Exceptional or Problem Country
My View – Dellani Oakes
I was raised in a very liberal environment, but a patriotic one. My parents believed in the government, supported the military, but a lot of that faded when we got involved in Vietnam. Much more of that faith was shaken after the Watergate scandal. Still patriotic, still supportive, there was a feeling of discontent, even embarrassment.
I am proud to be American, though I see the flaws in our country. Our system needs an overhaul, where the needs of the people are met, rather than political agendas. It saddens me that we are viewed so negatively by so many in the world. We’re still a destination for those who want a better life, mostly because people have learned to work the system. They ring what they can from it, leaving We the People to pick up the pieces.
Discouraged as I am with our government, I still love my country. I still believe that it’s one of the greatest places to live. We have freedom that many don’t share. We can move from place to place across state lines without having to show papers and a passport. We are free to gripe about our government and its leaders, voice our opinions and gather in protest. We can vote and sign petitions. I’m not saying that our wishes are always met, but at least we can say what we think without fear of death.
Do I agree with everything our country has done? Not at all. But I can’t deny that I am proud to be an American and I believe it is the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.
Dellani Oakes is an author of romantic suspense novels, who lives in Florida where the sun shines, rain rains, the sky is blue and you can have all three at one time.
Stars & Striped Coloured Glasses
by Stuart Carruthers
Back when I was a youngster living in England, we looked across the pond and our hearts sank. America had everything; it was the place from which cool radiated to our young eyes. Cowboys and Indians, trucks and cars with bonnets that stretched to the horizon; police shows were Cagney and Lacey, Starsky and Hutch and The Rockford Files and even the Churches had a band with electric bass guitars and drum kits. We, by contrast had police with pointed hats and sticks, brown short nosed Austin Allegro cars, Juliet Bravo, and churches with pipe organs and hard wooden pews. Evel Knievel jumped gorges and trucks; Eddie Kidd hopped over rivers. Where we ate cereal and toast for breakfast, I was told by my mum that Americans ate donuts and apple pie! What more could a young boy want!
Skip forward 30 plus years and something has changed. Now everyone has hundreds of TV channels; all countries involve their soldiers in unjust wars and cars have become the same bland Japanese shapes. My son still wants to go to America, but that’s because it’s a long way away not because it has anything more than we do here in Taiwan. Globalization has given us everything from anywhere in the world wherever we are. Being American is no longer an aspiration it’s a way of life. We are fed a non-stop diet of American TV, fast food and god help us Coffee (since when was America synonymous with good coffee!?)
Thanks to social media we’re now fed the worst of Americana: cops that kill indiscriminately, highways perpetual state of inaction and never ending images of the worst of Walmart’s customers.
Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s too much information, maybe, as with the rest of the world, the post-war baby boom has expired and the hope and optimism that came with it has faded and grayed with age like the children of the 50’s and 60’s.
I still haven’t found my way across the pond, but this is largely because other places looked more interesting. Not better or worse, just not the same as the UK. Today, America seems too familiar and it’s that familiarity which leads to a perceived lack of excitement for a traveler. But one day I will go and I hope that I’m wrong and that it’s as different as it could be.
Stuart Carruthers is a writer and a British ex-patriot who lives in Taiwan. Find him at https://www.facebook.com/Writeimagination
A Note on Returning Home
by James L. Secor
After years of travel, wandering in foreign lands, I returned to
My home–or so it was called, this place I grew in, and left for adventure,
But, in fact, was not my home, not a real home, this place I recognized
Showing little change for the years passed but now an effaced place of people living
In cells, cocoons isolated and without touch from other cocoons
Without touch–had touch been reduced to a sin, a perversion, human
Made to be inhuman?
True, a face was on it, all pasted on as
Hollywood, political smiles are, the stuff of cartoons, eyes dead in
Faces of plastic doll heads blurting sound bites of recognized syllables, but
All empty words divorced of any emotion, devoid of sentiment.
So misleading, hearing I behaved, as social, civilized man might and
Became an inappropriate one, my conduct that of a foreigner, lost in
My own land that truly was not my land, or my country, not my home,
Home being a place of welcome and warmth and support, with
Family and friends, but now no more than Odysseus’ isle of coldness and
Treachery calculated and so, fit only for a battle, a battle
I am too old to fight, too old to withstand the volcanic hatred
And killing, for surely some must cease breathing for life to once more break ground.
So I knew why, with more conviction than when I began my return,
I felt that I did not wish to come back to this, my country–a lost place
With no connection to me or anyone else. I knew there was nothing,
No life, no soul, no waiting arms open and welcoming, like the place
I had grown to love, with family and friends and support for a life
Far from the abuse and oppression of the people who called me their own
Only to find nothing had changed but everything had worsened and I
Was wanted less than I was before.
So, now I live nowhere at all.
Jim Secor wandering scholar, student and teacher, returned to the States in 2010. A social activist/critic playwright, Jim’s 44 years overseas sharpened his sense of a home gone awry. He can often be found at http://labelleotero.wordpress.com .
While Nero Fiddled . . .
by Micki Peluso
The Roman Empire between 100 and 200 AD encompassed Northern Scotland and reached out as far as Asia. It was one of four classified Empires; including Han China, Mauryan, India and Parthian Persia. The Roman Empire stands out due to its ability to unify and cause major changes in language and the development of lands conquered. It is said that the United States of America is second in this endeavor. So why did the Roman Empire Fall? The glory that was Rome fell by 284 AD due in part by what is taking down our country today — greed, corruption and apathy.
As we watch our own great nation, once the shining star of the free world grow ever weaker, inundated with internal and external problems, one wonders if we are following the footsteps of the once mighty Empire whose arrogance and refusal to see or care blinded them to their own demise. Our country became the United States of America in 1776 with the words of our Constitution written in the blood of those who fought and died for it. That would be about 240 years ago.
We face many of the Roman Empire’s problems and more, which includes loss of respect from other nations, mockery from our enemies, little or no aid from countries that we spend billions upon, as well as major financial, medical, and environmental problems on our front. Scandals in government have scorched the integrity of our political philosophies. We have backed down from stamping out terrorism when it first raised its ugly tentacles in the 1970s; beatable than, not so easily now. Our economy, dependent upon two-income families, has affected the lives of this present generation of children, along with the ever progressive computer technology which is both advantage and bane. We have been forewarned and educated in problems needing immediate solutions. As a Super Power we still ‘talk the talk’ but fail to ‘walk the walk.’ Chicken Little is scurrying about, crying out, ‘The Sky is Falling.’ We don’t bother to glance up.
Can we be so foolish as not to see what’s happening to our once great nation? The greed, corruption, and apathy are snowballing into a massive avalanche that may well bury the country we once knew. Cartoonist Walt Kelly paraphrased Navy Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s famous quotation, ‘We have met the enemy and they are ours.’ On the second Earth Day on April 22, 1970, Walt Kelly’s first ‘Pogo’ cartoon graced the cover of a magazine. His words were relating to environmental issues but aptly fit all the problems of our times. “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Magazine writer, humorist, and memoirist Micki Peluso can be found at http://www.amazon.com/Micki-Peluso/e/B002BLZ7JK/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_2?qid=1435341140&sr=1-2
by Kenneth Weene
Having grown up in New England, my childhood was imbued with the “Shining City on the Hill” mythology of America. We were, after all, the landfall of Pilgrims and Puritans, the home of Anne Hutchinson and Rodger Williams, the bedrock of Unitarianism, town meetings, and transcendentalism. We believed in the transformation of man. If the ancient alchemists goal was to change lead to gold, New England offered the promise that mere men could be transformed into pure-hearted signers of a perfect social contract. Hadn’t that been shown on November 11, 1620 aboard the Mayflower? Hadn’t that human steel been proven in the Revolution and again in the fire of the Civil War?
Even today, despite much revisionist history, despite learning of the abuse of Indians by those “founding fathers” and of the slave connections of many of those revolutionary heroes, despite knowing that many New Englanders grew rich during the War Between the States: it is easy to look back on my childhood—so close to Concord, Lexington, Walden Pond, and Bunker Hill—and believe America did offer the world an example of what could be.
Our downstairs neighbor, who appears from time to time in my writing, was a veteran of World War I. Despite the shrapnel in his legs and the laboring of his gassed lungs, he believed America had fought to make the world safe for democracy and to end the age of war. He believed we were a place that offered the possibility of—if not perfection, surely—improvement. We all believed America was the place a man could rise to new heights.
Born just before World War II, I can remember the pride of standing with my grandfather and watching General Eisenhower’s motorcade come down our main street. One of my first published poems was about that day.
Now much older, I look back and wonder when the possibility that was America was lost. Intellectually, I know there were always problems of justice and equality, but what went wrong to our national goal of perfectibility or ongoing improvement. We are no longer interested in the transformation of ourselves or our world into something purer; we have become, as the ancient alchemists, preoccupied with the accumulation of gold.
We no longer believe in a compact between government and citizens. Rather we glorify individualism at the price of mutual responsibility. While other governments offer ever increasing support, protection, and encouragement to all, many Americans see government as the threat and believe that we are in a free-for-all in which the best should and do succeed while the devil takes the rest.
Perhaps it was always so. We are, after all, the nation of slavery, Manifest Destiny, and robber barons. Perhaps we never truly ascribed to the pursuit of something higher. Perhaps my childhood hagiography was a lie. It is enough to make an American weep, shout, and work for change.
Novelist, poet, and essayist, Kenneth Weene is one of the founding editors of The Write Room. Find him at http://www.kennethweene.com