Feeling for the United States Right Now

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by Neil Godfrey

It doesn’t seem right to be posting about religion and politics right now. (Recent posts have been sitting in my drafts for a little while and were auto-scheduled to go live.) The news I’m seeing and hearing these past few days is giving me a feeling reminiscent to some extent of 9/11. Even though I saw 9/11 logically as a “to-be-expected” blowback from decades of U.S. policies in the Middle East that perspective did not override feelings of horror and despair for the suffering inflicted on Americans that day. The whole world for a moment was on your side.

Now you have the world’s worst pain from the coronavirus entirely as a result of failure of leadership (blaming China or WHO doesn’t cut it; other countries have not allowed the pandemic to run away anything like the way it has in the U.S.); you have 40 million unemployed; and you still have the same racist divide and nation-wide riots that I recall from the late 1960s. And just when you need a leadership to articulate the pain and frustration at the systemic racism and injustices in order to begin to unite the nation you get an ignorant bully (that’s far too mild a description – I have a hard time finding the most appropriate words) who glorifies strength and the violence of the state and frames all protesters as violent anarchists who deserve to have the dogs set on them.

To this outsider, it really looks like you are totally screwed, a failed state, even. I say that with some sense of horror and shock, not as an insult. I really hope your nation can find some way through the current polarizations and come together in a positive way.

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21 thoughts on “Feeling for the United States Right Now”

  1. Nothing to worry about.
    The mortality rate in the riots is indeed negligible.
    The lights are still on, gas is cheap, the toilet flushes and the TV works.
    Really, the country is so big that all the trouble is always “somewhere else”.

    You mention 9/11… what could I do? I figured they’d send me a bill in the mail (for my share).
    Same for hurricanes, ice storms, fires, and tornadoes.
    The Constitution permitting slavery, property was valued more than human beings.
    Nice to see folks raising hell on behalf of George Floyd.
    Good weather, school’s out, youthful exuberance… best place on Earth to riot!
    Hey, I voted for Hillary… lotta good that did.

    Something to talk about besides Covid 19, ( I’m in the most ‘lethal’ demographic, nyuck, nyuck!).
    Hey, “as long as we have our guns”, right?
    Party on, Neil! “Who loves ya, baby?”

  2. I was around in the 1970s. They really, really sucked. In a country that organized itself around suburbs and driving, gasoline went from 25 cents/gal to $1.00 (in the blink of an eye).

    I got my first job in NYC in 1976. The guy who hired me told me there were 200+ resumes for the (low-paying) slot. Why did he pick me? We went to the same high school (he was older) — and it was a good public school, Brooklyn Tech. He thought I might be worth something.

    [I had applied for a series of jobs that May-June-July. For many of these, when I showed up, the “waiting room” was chock full of young people like myself. It was extremely discouraging]

    The 1970s saw the horrid end of the awful Vietnam War. It saw Nixon booted out of office. It saw Pres. Ford wear “WIN” buttons on his lapel (“whip inflation now”). Ford may have been a moron, but he had his finger on the national agony — inflation was crippling most of the people.

    And, if you want to dwell on bad things, Henry Kissinger was given the Peace Prize. For what, exactly, no one can imagine now (and few could figure it out then!).

    In that period, the beginning successes of the union-busting movement began. This accelerated when Ronnie Reagan busted the air traffic controllers union. The union movement never, ever recovered. If you look at long-term statistics, most Americans STILL are not doing as well as most of us were doing in 1972.

    I could go on (and on). There was a war in Israel. The hostages were taken (from the US Embassy) in Iran, and those Islamic geniuses put it in our face for 400+ days. Jimmy Carter vowed not to leave the White House (this was called “the Rose Garden strategy”) until they were freed. He did leave at that moment, as they were freed when Ronnie took office.

    And it went on. The inflation/recession misery in 1980-82 was actually WORSE than what came in the ’70s.

    And, oh yeah, John Lennon was shot to death in NYC, in front of the Dakota Hotel on 72nd street.

    At some point in that period, with nothing but bad news, and worse, it seemed like the country had dug itself a hole out of which it would never emerge.

    But it did. Reagan is given credit for this, but I’m not sure Paul Volcker (who raised interest rates, and raised them again, and then again) doesn’t get the lion’s share.

    I got married in 1984. My wife’s mom died and had left her a little money (not all that much). My wife wanted to use it for a downpayment on a house.

    Our initial mortgage interest rate was more than 13.5%. Thanks, Paul Volcker!

    You want to be depressed? Try thinking about making that monthly payment, with maybe $5 of it going to principal. I became an expert (of sorts) on mortgages and refinancing. The day I got a new loan (@ 8.75% interest) — in the late 1980s — I felt like a freaking genus. It was as if I had just bench-pressed 500 pounds, and flung the weights away.

    Yes, things are bad now. But we (the country, the people) neither need nor merit anyone’s sympathy. If we seem like an undeveloped country, we did it to ourselves. If our people are hugely in debt (as a country and as individuals), we’re responsible. If our companies are nearing bankruptcy, in many cases it’s because rich investors took money out of those corporations and left them bereft of cushions. If our roads need repair, if our bridges are about to fall down, if our schools are unsafe for humans . . . we know how to fix it. It’s a matter of “will” to do it — or to NOT do it.

    We can get out of this without anyone’s sympathy, help, or contributions. Keep in mind this country is suffering but maintains activities in at least SEVEN wars (and Trump wants to start #8 with Iran).

    How much $$$ would there be for roads, schools, airport rehab, bridges, and the like if we cut it down to just ONE war at a time, and slashed the military budget by 50%?

    If things get worse, it will be the citizens of the U.S. who are responsible.

    Same thing goes if and when things get better.

  3. My bigger worry is how these events (pandemic + demonstrations) will affect the election. Will the demonstrations/riots galvanize the MAGA/law-and-order electorate, or will it mobilize and energize democratic voters to show up for Biden?

    I hope it’s the latter so that we don’t have four more years of incompetent leadership.

  4. I hope my concerns will be found to be for nothing, but this time I fear that there is more to the powderkeg than in past decades and that times are ripe for certain white extremists to provoke a race war. Sectarian war in Iraq was unthinkable until Zarqawi provoked it by acts of terror against one side, eventually provoking a conflict between the Shia and Sunnis. White supremacists have spoken of using similar tactics in the US.

    And meanwhile, Trump remains close to his bunker and tweets out how the polls are all in his favour for November 3rd — the only thing that really matters to him in all of this. He’s the master of distraction from his own failings: the temptation for him to do something even stupider (whether domestically or internationally) is not a comforting thought.

    1. Twice now he’s signalled his supporters to come out to confront the demonstrates, once with guns. Now he’s threatening martial law. I guess that will be one way to hold on to the presidency.

  5. Neil,

    You better pray to that God you don’t believe in to help the United States of America. Because if we go down, Your country along with most all the rest of the world will be in the whirlpool right behind us. Their is not going to be a race war. Black people are not that dumb. They are beginning to see that they are being lied to and have been for almost 60 years. Do we have problems sure. We need to do much better and in a hurry. The rioting and looting will soon come to an end. If they don’t they will be dealt with the same way looting and rioting has always been dealt with. The same way it would be dealt with in your country. Democrats are showing their true colors. It is the democratic lead and controlled cities that are being burned. Let them burned!!! When the citizens in those places wake up they will fix them. They have the government they wanted and now we see what the citizens in those democratic run cities are getting for their vote. If you need a case study, take a long hard look at those two evil idiots running NY state and NY City.

    1. I live in the Twin Cities. I’ve been in the middle of the protests. I haven’t seen a single violent protestor. What we do have is white supremacists starting fires to try to discredit the protests. Meanwhile that bloated orange pervert who is supposed to be the leader of the country is gassing churches so he can pose for photo-ops with a stolen Bible in his hand.

      Your prattle about “Democrats” is so retrograde and childish it’s almost comic.


      I love the effect that phrase has on racists.

      Is this is where you say “All lives matter,” even though you just called for the burning of my city where I live with my children?

    2. I don’t visualize a full-scale “race war” in the sense that we normally imagine wars between two sides. My comment was an expression of my fears of what certain extremist rightists and white supremacists have said in their hopes to provoke a race war — the terrorism that that would involve, the chaos, the innocents lost, the brutal attempt to provoke it is a horrifying enough thought.

  6. Neil,

    Your response or clarification about a “race war” I agree with you. Evil acting out through people will bring much sorrow and pain to many people.
    As to your question about, why would other nations would go down the crapper if America went down. You have to be aware of all the positive influence the USA has had on the world. Even with all our problems, corruption and wicked leaders, we are still the Light on a hill signing out to the world. This article is outdated but I think you will get the point. https://www.heritage.org/political-process/commentary/why-they-need-us-imagine-world-without-america

    Our news media lies to us everyday all day. If you want a bigger perspective your going to have to look at the bigger picture of what is going on.

    1. I invite you to read some of the books I have posted about when writing about propaganda and the media. The Heritage article you linked to is a classic case of nationalistic propaganda. Its message relies upon ignorance of the role other countries in the world and accepts at face value the official state propaganda statements about U.S. actions and motives. Anyone who has read any serious works on almost any of the topics that article raises will know it is outrageously false in many of its claims. One knows that not from “news media” that you dismiss as lies (despite abundant evidence that undermines such a sweeping claim) but from serious academic and historical studies into the events it refers to.

      Envy of the world? In what sense? Polls have shown more people today see the U.S. as the greatest threat to world peace and security; it is certainly leading the world towards environmental disaster.

      Added after original posting….

      Also have a look at the posts or works behind the many posts here on ISIS and Al Qaeda and their origins, nature and goals. Again, not “lying media” or propaganda statements from official quarters, but serious research by historians, anthropologists, sociologists, and on-the-scene investigators.

  7. Diogenes the Cynic

    Here is how I would respond to your comments, mine follow yours.

    “I live in the Twin Cities. I’ve been in the middle of the protests. I haven’t seen a single violent protestor.” — I have seen many violent protesters. You must be a blind man, or willfully looking the other way. “What we do have is white supremacists starting fires to try to discredit the protests.” —You could be right and I’m sure you have seen some white supremacists starting fires. But I saw some White supremacists with really dark sun tans doing the same. I did not know a black man could be a white supremacists? “Meanwhile that bloated orange pervert who is supposed to be the leader of the country is gassing churches so he can pose for photo-ops with a stolen Bible in his hand.” —President Trump never gassed anyone. That has already been proved to be a lie and he did not steal the bible.

    “Your prattle about “Democrats” is so retrograde and childish it’s almost comic.” —Do the research for yourself. I DARE you to look at the ten largest cities with the most violent protest, the most fires, the most looting- (That’s called stealing- the taking of property that does not belong to oneself. The world cannot stand if everyone steals from their fellowman.) Look at these cities and you will find that they are lead by libertines who think they are progressives but they are in fact retrograde. The cities are lead by Democrats, the democrats are destroying your beloved city. It is not I. You have the government you voted for now live with it or change it. Civilized people do that at the voting booth not burning down buildings.

    “BLACK LIVES MATTER” —Sure they do, all life is valued and Priceless, unless you believe in murdering babies.

    “I love the effect that phrase has on racists.” —I don’t get it! Are we speaking of Black racists or white racists?

    “Is this is where you say “All lives matter,” even though you just called for the burning of my city where I live with my children?” —I never called for the burning of your city nor any other. That is what the violent protestors are doing. A wise old man gave me a piece of advice many years ago. He said, Son, I know your young and have much to learn, but listen closely to what I’m gong to tell you. Yes Sir I said. He say, Don’t ever Shit in your own nest!

  8. Evil Does Exist

    There are people on this planet that actually take pleasure in hurting other people. I think M. Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled said this best when he said, “There really are people, and institutions made up of people, who respond with hatred in the presence of goodness and would destroy the good insofar as it is in their power to do so.”

    “They hate the light and instinctively will do anything to avoid it, including attempting to extinguish it. They will destroy the light in their own children and in all other beings subject to their power. Evil people hate the light because it reveals themselves to themselves. They hate goodness because it reveals their badness; they hate love because it reveals their laziness. They will destroy the light, the goodness, the love in order to avoid the pain of such self-awareness.”

    Peck sees that truly evil people take an active rather than a passive path of avoidance of legitimate suffering. He says they will take “any action in their power to protect their own laziness and to preserve the integrity of their sick self. Rather than nurturing others, they will actually destroy others in this cause. If necessary they will even kill to escape the pain of their own spiritual growth.”

    1. I think you are short on awareness of what serious research has learned about human nature and the institutions and groups you see as “evil”. We have come a long way since believing demonic forces and mysterious powers or “psyches” rule in the hearts of our enemies. I invite you to take up a broadening of your understanding of how people work — beginning, perhaps, with some of the books behind post topics I mentioned above.

      Poetry and emotive literary personifications should not be confused with objective reality.

  9. Neil,

    “serious research, serious academic and historical studies” We all have seen in the past few months how credible the “serious research, serious academic and historical studies” are. You do good research but your eat up with “conformation bias”. The studies you quote and I do read your post are just one side of the issues. There is just as much or more “serious research, serious academic and historical studies” that prove your not looking at all the material and coming to a balanced conclusion.

    1. Examples? What research would you recommend to provide “balance” against the research I have done on, say, terrorism and specific terrorist groups?

  10. I am relieved that “alt-right” groups have not attempted or had any success in taking advantage of the protests. But my god, we actually saw serious talk of calling out the military to secure “battlespace” in US cities — seriously. And now a fence surrounding the Whitehouse. It really is now conceivable that a president can call out the military to “restore law and order” in the U.S. That’s about as close as anyone wants to get to the end of the ostensible democratic system in the U.S. — well, “anyone” to the “left” of Trump, at least.

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