative White Man”. Very “the US is so full of poverty, racism, economic inequality, social injustices, etc.” I thought that waving an American flag in your front yard meant you were a racism redneck. Blah, blah blah, yada yada yada.
    Looking back, I know that I took being American FOR GRANTED. I took it for granted because I was a spoiled middle-class American kid and I could. I was living in a Safe SuperPower. My life was easy, privileged, and carefree. Instead of appreciating all that I had, I spent most of my time blabbering about all that was wrong with my country and why the US sucked.
    I don’t think that way anymore. Most of this shift has to do with 9/11. You probably hate to hear that, but it is what it is. My college student life was pre-9/11. My appreciation for my American way of life is definitely post 9/11. I am proud to be an American. You know those Support our Troops car magnets that you mocked a few months ago? I have one on my car. I fly the flag in front of my house every day. I am proud to be an American in a way that I never was before. And I don’t take all my liberties and freedoms for granted.

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  16. Chris M

    Ian, sorry to get sidetracked from the question you posed, whether we feel better or worse about American than we did ten years ago. I admit that in 1995 we had a far more articulate president with a far more detailed grasp of policy issues in the White House. And yes, I feel better today:
    Bill Clinton: Iraq Changes Good for Region
    COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Former President Clinton said Wednesday the political changes in Iraq, including parliamentary elections in January, will help bring stability to the region.
    Clinton met with Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and a number of Danish lawmakers during his visit. The former president spoke with reporters before flying to Jordan for a poverty conference.
    “The Sunnis and the Shiites, the Kurds and all the various tribes can work out accommodations that will allow them to build a stable society, I think that will be good for Iraq and good for the Middle East,” Clinton said at the end of a two-day visit to Denmark.
    In January, Iraq held the its first democratic parliamentary elections to choose a 275-member National Assembly and provincial legislatures.
    “There is no point living in the past,” Clinton said. “Look at where we are now. Everyone, all freedom-loving people would be better off with a genuinely representative, effective, free government in Iraq whatever your feelings are about what went on before.”

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  17. Deb

    Franken’s book is wonderful and terrifying and can be listened to on CD. We know next to nothing of the truth in this country.
    As far as the media, I don’t know how anyone can take everything they say as gospel. They’re fallible, they fuck up, just like doctors, lawyers, astronauts and fingerless Wendy’s employees. And the government. How, in good conscience, can one allow the CIA/FBI/Executive Branch/President of the United States *slide*, and not extend the same courtesy to Newsweek?
    And Ian, I followed directions.

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  18. Deb

    As far as what directly, selfishly, affects me and mine, domestic issues are the primary reasons I’ve broken up with America. In an fit of irony, will I end up home-schooling my kids to keep them AWAY from religion? In their nature unit, will I be showing them pictures of extinct Alaskan wildlife? For history homework, will they do a report on the Old L.A., abandoned after the air became unbreathable? Or perhaps on Vermontachusetts, the Territory “given” to the Wild Gays. Can’t wait for the government lesson on the abolition of checks and balances in our one-party theocracy.

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  19. oliver

    How do you quantify product? By the number of human labor hours that went into it? (Duh, no) By weight? (I doubt it) I bet it’s by how much the sells for. If our population of ~300 million just buys a goodly proportion of what we consume from domestic sources, then we’re sure to beat Brazil and the less populous European countries for “productivity,” just because of the cost of production here. Note we’re also fortunate to be a world leader in income disparity, such that compared to other countries an ununusually large proportion of our expenditures are going to be on the low-production, high-cost luxury items on which disgustingly rich people spend most of their income on, and an unusually low proportion of our expenditures are going to be on cooking oil or box springs (I wonder how much of “productivity” is things like cigarette boats). I suspect the real story of US productivity is the trade imbalance, the disappearance of manufacturing and the outsourcing of support and IT jobs to India. Thank goodness for Hollywood, so we count on Asia keep buying Marlboro.

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  20. Rebecca

    Ten years ago I was naive enough to think that in America, our government told us the truth. Now I know better.

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  21. Self-loathing Fat Cat

    Ian – I’m right there with you. I’m driven nuts by what passes for leadership in this country and the sorry state of our relations with the rest of the world. On the other hand, I work for a defense contractor and drive an Audi that gets 15 mpg. I keep telling myself that I’ll be more responsible as I have more resources, but that the safety/comfort of my wife and son has to come first. The fact of the matter is that I’m no less of a self-centered asshole than the Republican (upper) middle class that I despise.

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  22. Piglet

    Ten years ago, the Newtists were in power. So yeah, I feel the same way about America that I did then: Love my country, can’t stand the government, and smug that I didn’t vote for the marching morons who are doing their best to screw it all up.
    Seems to me, people who equate America with George Bush and the fucktards who voted for him are making a big mistake. America is bluegrass, chowder, Amber Waves of Grain, the Bill of Rights, Woody Guthrie, Walt Whitman, crawfish gumbo, sunset over the Pacific and Norman Rockwell. The jerks in DC who shit on all that are nothing. Bush is out of the White House at the end of his term, guaranteed. But the Amber Waves of Grain will be here till the end of the world.

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  23. Beth

    Okay, really seriously. First I have to applaud Warrior of the Woods, not just for offering up the hilarious chimney-sweep image but for eloquently summing up one of our country’s Big Problems. Second, I have to say that ten years ago, I was happy to let Bill Clinton be my designated driver while I was passed out in the back. For the most part, I trusted what our country was up to while a Democrat was in office; I’d never been so happy in my politically aware life as when he was elected. I knew, for example, that if I got pregnant and needed or wanted an abortion, I didn’t have to worry: my rights were protected. But now that we have to deal with W. and all of the terror that comes with his administration, I find myself paying very close attention, and I can’t help feeling like there’s an opposition momentum building. Not a coalition yet, or even an organized hopefulness, but something. Is this naive? Maybe. But check out Howard Dean’s You Have the Power: How to Take Back Our Country and Restore Democracy in America. Regardless of how you might feel about him (I happen to like him a lot), his energy is infectious. And lordie, we need an infusion.

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  24. Tanya

    Okay, I’m gonna play along with Ian, if everyone doesn’t mind…
    I don’t think it’s possible to take age and experience out of the equation when you ask, do you still feel the same about America now, as opposed to 10 years ago. Obviously, things have changed dramatically – esp. considering 9/11, but also considering how MUCH can happen in 10 years.
    Ian, I dare say you are only a few years older than me. Ten years ago, I was 23 and more concerned about graduating, my hair, boys/men, getting an oil change for my car before my trip to the beach with a bunch of girlfriends where we couldn’t wait to talk about graduating, our hair, boys/men…
    Since I’m more of a glass is half full sort of gal, I temper my disappointment in the last election with the knowlege that 49% of the country would have rather had John Kerry at the helm. That’s *almost* a majority. What would spiral me into fits of rage and dispair would be if only, say, 12% of the country felt that way. I think many (not ALL) folks voted out of fear and laziness due to a very vocal and well-organized extremely conservative minority.
    Again, your notion that America is essentially the lesser of all evils (yet still evil) is perhaps just a way of looking at the glass half empty. I get tired of the world in general harping on how awful, fat, selfish, etc. Americans are and yet expect all kinds of money, people, resources, etc. when things go wrong/happen in their country or part of the world. We DO offer support and assistance, and yet it is never enough, it never will be enough, and those very people who demand our help bitch at us before, during and after their crisis. Yes, it’s the nature of the beast, and yes, we bring it on ourselves, SOMETIMES. I am also tired of being lumped into the category of “Americans” when folks (I dare say, such as yourself) bitch about the direction this country is headed and how we’re so stupid and self-centered. I know that’s not what you (or many) people mean when they do that, but it pisses me off when I think about all the things I do to try to make my town/city/state/country/world better.
    I still love America now like I did 10 years ago. Just for different reasons. I like to use a different analogy, though. To me, America is like my teenage son/daughter whom I will always love and will do anything for, but who can disappoint the hell out me with some of the poor decisions he/she can and will make on occasion. Right now, my America is about 14 years old, and I just caught her smoking pot and having sex. Yes, I’m pissed, but we’ll get through it.

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  25. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Hi Craighill. I was in Manly Dorm . . . . in 1986-87. Sometimes I wish I were back in Manly Dorm! However, now, I am a Honda-Odyssey-Driving, Suburban-Dwelling, Private-School-Tuition-Paying Working Mama in Maryland.

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  26. craighill

    hey laurie – too funny! in charlotte here but no minivans yet. btw, we really need to put some pressure on the man to post some old wednesday’s child columns. COME ON IAN – that was good s***!

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  27. BLAME AMERICA FIRST

    Blame America First, the liberal way
    the libs are no different today than Jane Fonda and Company burning the flag 35 years ago

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  28. Piglet

    LOL!! Conservatives destroy America’s greatness, but somehow it’s the fault of the liberals. Bizarro World is upon us!

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  29. treyjan

    As we sit and worry about 20 people who were killed because of “newsweek”, the Senate will soon undo the fillabuster despite the rules for changing the rules. A woman’s right to an abortion if she so choses and birth control in general will be outlawed in short order. If you think the wall between church and state is crumbling, wait two years after the end of the fillabuster, the only thing left of that wall will be a few rocks that were rejected for use in church building. This is one hundred percent about the appointing supreme court justices that are to the right of Scalia and Thomas… scary but true. The newsweek story is just a quick way to shift the story while we take a huge one right in the ass.
    Newsweek, didn’t put anyone in harms’ way, the republicans did. If 20 “innocent” people did because of newsweeks story, how many innoncent people have died in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan, since that story ran, that had nothing to do with newsweek? Why isn’t the whitehouse worried about that? Are they going to issue a retraction? I served in the Marine Corp, I’ve been a “patriot” my whole life, but being a patriot doesn’t mean being stupid, blind or blindly stupid.
    On another note, before getting to excited about Lebanon, please try to remember why the Syrians were there in the first place.
    Finally, that guy from England sure lit up those wingnus in Congress yesterday, finally someone spoke a bit of truth in Congress, to bad it wasn’t an American.

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  30. KTS

    I feel worse about this insane asylum country than I did 10 years ago. I would move somewhere more civilized, like the European Union, if I could. Anyone who doesn’t recognize that the Bush regime is making a mockery of the Jeffersonian principles of “freedom” and “liberty” is as blind as a bat without radar.
    There is a general underlying anxiety amongst the slaves – house, field or swamp – of this United States plantation. It’s caused in part by the threat of knowing (consciously or not) that they might be arrested and thrown in prison. The way the laws read these days, everyone is guilty of something. So much for “justice.”
    As under any government of control freaks with mind police, if you don’t make waves and play nice, arrest is less likely, though no one is immune. The Swedish Syndrome might even set in, and you’ll reelect your masters.
    BTW, how many of you guys and gals have been in jail recently, even for just a day or two? Or seriously threatened in criminal court, without an expensive attorney at your side? Not many, I’d bet. Especially, you Republicans. Try it sometime. It may give you a more well-rounded perspective on the state of the American Dream.

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  31. lee

    i feel MUCH worse than 10 years ago, but i lost my happy america in about 1987 when i took my first trip out of the country and realized that a LOT of people hated us. in fact, i cancelled my newspaper subscription in january and stopped watching the news because i can’t take it anymore and don’t believe half of what i read/see anyway. and i do appreciate the rights/freedoms that i have in this country…but i don’t feel good about what we may have done to get them and keep them.

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