READ AT YOUR OWN RISK:
Open Letter to an American Friend
I've been teaching (and learning) in the Arab world for the past 35 years. During most of those years, I made annual summer holiday pilgrimages back to the sites of my European and American roots. With each passing year it seemed the distance between my perceptions of the world and those of my ancestral roots grew further apart. Despite that, I kept in touch with family and friends.
Recently, an email from a friend complained of "political overload" and asked that I write something personal (as if the stuff I'd been sending, including my own articles, wasn't personal). At almost the same time, I received another message from a friend suggesting that I "lighten up". It seems I'd been inundating my friends with too much politics and not enough humour!
In my response to the complaint about political overload, I wrote:
"I wish that the political overload didn't feel so necessary. After spending half a lifetime focusing on making parts of the world a bit more literate and being a goodwill ambassador for my country, I'm in the unenviable position of watching my country being destroyed by frauds. Many of the people I have loved and who have loved me over the years have transferred that love to America. If I just sat silently hoping that all would blow over, I couldn't live with myself.
"For years I've been telling my friends and students in the Arab world that my country's failures, particularly in its unquestioned support for Israel's occupation and decimation of Palestinians, were the fault of politicians yielding to powerful lobbies and media hype. I've assured them that the American public was simply preoccupied, uneducated in world affairs and would treat Arabs as decent human beings.
"Now the arch Zionists and ultra right wing evangelists have brought my whole house of American cards down around me with the help of—guess who? The American public! You and your friends and mine still in America are letting me and the country down. How? you might ask. Collectively, you're letting America run concentration camps like Guantanamo. You're letting our president and his entire administration get away with lying and cheating America and the world with not so much as a word of complaint.
"A large majority of you support Bush and the neocons [neo-conservatives] and their misdeeds. You allow the administration the right to be so arrogant that they can tell the whole world and the UN to f*ck off. You allow them to arrogantly rubbish the Kyoto accords on the environment. You allow them to continue to spend millions of taxpayers' money on armaments for Israel and then let them get away with comparing a few suicide bombers (without a hope in the world) to Israel's massive armoury, including nuclear weapons, and the mass murderer Sharon. You even allow Israel to get away with murdering American sailors on the Liberty without question or challenge.
"You let a monstrous military might kill thousands of Iraqis for oil. This doesn't count the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children you allowed to die under US sanctions. You don't challenge the WMD [weapons of mass destruction] crap that was peddled to you. You let Ashcroft and his motley crowd arrest and detain Arabs just for being Arabs. You let Rumsfeld tell off the world and threaten everyone who doesn't kow-tow to the American line, destroying friendly alliances. You let the US, almost single handedly, denigrate and nearly demolish the UN. You proudly claim exemption from criminal trials by the International Criminal Court, allowing America to commit crimes that hundreds of Hitler's henchmen had to pay for. You let Zionists like Perle and Wolfowitz run American foreign policy.
"Though you allowed the media and the Congress to almost destroy Clinton over an affair with Monica Lewinsky, you now let Bush remain in office despite the fact that he wasn't elected to it, despite the fact that he's lied about Iraq, despite his ineffectiveness in destroying al-Qaeda and failure to capture either bin Laden or Saddam, despite his running the country into incredible debt, despite his serving his oil cronies' interests over anyone else and despite his tax relief for the wealthy.
"I'm surrounded by people who know these truths that I speak of. Many Americans know them too, but refuse to admit to them. Arabs, Asians, Europeans, Africans and Latin Americans can no longer trust you and me and ordinary Americans who swear by a democracy that has become anything but a democracy, who speak of liberty when they mean control, and who refuse to exercise any significant role as citizens of a democracy.
"I don't know, my friend, I guess the political overload comes from an aging fool's attempt to go out doing his little bit for his country and for those who are now suffering from his country. I've just been trying to share some of the education I've been getting in politics with others who I've felt were intelligent enough to appreciate it and who might pass it on to others. In the final analysis, I guess I've been hoping that we'd all wake up and, instead of smelling the roses, clean up some of the sh*t!"
Paul Balles, a retired American university professor and freelance writer, has lived in the Middle East for 34 years. For more information, see writerfreelance.com and pballes.com.
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This story was published on July 12, 2003.