Wednesday, September 22, 2004

It's All Our Fault

"Why do they hate us?" a little girl asked me right after the World Trade Center attacks. I didn't have an answer. I'm still not sure that I do. But enlightenment has suddenly arrived courtesy of others. It's all our fault you see.

I got an email the other day which explained that it's all our fault because of the Crusades. Yep. No statute of limitations on that one, we're guilty as charged. Never mind that your ancestors may have been toiling away in sub-Saharan Africa, or the fields of southern China, or else raiding Europe while wearing horned helmets at the time. No, never mind all that. The Crusades were an affront to all Muslims which must be avenged on the Americans of the Twenty-First Century. It's only reasonable.

I've also heard that it's all our fault because of imperialism (never mind that the US steadfastly opposed imperialism from the beginning--ever heard of the "Monroe Doctrine" or the "Suez Crisis"?). And it's all our fault because of Israel (we didn't create it either, but never mind). It's all our fault because George Bush used the word "crusade" and it's all our fault because of our "arrogant" multi-national corporations which try to give the world a Coke instead of allowing them to drink their colorful native beverage.

One thing I've noticed is that the people who strenuously claim it is all "our" fault don't usually mean that it is literally their fault. Canadians for example are fond of saying it's "our" fault meaning that it's the fault of the citizens of the United States. Democrats believe it is "our" fault in the sense that it is the fault of the Republicans. Californians believe that it is "our" fault in the sense that it is the fault of Texans. So there's a sort of false modesty here: "I take full responsibility, naturally, but hang that guy instead." "Feeding the crocodile" Winston Churchill called it.

But there is something else, something subtle. Lurking behind all the permutations and combinations of ways in which it can be construed to be our fault is the flabbergasting mind-numbing arrogance and conceit that everything in the world is controlled by the United States. In this view, other people, when you come right down to it, just don't matter. They're not fully human, they're merely children--or maybe animals--utterly incapable of thinking thoughts on their own or taking responsibility for their own actions or even making mistakes without being pulled by those ubiquitous American (or is that "Haliburton") strings dangling like the ether all over the world. You can't see them, but those who know know that they're there.

This is the ultimate dehumanization. "You little unimportant non-humans are not even allowed acts of terrorism. Blow yourselves up in the grisliest manner conceivable, torture and maim as many little children as you will, saw off head after head on live television, commit the most atrocious acts against humanity ever conceived by any society anywhere, and it will never really matter. Nothing you can do whatsoever will matter because your causes, your beliefs are in the end only an artifact of the omnipotent Americans."

Now there's cause to be angry.

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