It recently occurred to me that the twenty-first century has been quite a disappointment so far. Around the world and in our own country, poverty, repression, injustice, lies and suffering reign just as they did at the turn of the last century. To anyone who would reject this assertion, I say that to deny this fact is to deny the world in which we live.
The “realists” might say that this predicament is inevitable and that it is silly to expect the new century to mark a significant deviation from human nature. I suppose they are correct, but what bugs me is the absence of a silver lining. As 1900 approached, for instance, many believed that new technologies, such as the telegraph and railroads, would help ease the problems society faced. Our hope today is computer technology, a fact which is both disappointing and depressing. After all, was it not an undue faith in the Internet that created our present economic recession? Firms sank their money in the magical Pentium boxes, only to be left adrift when the world failed to transform itself and profits failed to materialize. Fortunately, Dubya bailed the corporations out, except that he only devoted three percent of the “relief” package to extending unemployment benefits for working Americans â€” a gift which was even less generous considering that 62 percent of workers do not even qualify for unemployment benefits.
Indeed, it seems our new world is awash in bogus gifts and broken promises. U.S. radio broadcasts in Afghanistan reportedly warned, “Do not confuse the cylinder-shaped bomb with the rectangular food bag.” Apparently, cluster bombs and food packs look a lot alike; many believe that Afghans are being killed and wounded when the bombs detonate as they search for food. This confusion is even sadder when you consider what is actually in the packs: Pop-Tarts and peanut butter and, for the children, Starburst candy, raisins, two lollipops, and a fuzzy plastic ball. Again, I would like to thank the administration for its dedication to those in need. Maybe in the next batch you could show actual mercy and just send pretzels.
But I digress, for the world’s savior is not food or economic relief, but expanded access to computers, right?
We must never lose sight of the fact that the reason Afghanistan is a “failed” state is because of, not in spite of, the developed world’s attempts to fix it. It is all too popular nowadays to blame “backward” countries for their irresponsibility and advocate a modern, benevolent imperialism: just a few months ago the U.S. government robbed Nicaraguans of their right to democracy by giving our candidate, Enrique Bolanos, food to hand out in photo ops immediately prior to the election. State Department officials then pressured the other conservative candidate to drop out so he would not cut into Bolanos’ votes. All of this so centrist Daniel Ortega would not come to power and initiate his “Marxist” policies of land redistribution, wage increases, and education for all. It seems that in the new century Americans are smart enough to vote but Nicaraguans are not.
Of course, it is not even clear anymore if we get to choose our own leaders: studies released recently have confirmed that Dubya, who lost the popular vote by 540,000 votes, won Florida through fraud, the disenfranchisement of black voters and election manipulation by state officials answering to Jeb Bush. Gosh, this new era is great! I can download mp3s, so who cares if I cannot choose my president or exercise the one promise kept to blacks in the century and a half after Emancipation?
I honestly do not feel I am being unpatriotic when I voice my fears about just how unaccountable the U.S. government is to its people, its soldiers, and the world. Those “safe” depleted uranium shells we used in the Gulf War, for instance, have since caused birth defects among Iraqi children and killed 9,500 U.S. troops with Gulf War Syndrome. Additionally, as for the new restrictions on civil liberties, nothing more clearly demonstrates how little we have progressed than the re-institution of powers which were so widely abused by government agencies in the 1960s that they were revoked. I must admit I still do not see how calling Martin Luther King’s wife to tell her that her husband was having an affair helped fight communism or, for that matter, how shutting down charity organizations based in the United States which give assistance to Palestinian refugees will help fight terrorism. The sickest part is that the only right the government is unwilling to trample is the right to bear arms: Republicans have refused to track gun purchases in their search for terrorists. I am not making any of this up, I swear.
Of course, there are many who do not agree with me. Senator Joe Lieberman (he seemed like a nice enough guy in November), for example, has published a detailed report on how students such as myself are proof that America’s colleges are miseducating youth. I am comforted knowing that my mother will spend a ridiculous amount for the next four years to ensure that I am a miseducated moral relativist with an important spot on the government’s list of subversives. I would like to document one more incidence of injustice: 80 percent of those who worked in the World Trade Center can be classified as low-income workers; their suffering, both as direct victims and as unemployed workers, is and shall be just as great as anyone in this new world where the mantras of “personal responsibility” and “technological progress” abandon millions of actual Americans to poverty. My heart goes out to them all because they are the Americans who we must honor after Sept. 11, the ones who most deserve to be the focus of our newfound unity and purposefulness.
Perhaps next January I will be able to report better news than a government dedicated to the export of Starbursts. If for whatever reason I am not around, it probably means Mr. Lieberman nabbed me; maybe they will let me keep my shotgun in storage.