"As long as we are not chased from our words we have nothing to fear. As long as our utterances keep their sound we have a voice. As long as our words keep their sense we have a soul." -- Edmond Jabes, from The Book of Yukel, Return to the Book

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Ugly American returns

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Growing up, I was taught that we were the indispensable nation, that we rise to the occasion and that we, as a country, always do the right thing. That's what the history books say.

The reality has never matched this. We are, as the novelist Sinclair Lewis pointed out, small-minded and parochial. We believe in retribution, but not in penance or forgiveness. We are jingoistic, disdain difference and we're often just plain mean.

This nastiness is now in full view, thanks to a Facebook meme that demands that burial on U.S. soil be denied to Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaevas' body and that, if another nation will not take him off our hands, he should be dumped unceremoniously in the ocean.

The anti-burial sentiment has sparked a Facebook meme, pushed by a reprehensible outfit calling itself Uncle Sam's Misguided Children. The group describes itself this way:
Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children is a Highly Conservative Page. Founded in 2012 by an honorable discharge Marine who after growing up 13 years in a communist country was enamored by what America offered him. After serving in the military he knew what he wanted to stand for; God, Country, & Corps. He believes that our military puts their life on line every day for a country he came to love for its freedoms and rights that were not an option to him growing up. He believed that Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children could allow an opportunity for a band of brothers and sisters whether military or civilian to have a chance to stand for their beliefs as Americans. He firmly stands behind the constitutional rights and believes that all Americans should come together as a Band of Brothers to fight for those rights together. Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children is a symbol of freedom and core values to bring Americans to stand up and be United rather than divided to fall.
Don't let the rather flaccid and empty rhetoric of the group's description fool you. The nonsense posted on its Facebook page is a stereotypical mix of every trope tossed up by the right in recent years: anti-Mexican and anti-Muslim; anti-Obama (not just critical, but virulently and personally so); pro-gun; anti-government; and very, very militaristic.

Groups like this have been very active over the last decade, exploiting the fear and anger of average Americans to further their xenophobic and fascist agendas.

Look, I don't have a problem with the anger -- that is to be expected, following something like the Boston bombing. I even understand the desire for retribution.

What I have trouble with is the notion that we must give in to these feelings, that we must become the worst parts of ourselves.
The humane thing to do is to let the body be buried as per religious requirements, whether here or somewhere else, even if it means in a Potter's Field. And, acting like this makes us look bad as a nation and only proves the caricature of the Ugly American correct.

Send me an e-mail.


Anonymous said...

I've always hated the fact that various regulations put us at the mercy of the funeral industry, in one way or the other, without our choice. So doesn't this monopoly mean that they've taken some kind of oath to bury people? Even very distasteful people? Yes, I agree, this particular fuss seems like something from ancient Rome.

Stupid Git said...

"The noblest kind of retribution is not to become like your enemy." - Marcus Aurelius

Sunny said...

Homegrown terrorists have always been buried in American cemeteries. Tim McVeigh, Eric Harris and Dylan Keibold and, of late, Ryan Lanza. They were all American Citizens . But Sueng-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter, was NOT a citizen and is buried in Fairfax, VA.

I have to wonder if the Boston Bombers had not been Muslim if this would even be an issue. They are US Citizens. We are becoming very Ugly Americans.