Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 29)

book-why-do-people-hate-america?I learned a lot from that Israeli encounter.

And from the reactions of other foreigners to our 9/11 tragedy. I mean, I just always assumed that everyone everywhere felt the way we Americans do about it.

I guess I’m learning the value in seeing how others see you.

Because, the truth is, you can never really see yourself objectively.

Yet, even this awakening I’m experiencing here – this dirty view of us through foreign eyes – only makes me feel more determined to fight to right the wrongs. I mean, you have to fight for what you love. And I love my country. In spite of everything I’m learning, that will never change. It’s like how I love my family; no matter what they do, they’re still my blood & always will be. And you don’t give up on family. If they’re broken, you fight for them, fight to fix them, fight to save them.

I told Karli & Dana tonight about the Israeli airport encounter, and they didn’t seem surprised. Karli told me about similar 9/11 conversations she’s had with foreigners in other countries. Dana’s view is that those foreigners are just jealous of America. But Karli thinks, as I do, that it has a lot more to do with our foreign policy, the things we’ve done and continue to do to other countries.

Crashing bees’ nests for honey

Why do we need all that honey? And why are we so okay with spilling their blood to get it? According to those Israelis, spilling foreign blood means our blood will follow. Are generations of our blood worth spilling for honey?

But, I mean, what are we citizens supposed to do about that?

Most of us, like me, don’t even know what our government is doing. We only know what the news tells us. We don’t even know who’s controlling our news. We think our news is democratic & objective, you know, because we live in a democracy. We think we’re getting the whole story. So we don’t dig any deeper than the most convenient American news sound bite because, hey, if it’s on the news, it must be true.

And who has time to dig, anyway? We have jobs, families, a social life.

But even when we do find out horrendous stuff about our country, patriotism (or the fear of being called unpatriotic) propels us to justify our atrocities. Or we retreat into denial. Or defensiveness. Like in the museo today, when the Whites in our group became so defensive about American benevolence, even in the face of our racist destruction of a Brown nation.

Or like how I just wanted to run away…   

american-defacing-iraqi

I wonder…right now in Iraq…what are we doing to those people that will cause future bees to come 9/11 us again?

We’re attacking them for something they didn’t do to us.

We’re attacking them because they’re Arab, we’re angry, and they have oil.

And the world knows it.

Because schools in the rest of the world teach the portions of American history kept hidden from us in America. Their media reports news about us that our media won’t touch.

Because foreigners and their ancestors have suffered under our history.

Are suffering under it.

Operation Iraqi Freedom. Hmph. Lucky for us Iraq had a maniacal dictator. A crazy sociopath whom the first Bush utilized to support our ‘poor Kuwaitis‘ war against Iraqi, and who now serves a similar purpose for the second Bush – that purpose being to substantiate our ‘poor Iraqis‘ claims of democracy & beneficence as we kill one million of their civilians while draining their oil fields.

Just as the history we know nothing about/choose to ignore shows that we’ve always done, we’re naming our violence benevolence.

But Iraqis know better

iraqi-children

Will their bees be coming for my kids in the future?

Will our nation play innocent victim again?

Anyway, back in the museo, Victor said America also did good things in Cuba when we took over. We improved Cuba’s prisons — cleaned them up and rebuilt them. And many prisoners were released, or had their remaining jail time shortened.

“White prisoners,” “Beware of America” man pointed out.

We fixed Cuba’s sanitation & health services, cleaned up the streets, improved hospitals & medical care.

In the American-designated White areas,” someone in “Beware of America” man’s group interjected.

We built schools, and even overhauled their University of Havana.

Then fired all Black professors,” someone else in “Beware of America” man’s group added.

We rebuilt Cuba’s bridges, railroad tracks & roads.

Using the free labor of all the Black prisoners that were not released,” another Cuban in “Beware of America” man’s group informed us.

A few White people in our group became visibly agitated by all the added commentary from the Cuban group. They shot annoyed looks at the Cubans, and one person sighed loudly.

But the minorities in our group began asking the Cuban group questions to get more information, and listened intently to Victor’s translations of Spanish or heavily-accented answers they didn’t understand. The Whites in our group who had displayed their annoyance at the interjections from the Cuban group, now shot their annoyed looks at their own minority countrymen.

Karli & I exchanged looks of own. In that strange way we had developed of reading each other’s thoughts after only a few days of acquaintance, we knew exactly what the other was thinking.

blue-collar-black-worker-white-collar-white-workerWatching these layered reactions from the Whites & minorities in our American group was fascinating stuff!

Karli told me later that it reminded her of exchanges she reads in online forums where a minority person will mention the racism in something, and White people will respond by saying that the minority person is wrong, reading too much into it, taking it too personally, or even accuse them of playing a race card.

I see those, too.” I laughed. “Or how about this one: “What about the reverse-racism we suffer? Huh? What about that?

We cracked up laughing. But the thing is, it really isn’t funny. And we both know it.

As I stood there in the museo watching the Whites in our group roll their eyes, sigh loudly and get agitated, and the Browns in our group listening intently to every word about an American history none of us had ever heard anything about, I marveled that we were all Americans.

Because our reactions to racism are so deeply divided.

I mean, why is that, really?

There’s no denying our intensely racist history — no matter what parts you re-word or leave out. And being that our country was founded by racism, built on racism, our most revered documents penned by racist slave owners, our ancestry demonstrative — to this very day — of a culture grappling in both overt and p.c.-veneered covert ways to preserve the White-majority status quo…how is it that we can actually believe racism just evaporated over time and that, because it’s 2005, accusations of racism are, by now, just the figment of some overly-sensitive minority’s imagination?

I have a new reverence for history.

I wish everyone in America did.

It would go a long way toward de-mystifying current day upheavals that we assign all kinds of context-free ignorance to.

multi-shades-of-brown-faceI will never again — no matter how well-meaning — say to any minority of any race, “I’m sure it wasn’t meant that way.”

Because given our country’s not-so-long-ago history and current day endeavors to preserve the status quo — maybe it was “meant that way.”

And who am I to deny or minimize any minority’s daily trials & tribs in a White-majority culture who is largely in denial of or ignorant about the extent of America’s history of violent racism, and the effects which still color the present?

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37 thoughts on “Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 29)

  1. Pingback: Abuse on Palestinians Not Limited to West Bank | Sylver Blaque

  2. So refreshing to hear a critical perspective on this…Racism has many insidious forms. And I know I hear people dismiss it as – ‘well, everyone is racist to some extent’. Does that make it okay, then? My country is no better when it comes to its attitudes, ignorance towards outsiders and its history. But your point about knowing our history is so important. If we don’t face it, we don’t learn anything…Anyway, I’m rambling. But great post 🙂

    • Hi, Alama Rose (love your name! 🙂 ) Yes, racism consistently morphs into ever-new forms, while simultaneously continuing to wreak havoc in its classic forms. And you are so right – if we don’t face it, admit it, accept that it is still prevalent, then we learn nothing and continue to play a privileged race card by minimizing or denying the experience of minorities. Thank you for your astute observations.

  3. Nearly 30 years ago, I travelled in SE Asia. I was lucky to meet and live with people from all over the world. It was an enlightening experience.
    Americans are naive optimists; we want to believe we’re doing the right thing, for the right reasons. Distance and experience provide the objectivity to see that the US government promotes corporate imperialism and is controlled by an oligarchy disdainful of its citizens.
    Eventually, the People will prevail.

    • Your comment really touched a chord in me, Elroy. The sentiments you express are right in line with my own matured view of our nation. Yes, we are largely incredibly naive in our blind-faith-in-spite-of-overwhelming-evidence-to-the-contrary belief that the motives of our government are based in doing the right thing for the right reasons. But this belief system is embedded into our psyches by unrelenting systemic elements in our culture which do not have much time or tolerance for alternate viewpoints. As with many nations, patriotism trumps truth. Even when alternate views are presented, our response is generally to deflect & defend rather than take in & reflect.

      Your statement that “Distance and experience provide the objectivity to see that the US government promotes corporate imperialism and is controlled by an oligarchy disdainful of its citizens,” still, I must admit, invokes an initial, involuntary knee-jerk reaction in me that cries, “No! No! That’s not America! We are a democracy, dammit!” But the more I travel, the more I learn on these trips…well, let’s just say it’s becoming more & more difficult to justify/defend our historical-into-present-day imperialist actions in foreign countries. And the hardest part, I think, is that because we’ve been so ‘protected’ from learning so much vital information about our government’s foreign policy agenda, we cling to false history & current day false altruistic motives fed to us systemically via sweet patriotic kool-aid that we all drink trustingly without ever examining the ingredients…

      Sadly, “distance & experience” in witnessing the effects of our corporate/government’s actions on foreign nations & peoples is something most of us do not have since, as stats clearly evidence, the majority of us do not venture outside of America – or only to America-esque tourist destinations where we may remain ‘protected’ from witnessing the truths of the effects of our foreign policy on the “bees” whose nests we “crash.”

  4. Thoughtful comments, Sylver. It seems all to easy to fall into war and ever so difficult to get out. Rarely do our reasons for going to war match the harm that is created. And all to often our announced reasons hide a deeper agenda urged on by those who stand to benefit. Eisenhower’s words about the danger of a military-industrial complex still ring true. Having said that, there are times when the US and other nations need to step into a situation. I am thinking here of all the senseless slaughter that has taken place in Africa over the past three decades.

    I believe that great power calls for great responsibility. The US has incredible power. Sometimes we use that power responsibly… and sometimes we don’t. Spending trillions on defense when there are so many other uses for the money seems at times close to criminal. I am not arguing against having a reasonable military budget.

    Ultimately, there has to be a better solution to resolving conflicts. If we depend on being the biggest dog on the block, eventually there will be a bigger dog and millions more dead. Nation states and nationalism are not the solution. We do not have enough money in the US to be the world’s policeman and the rest of the world isn’t particularly interested in us maintaining that role.

    We have entered a world where global economics, global communication and global crime rule. It’s time we moved toward creating international institutions to reflect the reality of today and tomorrows world. To do otherwise, is to invite disasters that don’t need to happen and may be irreparable given our ever growing capacity for destruction. Are we wise enough to move forward?

    • Thank you, Curt, for this very reflective comment. You’ve touched on many good points here, not the least of which being Eisenhower’s words ringing ever-true today. Sadly, we did not heed that warning, but instead now demonstrate it in ways which probably exceed his military-industrial complex nightmares. And you are quite right, spending trillions in military in the ways it has been done (i.e. war profiteers) is indeed criminal.

      You also pose a wonderful question that is really the key to it all: “Are we wise enough to move forward?” I hope & pray with everything in me that the answer will one day be a resounding “YES!” 🙂

  5. What they call the “mainstream media”, and what some laughingly call the “liberal media” is really the CORPORATE MEDIA. Truth is very much a relative thing to them, and very much a secondary thing. Our mainstream media used to be so much better. Question everything you see, hear and read. Read between the lines. — YUR

  6. Excellent article and info, ver refreshing to see more Americans coming to realize what’s going on in the rest of the world. You are right, and I think that there are consequences to our foreign policy. Thanks for sharing!

    • I’m happy you enjoyed reading this, Leanova. 🙂 Yes, I’m sure if more Americans were more aware of just how intertwined our history is with that of other countries, they would have a deeper understanding of foreign reaction to us.

  7. Great article, very interesting and informative – It all sounds a bit familiar being from the UK. Similar issues and similar past except our UK government now follows along with anything the US government tells it to do!! Legal or illegal or otherwise!

  8. You address many important issues, complex issues. Here are a few things I want to say:

    Soldiers, including American Soliders, become very angry when people plot to kill them. Some of these young men become filled with hatred and do things that bring disgrace to America and our values. War brings out the worst in people; however, that is not America.

    Our issues with Cuba go back to an era where most living Americans have no memory of. When Fidel Castro finally dies, I suspect we’ll learn things about our relationship with Cuba that will shock the world. And I suspect we’ll begin mending our fences with our neighbor.

    Yes, there are peoples who’ve suffered from American’s at war. But Americans not only came to the aid of Europe in WWI and WWII, we also created the Marshal Plan that rebuilt Europe after the WWII. There are Europeans who know this and respect this, but as newer generations evolve they don’t care much about those things.

    Perhaps the hate begins in envy and is feuled by our blunders and failures. America still represents many of the world’s highest aspirations. Its a shame that American’s don’t realize our responsibility in the world. Each American is an ambassador.

    • Thanks for this thoughtful comment, Yordie. I certainly hope, as you do, that one day we will begin “mending fences” with our neighbors. Dream come true, right? 🙂 Though I disagree that foreign resentment begins in envy (I believe it began as a result of our foreign policies), I do agree with you that it is a shame we don’t recognize our responsibility in the world. You put it so perfectly: “Each American is an ambassador.”

      • Yes, Americans live with such bounty, even our lower classes share some of that bounty, and when we are abroad we must recognize that we are examples. I fear we are frittering away our position in the world with our ignorance and disrespect for others and their cultures. We’ve done many good things but the ugliness is far easier to remember because it causes so much hurt. Yes, we can hope and we must. And we must try.

    • Hi Yordi, in my modest opinion Fidel is not the main issue about cuba and U.S relationship or at least I don’t think that things are going to change that much after his dead. and about wwII well, we kind of have a different version of the story, but hopefully sylver will get it on her next visit to cuba. she will need more fuel in order to keep writing this amazing stories. 🙂

      • Hi Kenny… I don’t have any special information about the history, but I believe there will be classified information related to the events of the Cuban Missle crisis that can only be released after Fidel dies. This is just a speculation based on my understanding of how some classified information is release. I could easily be completely wrong. I look forward to some kind of normalization of our relationship with Cuba. I think the time is near.

  9. I’m not going to argue that America has done everything right. We’ve done some stupid, insensitive and downright idiotic things over the years – and we keep doing them, repeating them and creating new ones. We do have to listen to other points of view – but we don’t have to buy all of them lock, stock and barrel. Yes, we all love our families and realize that they do stupid things. And we’re going to love our family, even if they are wrong. But there are two sides to EVERY story. Just because someone else takes exception to who we are or what we do, that doesn’t make us wrong. Sometimes we’re just different and that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are wrong. I appreciate your fervor. I just like to remind us all that even though we have warts, we’re still pretty.

    • Lol! We are pretty, no doubt. Beautiful, even. 🙂 There’s no shortage of that message in our culture. But other messages are sorely missing. For example, in this instance, we were very wrong. It’s not a matter of opinion, as the facts are on record – even though ignored by our education system & media. I don’t believe admitting to wrongdoing makes us ugly. I believe, in fact, it makes us honest – which is always beautiful. And, no, of course we don’t have to accept foreign opinion. Which is why I always research deeply when I return home from such trips. Sometimes, I’m happy to discover their damning facts are exaggerated or just plain wrong. Other times, as is the case with Cuba, it doesn’t take much digging to discover how sadly accurate their facts are.

  10. Two groups in America keep it going in this direction, just two. These two groups throw out rhetoric to the masses, including key words like, ‘justice, freedom, patriotism,’ etc., etc. to maintain their stature. They are fronting for a small, unknown group of individuals unknown to most, including me.

    These two groups, none the less, maintain the message in their behalf.

    Most in those groups have no idea why except, it sounds good, and with many involved, you can accomplish where single individuals may not. Have you noticed any major public policy lately, that doesn’t apply restrictions of some sort, to someone?

    I am proud to be an American. It was a choice for me. When I saw the truth, there was no question.

    American or, Democrat or, Republican. I chose to maintain my birth right as an American.

    The other two groups are foreign in nature to me, and have done nothing for America or, Americans in a very long time. The other two groups continue to distance themselves from American tradition, freedom, patriotism, etc.

    It is the country these two groups created that is portrayed for the world. That is what they see. Our public policy. That is the reaction you witness from others overseas.

    Initially, those other two groups were only suppose to impose taxes, and be involved in infrastructure.

    We, as Americans were supposed to assume some of the responsibility for social behaviors but, we gave it to the other two groups, and now they are in every facet of our lives, with questions as to whom they might truly represent.

    Foreigners, for a long time have not seen the U.S. as the pillar of freedom. Our reputation is a direct reflection of the Democrats, and Republicans, and the public policy determined by, them.

    P.S. I don’t hate much but, have a special place in my heart for politics.

    • Dave, thank you for such a heartfelt comment! I can feel your frustration, and I totally understand it. Hopefully, as we move forward, honesty and transparency will one day prevail, in the process making us wiser and less willing to “crash bees nests for honey.”

  11. When you first wrote about how American schools do not teach about slavery I was shocked. I spent almost a year in History learning about America’s history: slavery, the civil war, the fight for equality, the great depression, WWI & WWII. All in a school OUTSIDE of America.

    • I’m not surprised. Though we do skim slavery in our schools, there is minimal context and a “Move along! Nothing to see here!” presentation which sends a clear message that this is not something worth talking about, so let’s not and say we did. Lucky are the few blessed with teachers wise and brave enough to delve deeper, teaching historical lessons that must be learned in order to keep future gens/leaders from repeating such atrocities.

      • I can say I learned a lot about the world from that year of History(though it was boring at the time) and I was only 12! And it didn’t scar me for life. Have you ever watched “Roots”? It’s a biography-style documentary about an African slave taken to the States. Highly recommended!

        • Haha! I’m glad you’re scar-free. 🙂 Now if only we could get our education system as a whole to realize that teaching the dark side of our history isn’t a deadly taboo. Yes, I was introduced to “Roots” during a trip to Haiti. The book is actually required reading for schools there so that students have a contextual understanding of how U.S. history affects our interaction with Haiti because, contrary to popular post-quake beliefs by Americans, our foreign policy has been a nightmare for Haitians.

  12. great narrative!loved it 🙂 you’ve raised some important points here. by killing innocent people to supposedly get rid of terrorists only creates more future terrorists. I think the last decade has created a generation of arab youth that will be a huge recruiting ground for future militant outfits.
    Reverse racism reminded me of the German industrial band KMFDM “Kein mehrheit fur die mitleid” which translates to “No pity for the majority”. cheers 🙂

    • Thanx, Raunak. 🙂 And you’ve put it more eloquently than I: “…the last decade has created a generation of arab youth that will be a huge recruiting ground for future militant outfits.” Sadly, this is all too true…

  13. I’m sure one of us has already said it, but it’s truth that—for right or wrong—“the victor of a war (name your type/kind of war) gets to write the history books.”

    Thank you for being courageous enough to ask the hard questions and point out that there may be something worth knowing below the surface of what we “know” as reality.

    I know you know it’s patriotic to ask questions! Our country didn’t hit its ideal in the late 1700s; contrary to the belief of some, we ARE a work in progress.

    • Thank you for bringing to light this excellent point which is also left out of history books – viewpoint. I remember Victor saying this to us – that history is taught from one viewpoint as though it represents the experience of all. But, as you said, it’s the hegemonic who write history, never the oppressed. We only hear about their struggle through the lens of the oppressor, if at all.

      And you make another vital point to remember – “we ARE a work in progress!” 🙂

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