(AMIGOS: Peco perdao: Originalmente esses foi escrito para Uma Revista dos EUA e nao quiz tirar o sabor original por meio de uma traducao. Sei que a maioria de voces lerao o artigo e o Google-Tradutor dara uma ideia aos amigos que ainda estao aprendendo esse idioma. SdM)
INSANE PATRIOTISM – Or self-cannibalism?
An armed band of guerrillas, in a banana republic, came into to a small village. Their leader busted into the city hall as asked the question: “Hay Govierno?” (Is there Government?) Stuttering the poor clerk answered: “Si, Senor…” For a long time many machine guns open fire. After all were dead, the Guerrilla leader said: “Soy Contra!” (I’m against!)
I was born in Brazil. I came to America when I was twenty one. Thirty eight years later I became American by option.
There is a difference between being born in America and deciding to be an American. It is a matter of decision and not a geographical accident.
It seems that most of the young American-born and some old ones are taking their nationality for granted. I can’t accept their position but I can understand them.
They have no reference point to appreciate America. Without a comparison they acquire a juvenile and distorted image of the country. They expect America to be a mix of Pollyanna, Xanadu and Heavens. But I’ve been around the world to say: America is just a country, excelling in some areas, average in others and in some topics we are even mediocre - such as in general education.
The world is not perfect and America is located in this planet. But what differentiate us from many are our freedoms to live and express our ideas; we have a constitution that is respected and is, de facto, the guarantor of our rights. So, we have a reasonable amount of law and order – and lots of opportunity to grow intellectually and financially. But again, Xanadu we are not.
I think it is so important for American to appreciate their country, its strength and deficiencies, that I believe it should mandatory for all young Americans to leave the country and live in foreign countries for a year or so.
From these countries our youngsters could bring back new ideas, different ethics, concepts and even some new technologies.
They would experiment living with institutionalized racism, ethnical prejudice or a system of social casts, and the experience overseas could accentuate many things they take for granted here. From other places they could evaluate dictatorships, religious fanaticism, and intolerance - and maybe they would understand what is to live in fear, among tribal, or drug wars.
On the other hand, some would return unlighted from more educated and/or civilized countries, and they would question many things here, such our education, our heath care system and some values of ours that could well be improved.
But regardless of the visited country, the young would return noticing that the “Experiment America”, is a good one, but is still at the works - and could be improved.
No, no. I am not the stereotype of a flag-waver, “puppy-grateful” immigrant that rescued from abject misery by an American Organization, or the provincial, ever present American Missionary. I did not come to America catechized and running away from hunger, poverty or a miserable live.
I always studied in Private Schools and later I entered one oldest and well respected Engineering School of my country. I had my VW Beetle in the late sixties, we travelled and, shame on me, I never needed to work as a young man in my country of birth.
However, in the seventies, Brazil was under a military dictatorship and though my life could be reasonable “rosy” there, I didn’t want to live in a place without my freedoms.
So I came to America, to California.
Here I found my lost freedom of speech and I had my shares of protests at El Camino College and at Cal State - Long Beach. In the American Campus I felt safe to speak my mind off and even free to sometimes change my point of view, although being a foreigner.
I wrote - and I write - articles voicing my opinions, pointing what I deemed to be right or wrong. Often I am irritated with our leaders, I voiced my feelings, but never a goon knocked at my door at the middle of night trying to intimidate, to shut me up or detain me.
I was - and still am - against a militaristic, “gun-ho” or “gun boat” type of international policy, but I realize, in a pragmatic way, it is impossible to be a world leader without also being in a position of military strength. I am compassionate and I abhor the war and policies type “Manifest Destiny”; but being a realist I can understand the inevitability of Realpolitik.
The freedoms we enjoy in America stems from our constitution: Even though it is a man made document and not perfect, it is as close to perfection as men can create.
The Constitution is an almost inviolable document, updated once in a while by means of amendments. Are there flaws on it? Some: For instance, our forefathers considered “we the people” as the Anglo Caucasian. But now the interpretation is ample, reaching all the Americans.
Also, here and overseas I frequently hear from intellectuals some not so great deeds of Washington and Jefferson. Generally the critics perceived them as demy-gods; therefore they are troubled with their flaws. I just view our forefathers as decent people with an ample vision and a great desire to create a just society, with no melodramas attached. Therefore they are very well appreciated by me.
Some friends knowledgeable about the American Civil War criticize Lincoln’s mild attitude at the beginning of the conflict, accusing him of trying to compromise with pro-slavery States.
They judge him hard for they expected too much of him. I often need to remind friends that the man wasn’t a demy-god either. He was a good man, a decent politician that was trying to keep America united, while Europe preferred us divided and conquered.
Lincoln knew necessities to keep his nation united, even considering all the horror that the war imposed in the country and on him; but once in the war, he embraced the anti- slavery position, resulting in his historical place among great men. Indeed, America was lucky to have in its beginnings, patriots, illuminati and decent man.
I am also a defendant of reasonable freedoms.
Freedoms based in common sense and in the biblical “Golden Rule”.
But lately, in name of “freedoms”, some of American are becoming radicals, polarizing their positions to the detriment of America.
This is touchy theme, for freedom is an abstract concept and I want to make myself very clear: We should have abundant freedoms in many areas, including in the area of religion, of rights to bear arms, of speech, of congregation and so forth.
But our freedoms must be subordinated to certain common sense rules and ethics. Let me exemplify this point well.
I can accept you being a worshiper of god Baal – but I will be against the sacrifice of infants.
I also don’t believe that any spiritual leader, in name of his conviction is entitled to “marry” anyone, especially children, to polygamous old man or woman.
I believe people can even adopt and preach some ancient Egyptian cult, provided they leave out the incest.
I believe one should have ample freedom of speech, but I don’t feel it is permissible to incite a mob to kill people, exterminate races, and persecute a certain religion.
I don’t believe that freedom of speech should be used to incite dissolution of the State by use of force.
Therefore “freedom” requires limits and laws, to enforce its borderlines and keep the anarchy out.
I also believe that there are a great difference between liberty of action and a libertine behavior, and lately in America this two concepts are getting confused. Making it simple, I believe that every freedom ends at the border line where somebody’s freedom starts.
Returning to my experience in America: When I left Brazil, my family thought I had a few squirrels loose in my head.
My parents viewed America as a rich and powerful country, but somehow violent or even a barbaric: They knew of the persecutions caused by the McCarthyism, they saw images of the assassination of President Kennedy, of his brother Robert and Dr. Martin Luther King – when struggling against the existing apartheid/segregation system in America.
They followed the news on the Vietnam Conflict and they saw on TV disturbing pictures of dead civilians, children killed or burning alive by napalm bombs: They also saw the racial protests and conflicts, they knew about the Black Panthers, the Symbionese Liberation Army, urban guerrilla in Los Angeles, racial tensions in Watts, ethnic hate in the South, the Vietnam War and the street manifestations against that war.
Yes, they - and the world - saw these ugly scenes on TV, as the well the Peace and the Hippie Movements, the Woodstock Festival, and they thought America was dysfunctional and the Armageddon was starting here.
But once I was here I saw all of that with different eyes.
America, despite its problems, was a Calderon of ideas and I sensed that something good was “cooking” here.
At the same time, the world was polarized, and the Cold War was a real, dangerous and going on. But the good side of it, the commotions worked as a catalyst, forcing America undergo through many social adjustments that helped the country to become a better place.
The transition was painful but America came out of that experiment as a stronger nation and a more humane place - and I am proud I was part of that generation. The result of that type of jacquard-weaving was that the fabric of the nation came out with more colors, with a beautiful and complex design.
But so much with my past experiences in America.
The world and our country have changed a lot in this past four decades. We definitely became a different people, and I feel as if we are living in another country in a different world.
That is not a mere “generation gap” point: This was also caused by the massive technological and social changes we quantum leaped few decades.
Everything is moving very fast, science and knowledge is growing exponentially, the world is more globalized, the power balance is becoming less polarized and it is shared with the emerging nations. This, to me is acceptable and better than the bi-polar world that I was raised in, with the power divided between America and the former Soviet Union.
But what disturbs me is the polarization that is growing inside America that seems to be putting the nation in a vulnerable position.
It seems we became a nation of me, a “Me & Me, Ltd”.
Debates and rational discussions seems to be replaced by polarized positions and very few are trying to reason, to discern, or even hear the other party’s pint of view; discussions are fueled by hate mongers in the worse fashion of muckraker journalism.
Some radio or TV personalities, in both camps, just seem to listen narcissistically to themselves, to their own words – and it seems they don’t care for the result of their preaching.
To uphold their point of view, to me it appears, they don’t care even if their overheated comments will result in a Second Civil War in the States.
Each side thinks they are the sole owner of the absolute truth and they try establishing their point of view, no matter the results. This seems to be self-cannibalism. I see it a dangerous thing, a rot that is starting within America.
Masses of uneducated people, unable to analyze and discern about facts, incensed by the sophisms and demagogy poured from war mongers and preachers of division, are almost digging trenches in their backyards and stockpiling their homes with shot guns and pistols.
Of course I know that in some aspects we have been always a polarized nation. We are so in religion, in constitutional jurisprudence, in racial questions, in the matter of prison systems, death penalty and even in issues of the Civil War.
I leave in the Deep South and here we are polarized even about the display of the Confederate flag: South Carolina is a beautiful place with deep-rooted traditions, strong positions - and old hates.
Education could give us more balanced views and will help us work out our problems in a less self-cannibalistic way, but education seems not to be priority in America.
Obviously, it is Ok to have strong and divergent positions, but within certain limits.
Sometimes I might disagree with a point of view, but I bow to the power of the Constitution or to the power decided by the majority’s vote. And this must be respected or America will be in chaos.
Do I accept all the votes subserviently? No, hell no: When in disagreement, I write emails to my representatives and I let they know my opinion.
But being a democratic, constitutionalist American, I know that the power resides with the popular vote – and not with my guns. Maybe education will help us to become more in tune with, times and complexities of the world and knowledge will become a more common and effective weapon among us.
Funneling the general thoughts, I would like to over-simplify the model of a steady society, using as an example a tree-legged stool, which its legs are EDUCATION, SECURITY and HEALTH. Without any of these three legs, the system goes down. Let’s quickly explain this view:
Education: How are we doing in education? I did not mean formal education only. We are on the road to become a nation of mental-midgets in an ever more sophisticated world.
We are poorly educated; we are cutting money in schools, universities and research. We are cutting founds for the Spatial Programs.
Even in a basic level, are reading and comprehending less. Some teachers are intimidated by incompetent, bullying students and give them a passing grade. We have people with a High School diploma unable to read or comprehend a text but expert in gang activities.
Some teachers literally dread to “flunk” students, especially if they belong to the so-called “minorities” or if they are gang affiliated. Social pressures are getting in the way of education. Our teachers are concerning about their physical safety and they are under often under duress and pressure from this type of “students” – and also from the system, to give to the ignorant a passing grade.
Even though we are a nation of scientist and scholars’ head hunters, at one given point we are going to become a deficient of American brains, relying greatly upon a majority of imported intelligentsia. And that is bad. I know that this problem educational problem is deep rooted, has ramification with dissolution of family values, has to do with the dismissal of our ethics and values, but that is another issue to be discussed.
Nowadays it seems that most of us have the inability to think, to discern, to analyze facts, policies and positions with and even keel. Education and culture will be a great help.
Though we have the power and strength, we are almost a Third World Nation in cultural terms - and this is a cesspool for the breeding of strange, distorted actions, intolerance and bi-polar social behavior. Ignorance breeds social poverty, which generates many other types of poverty. In the ultimate analysis, only knowledge, well applied, will empower the nation.
We are losing the ability to distinguish between our “needs” and “wants”.
Some of our children don’t distinguish well between Hollywood Fiction and the daily reality, the virtual from the real.
We are losing our ability to think, to discern, and to know issues. And this could impair our ability to select better leaders.
We lack even the basic capability of understand the fundamental economical axiom: That we should not spend more than we earn.
We need to learn that sometimes we, our country, need to “tight the belt” and that sometimes we must wait to purchase something. This is the basics in financial education that many Americans - and our leaders - need to learn.
We want, as spoiled children, to have everything now! Even our mood and feelings need more often to be boosted with pills, alcohol and drugs so we can feel good fast, regardless of what is going on with our lives. To feel bad or sad is passé and not acceptable.
Also, everything in our lives needs to be perfect: Teeth, breasts, stomachs, friends, networking and so forth.
We cannot wait to study, work, and then acquiring things.
We need it now. We demand it based on a freakish concept that “we are Americans”, for us all is possible.
Theology says that God created the universe in six stages. Well, being God omniscient, it was possible, in theory, that at a snap His fingers, the whole universe should be made immediately.
But it took some stages. It took time. Maybe it was made so, to educate us to the pleasure of building something; to teach us that the right – and only way – to walk is step-by-step. Perhaps it was done so to force us to think, to wait, to grow and appreciate all the stages of the construction. In America, what is not “instant” seems to be démodé.
Also I think that America should not, and cannot be the Cop, the Ambulance and the Psychiatrist of the World: Some cultures do not appreciate neither they like our way of life, our values and type of law and order.
It’s time to understand that some nations will remain tribal, corrupt and clannish, regardless of our efforts.
Some peoples will prefer to remain with their way of life and our reality and truth are not universally accepted axioms. Exempli gratia: Pakistan, Afghanistan, and many African and Latin American nations do not need our uninvited interference. Let them grow by themselves, let they find their own conclusions. Forgive me the trite, but “for different folks, different strokes.”
Maybe we should consider interfering, in a few cases, but only if requested. But we cannot change the world by ourselves. Every time we try to do so, we ended up with a black eye and with more people hating us.
We found our American Way by ourselves. We fought our independence. We survived the Civil War. And from it we learned some few lessons and we created the American Experience.
Let’s allow other people live their own experiences and let’s hope they will find their own answers from their own experiences, in their own ways, without the influences of the Pax Americana.
Rome could not change the whole world. Neither could the Ancient Greeks, the Persians nor the Egyptians. Let’s wise up and let the peoples of the world find their own way.
If they call it isolationism, so let it be. It’s impossible to appeal to Greeks and Trojans, at least simultaneously.
Also we cannot be the ambulance, the hospital and the kitchen of the world. Yes we can help here and there, but definitely we cannot heal every catastrophe in the world, we can’t heal the world, we can’t feed the world - we cannot even take care of our sick, hungry and needy in America.
Let’s be realistic about this point. To be the Ambulatory, Kitchen and Cop of the world is a responsibility of many countries, emerging ones included, and not the sole responsibility of the USA.
We need to heal our sick, hungry and drugged. To do so we need to start to tackle the problem here, at home.
Quickly on drugs, we cannot stop countries to produce grass, cocaine and heroin. Let they do it if so they want. We cannot be a DEA of the world.
We should focus our energy in taking care of our borders, be more efficient in deterring the contraband of drugs - and resolve our dependency of them here in America.
The main cause of the world production of drugs is our drug addiction.
And this need of drugs of ours is just the tip of an iceberg. Let’s use this tip as a mandmark to locate the whole iceberg - and deal with the whole problem, not with palliatives. We need dealing with the real causes of our diseases, with our need to escape. Let’s search for the core of our problems.
Could it be our inability to face our lives? Why? What is wrong with us?
Could it be partially caused by our frequent wars? Could it be causes by children begetting children? Could it be consequence of lack of education? Could it be a resultant lack of religion or family values in our society?
Briefly on the war, I think we should not start a war, if we are not with a firm purpose of winning it NO MATTER WHAT. This “no matter what” is very dangerous and will make us to think many times before getting involved in somebody’s back yard.
We need to understand that America is wasting herself fiscally, mentally, financially, morally and some would say spiritually in wars of friction, or “punishment”.
We are losing a great number of our youngsters in inane wars. We are using our soldiers as an armed hand to implement our policies. We are destroying a generation and our country in pre-emptive wars, and in all kind of euphemistic wars that resolves nothing but further our problems, and activate old hates.
We should be militaristic more than prepared to defend ourselves. But we should avoid war. We should sincerely abhor war, but - once in a justified one, we need to strike with determination and to put a definite end to the threat.
On old hates in America: We should be adults and realize that the past is gone and nothing could be done to revert time.
Slavery as tarnishing as it may be, it existed and was spread throughout the world since immemorial times. Slavery existed in the Americas since antiquity; it was despicable and inhumane, but was a fact.
But slavery doesn’t exist any longer in America. Only the consciousness of slavery still resides among some Americans.
This, perhaps, is what is perpetuating the crime. Nobody can give freedom to a person held in mental chains. If you have the consciousness of being held in chains, break them up and free yourself.
I remember of an older friend of mine in California. As a child he was sent to a “relocation camp” in Arizona, for being a Nisei. He name was Takashi Matsumoto. His philosophy of life was very simple: “Sam, do you want to succeed in anyplace you go? Keep this always in your mind: The immigrant must be better to be equal.”
Yes, racism, though illegal, still exists. I believe that in a way or the other, unfortunately it will be among us for a long time. Education is solution, the equalizer.
Minorities perhaps should think like an immigrant: “We need to be better”, put ourselves one or two notches above the average and then “to be equal” de facto.
A son of a black African with a Afro-Muslin name is now our President.
President Obama should be a vigorous example to the blacks: He always searched for possibilities, opportunities and never emphasized his visions in color of skin, biotypes, stereotypes and chains. He likes himself, and I bet he always thought: “Yes I can”: And the universe conspired in his favor. He did not dwell in being the “Painted Bird” - in being different.
He focused his live in reaching his clear objectives. How did he do it? Among many things, he educated himself and has a high self esteem.
Let’s stop to think and acting like a minority, like an oppressed being, like a slave or a sorry immigrant; let’s: break your chains created by our consciousness of limitation, and like a Lazarus, let’s “stand up and walk”.
But we do have another oppressed group in America.
It is a large group of poor, destitute whites with such a low self-esteem, that they only have the color of their skins to justify their existence.
Their hurt, their feelings of helplessly are so great that the only palliative found to their pain, is hate. They hate the immigrants, Jews, Muslins, the Brown, the Natives, the world, the system and deep down, - themselves.
This people should be rescued. They need as much, if not more, effective help, education, boost in their self-esteem as many Americans from the ghettos or minorities. They suffer the same oppression and helplessly as the people they hate. But they are different side of the same coin of destitution.
Also America has a severe religious complex of “Saving the World”: Saving the world, our way.
I believe that some Americans feel so insecure with their own beliefs and they need to “save the world” by spreading their faith; maybe they do it more to reinforce their shaky faith.
I myself have nothing against it. As a matter of fact, though not being a religious person, I firmly believe that a good religion, not infected by fanaticism, provides stability and ethics to the follower and could do a good thing.
Controversial and touchy as this subject might be, what I abhor is some American fanatics proselytizing their messianic messages in miserable communities worldwide, with a pharisaic attitude of being a Messiah, an Angel of Peace, and in many times confronting with the local customs, traditions and ethics.
This behavior was wrong when Rome did it in Judea; it was wrong when the Crusades did it in the Orient. Yet, a good number of us think it is right to for them, to spread their faith in Nicaragua or Bolivia, for they have an universal truth – and are Americans.
Proselytizing is legal and constitutional. But before a church start to send missionaries to save the world, why don’t you start saving Americans in America? Perhaps, here in America, there are more people abandoning religion than people overseas joining it.
Please help us to keep the Amazon Green. Indians there don’t need Ray Ban Glasses, Levis and Chewing gum. I can guarantee you all that the Brazilians themselves are doing an excellent job in warping their minds and damaging the native’s culture - and the Brazilian Indians don’t need any further “help”.
Security: In this area we are doing reasonably well at home and we are externally capable outside, with one of the best trained, equipped and motivated troops the world ever seen. With a hand full of capable soldiers we can do miracle in wars.
But the price of this technological warfare, that demands more done with fewer soldiers, is very hard on the troops. Nobody can deny that many of our soldiers come back home maimed -physically and/or mentally, and many of them are snapping under the pressure in civilian live, and some became ticking bombs.
These are the facts. We need to be prepared and assume a more defensive posture. It is not right, again, to use our troops as an extension of our foreign policies, as the Colonial Nations used their armies in the past.
These are the truths: Afghanistan will be back going back to their tribal ways as soon as we leave it. Iraq will return to internal war between religious affiliations until they find another Dictator. Iran will be a Theocratic - and problematic - nation. Israel and the Arab countries will need hundreds of years to settle their differences, if ever.
America cannot change many things, especially old hates, ingrained culture, nor the Law of Gravity. Is coming the time for us to mind our own business and take care of our own problems - that are many, and some of them need immediate attention.
Security at home, though good, is deteriorating.
The tearing of the social fabric, the dismissal of ethical and family values, together with drugs, wars, little education a hate groups are creating an ever grown insecurity in the nation. But at the moment, though the pressure is building, it is under control.
If we don’t attack the roots of this problem, we will not be a secure nation for long, no matter how many new prisons we build or how many thugs we fry in the electrical chair or how many guns we have at home..
Briefly in this area, I also don’t agree with our penal system being transformed in an institution to provide to the petty criminal a Master Degrees and PhDs in crime.
I believe prisoners’ should work for their living, as you and I do. With the money earned, they should start to reimburse – even if partially, their victims. That is the only possible way to rehabilitation.
Health: We all know that 5% in America hold 90% of the recourses of the nation. The Super-Rich is a very powerful minority.
The point here is not to debate if they deserve what they have or not. I think most of them do deserve what they’ve got.
But unfortunately healthy people are generally a “collector” type, a person that tends to hold their money and don’t want to let it go away.
I see direct taxation as a solution for that. They should be taxed the same way as we all get taxed. We need start to think a way to close loopholes in every one that earn money – little or much: Rich or poor.
Also, throughout the world, America included, the fact remains that a poor man’s life is cheap.
Many poor people go through live living in America without seem a doctor, in a Third World fashion.
They are unaware of the basics of health; they are thought to believe that it is acceptable to live like their grandparents, with no preventive medicine to early detect illness.
Among the poor we have more alcohol, tobacco and poor diets that result in their shorter spam of life. I rather prefer to think that this early “dismissal” of the poor has not to do with economics. But I am cynical about that and have my doubts
Although no one wants to put this in plain words, many claim their lives are more dispensable and it seems to be cheaper - but very few among the poor really cares about getting an education, empowering themselves and being healthy. They are courageous and brave; they take the blows of live, day by day. And they are nobler than we are. They thank God for the little that was allocated to them, and in front of their hoses, generally they have an American flag waving.
Unfortunately many find a solution to poverty by joining the Military, and that is the reality. Few of the rich serves the country. Our military burden lays mostly with the minorities and the poor white, which makes me think that bringing back the drafting system it will be just, and will avoid many wars. The rich hates to send their sons to war.
The majority of poor people, is uninsured, see a hospital only under catastrophic or remedial conditions and most of the time they go to a hospital requiring heroic treatment. They, as I said, have little if none, preventive medicine. When the poor uninsured goes to an emergency room, if his dismissal is not fast, his hospitalization and treatment will be extremely costly.
And this is not an efficient health system. The neglect of the health of the poor often becomes more costly than the preventive health care offered to the insured. If you don’t take care of the poor’s heath out of humanity, let’s do it for economical reasons. This is a typical example of the “Cheap Becoming Expensive.”
We should also repair, as fast as possible, this “third leg” of our “social stool”, before it falls down.
Finally we don’t need a Brazilian-born to tell us those things. We all should meditate what we are going to make of America. Let’s rebuilt it and not be destroying what we still have. Throughout the world we have many declared and fortuitous enemies eager to see our dismissal. We don’t need to give them a hand.
We all need to be more responsible citizens, seeing the needs of America, fighting reasonable for our rights, and if we don’t like certain things we can campaign and try to vote it out in a democratic way, in a constitutional fashion as was meant to be by our forefathers.
We cannot continue to destroy our country on account of our personal agendas and political preferences, and I noticed that this is happening now. Everything seems to shout “my way or the highway,” paralyzing the country.
We should not scorch and salt the land as we try to get our point across. We need to be more responsible, better educated and have a bit more patriotism.
If I am wrong in my views, I beg your pardon.
But if I am partially right and things keep on going in the way of self destruction, may God, pardon us.