Sunday, December 30, 2012
When over 100,000 troops crossed the 38th parallel in Korea in 1950 to reunite their divided country under a communist regime, I was 10 years old and living in a small town in North Carolina. This aggression was the first move in a short but bloody "police action" or "conflict" between United Nations forces, mobilized by the United States, and an army supplied and supported by China and the Soviet Union. I was old enough to realize the dangers involved and followed events in the newspaper and on our black-and-white TV. Pictures and film of Korea as a devastated and colorless country are etched in my memory.
David A. Mason, author of Spirit of the Mountains, gave us a tour of Insa-dong while the white stuff was coming down and guided us through an excellent meal of traditional Thai cuisine at a superb restaurant called Jirisan. He also took us to the inspiring Jogyesa Temple, headquarters of Korea's main Buddhist group which emphasizes Zen meditation, and we went across the street to the headquarters of the Temple Stay program which he helped start.
Wednesday, December 05, 2012
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons
T.S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
I used to hang out at Starbucks just inside the entrance to Central Pinklao, the upscale shopping mall up the street in my Bangkok neighborhood, but now I frequent Coffee World on the 2nd floor because of the comfortable reading chairs and free wifi. I think the cappuccino is better, although I don't consider myself a connoisseur of the bean. If truth be told, it's the foam that I like best. Since using my finger is impolite, the spoon is for the foam. I don't take sugar.
Monday, November 19, 2012
Monday, November 05, 2012
This decaying picture comes from a photo album my mother made for me about 15 years ago. Some of the subjects are identified but many are not. On the right are my father's parents, Helen and Ed Yaryan, and her sister, I think, is on the left. It was taken in the early years of the 20th century. I was taught about my family by my mother, who died 10 years ago, and by my father's older sister, my Aunt Margaret, who's been gone even longer. That generation cared about lineage and were keepers of the flame of family, pasting photos in albums and noting names, making sure the past was kept in memory. My children seem to have little interest in their ancestors.
I'm sure there are many people with worse stories than mine about broken families and lost lineages. After all, I am a product of privilege, middle class and white. Here in Thailand, as a farang I am considered "Hi-So" and can wander the halls of the expensive supermalls without embarrassment (poor Thais are very shy about intruding into the shopping palaces of the upper classes). Much of my experience with family has been disappointing, and I accept my share of responsibility. Not that there weren't good years, the 1950s out west, the late 1960s in southern California, and the last years of the 21st century in northern California. But it mostly ended badly with bruised feelings and damaged egos. Certainly I shared the experiences of my parents whose relationship with their siblings was often rocky. They seemed to care more about the ties that bind, however, as my mother's loving construction of the photo album shows. She would be very pleased to know I've made contact with her brother's long lost family.
They say your family has to take you in when no one else will, but that's not particularly true in the west where children are encouraged to be independent of their parents, and old folks are shuffled off to a retirement or nursing home. Here in Asia, family is worshipped and elders are respected even when they don't deserve it. I've become "Papa" in Nan's family and I believe they will care for me lovingly whenever the time comes that I no longer can do it all myself. Of course there are benefits in having a foreign son-in-law, but these are calculations that take place on both sides. It's sad that the story I've told here about my family, sketchy as it is and no doubt full of errors, will have no audience in the future.
Friday, October 26, 2012
I've made a number of bad choices in my life and have regrets to match. Sometimes the weight of my guilt feels like that famous whale with my old name (although I used to spell it "Willie" rather than "Willy"). I was socialized to accept the burden of free will (oh the irony!) and pay the consequences for any mistakes that were made. We blame people for their faults, their errors in judgment. But sometimes there are causes other than willful blunder when things go awry.
This was an important and anxiety-provoking issue during the years of dealing with my son's alcoholism. What was the degree of his responsibility for the bad choices he made that ultimately killed him? Did my absence as a father play a role, or his mother's addiction to valium and wine? Were chemicals in the brain the prime culprit, or was it insufficient nurturing by parents who missed the cues provided by his youthful druggy misbehavior?
Guilt has long been viewed by our modern generation as an unproductive emotion, but it is not so easily abandoned. In retrospect, our memories are rarely clear of it. We all believe that had we done something else, somewhere, sometime, things would have turned out differently. Free will is a cornerstone of our self image and the basis for morality and the law. Without it, we lead lives directed by conditions and circumstance. And if our choices are a mixture of determined and free, as some "compatibilists" in the field of neuroscience now believe, how are to we choose between them to apportion blame and praise?
A dilemma only for philosophers, you say. And maybe you are right. I've been stimulated by the revival of a group of Bangkok expats calling themselves "BuddhistPsychos" to explore connections between the latest psychological theories and Buddhist teaching. This month the topic for our meeting was thinking, and I dove into a pile of online research to discover current thoughts about, well, thought. On the face of it, thinking is a mysterious process somehow related to the brain (which one writer called a "meat computer"). How does sensory input, converted into electrical signals in the brain, become mental food for thought? I am quite familiar with the discursive chatter that goes on in my head (or my heart, as Thais would say), but it may be quite different from your experience. A monk in our group claimed that he was able at will to replace ordinary thinking with thoughtless awareness, but I suspect he was playing with definitions. Thinking, it seems to me, is coexistant with consciousness.
My friend Jerry echoes my wife who often says "you think too much." He's a thinker as well but not about such lofty intellectual topics. The subjects of the current book he's writing are "whore lovers" and this weekend he's attending a ladyboy volleyball tournament in Pattaya. While I puzzle over the relationship between the brain and free will, the topic for next month's BuddhistPsychos meeting, he's thinking about the pleasures of the flesh.
The conflict between determinism and free will may simply be a category mistake, a misuse of language to speak about incompatible domains, an apples to oranges error. This explanation is unlikely to sit well with those who cling to the belief of a "ghost in the machine," a homunculus who sits in the head (or heart) and drives the vehicle of our body. For these believers, an eternal soul is obvious. Buddhist blogger Stephen Schettini posed the question "What if everything doesn't happen for reason?" This leads to some very interesting conclusions, such as a psychological chaos theory that eliminates humans as the center of creation.
It's the doldrums now between school terms so I have the time and inactivity to ponder such questions. Despite a vow to withdraw from an obsession with U.S. news, I've timed my days to coincide with the campaign debates. And I engage in Facebook disputes over the trouble caused by Israel in the Mideast and the tragedy of Burmese Buddhists killing Muslims in retaliation for Islamic violence against Buddhists across the border in Bangladesh. I've been labeled an anti-Semite for my criticism by an old friend from high school as well as someone I once worked with in Hollywood forty years ago. Another one-time friend blocked me after I wrote that it was nonsense to believe Jews and Arabs had equal rights in Israel. Here in Thailand, cautioning against revenge and urging compassion for Muslim terrorists is not always welcomed.
The persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Burma is a good example of "otherisation," a term for the demonisation of the other proposed by Kathleen Turner in her book on cruelty which she discusses in a new three-part British TV series with Richard Dawkins, "Sex, Death and the Meaning of Life." Dawkins was at his best in the first program when arguing for a secular morality based on the human disposition of empathy. We don't need a god and eternal reward or punishment to ground morality, Dawkins says, because humans are hard-wired for kindness. All it takes is a widening of our circle to include empathy for others beyond our tribe. The old tribal exclusions can be abandoned in a secular world.
Perhaps. But I never thought the conflicts today were primarily about religious differences. It's mostly fighting over land. The establishment of the state of Israel was done at the expense of the previous owners and the residents of Palestine have struggled for 60 years to right this fundamental wrong. At the last presidential debate, Obama and Romney argued over who loved Israel more. Just as in the first debates, no one mentioned the poor, in the final debate no one defended the occupied and oppressed Palestinians, perhaps the key to why the Middle East remains a powder keg and Americans are universally hated there.
But that's the news junkie talking. Here in Thailand the rainy season is almost over without any signs of the devastating floods of last year when Nan and I were forced to escape to Phayao for several weeks. My wife has completed the internship required by her BA program and has only to submit a dissertation to graduate. The ceremony will be sometime in the new year and family members from upcountry will come to Bangkok to celebrate with gifts of flowers and stuffed animals. Nan was invited to participate in another ASEAN student exchange (she went to Brunei last December), but was bumped from the Bali list and then told that accommodations could not be found for the next choice in Penang, Malaysia. So we have a month to gather warm clothes together for our Christmas trip to Seoul, Korea.
It certainly seems like I can choose from among the alternatives life presents. Granted, the last divorce was not my choice, but probably my misdeeds made that inevitable. And the result was certainly favorable for me. I chose to visit Thailand back in 2004, to move here permanently five years ago, and to marry the woman with whom I now share a life that is wonderful beyond my wildest dreams. That our age difference has upset my children to the point where they no longer wish to stay in contact was beyond my control. I cannot fathom why they fail to share my joy. Choices that I made to neglect my knee and teeth are coming back to haunt me. In general, aging is a downhill slide and it's futile to fight it. It must be enough that I swim several times a week and that my wife feeds me healthy meals. Living forever is not an option.
Nevertheless, I lean toward the view that will and the mind are imaginative byproducts of a brain that developed because humans who told satisfying stories of explanation were more fit to survive. Plato was wrong. It's the poets and storytellers (and we're all scribblers) who make life worth living.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
Despite predictions that globalization would break down the walls between different cultures and religions, the opposite seems to be happening. In the West, conservative Christians charge that secular governments have declared war on religion, while in the East, Muslims and Buddhists are burning each other's houses of worship. My position has always been that there are truths in the beliefs and scriptures of time-tested religions alongside errors that result from translation as well as the attempt to apply ancient dogma to present conditions. The troublemakers are literal fundamentalists and extremists who believe their particular truth makes all other beliefs false. These religious radicals want to unite the world under their banner. The worst of them want to kill all heretics.
video of the Buddhist temple burning from Al Jazeera.)
video of the mosque burning in Sittwe.)
Read yesterday's New York Times editorial; here is a CNN update.) As for me, this attempted assassination of a courageous young girl has finally brought about the realization that Islamic fascists and terrorists are categorically different from extremists of other religious stripes. Christian anti-abortionists burn clinics and kill doctors, but the only mobs I know of confine their activities to protesting movies like "The Last Temptation of Christ" or "The Da Vinci Code"; they haven't killed heretics for hundreds of years. While I am not yet ready to agree with Samuel Huntington's thesis of a clash of civilizations between Islam and the West, I am now much less tolerant toward any Islamic teaching that divides the world between followers of Allah and heretics liable for beheading. (For an excellent discussion of the issues, view this video debate on the question, "Islam is a Religion of Peace.")
How free can free speech be? Here in Thailand, all speech about the royal family is strictly curtailed with severe penalties for any transgression. There is a Thai Buddhist web site strongly critical of of manufacturers and companies that turn icons of the Buddha into commercial items. My students, most of whom are monks, are very upset by the photos displayed widely on the web of Buddhist temples and statues destroyed by fire in Bangladesh. They seemed not so disturbed by news that Buddhists had burned homes and a mosque in Burma or that monks in Yangoon were demonstrating in favor of expelling Rohyinga Muslims from their country. The killing of tens of thousands of Hindus in Sri Lanka during the civil war there is out of sight, out of mind, as is the blessing by Japanese Buddhists of suicide planes during World War Two. Christianity has the medieval Inquisition to live down, not to mention the persecution of gays by Christian leaders in Africa who advocate the death penalty for homosexuality. Intolerance has been the rule down through history.
The books of authors from Henry Miller and James Joyce to Salman Rushdie have been banned for saying what some believe should not be said, although none had to live in hiding for ten years like Rushdie when a sentence of death was issued by an Iranian cleric after the publication of his novel Satanic Verses. Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh was assassinated by a Muslim for criticizing treatment of women in Islam. Cartoons critical of Muhammad were printed in a Danish newspaper and violent demonstrations irrupted all over the world. And most recently, a deliberately provocative film about the Prophet that never got farther than YouTube sparked hundreds of protests by Muslims which resulted in the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya. It's easy, from the perspective of the west, to believe that "sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me," a rhyme I chanted as a child when others were hateful. If you're white, the word "nigger" can have no sting, nor are you bothered when the languages of minorities, native Americans and immigrants, are banished from public discourse. Was the Russian group Pussy Riot insulting religion by singing and dancing in an orthodox church or were they just protesting what they thought was an unholy alliance between church and state?
I don't know what the limits of free speech might be, or if there should be any at all. As a white man from America, I have rarely experienced any restraints on my ability to speak my mind, although I have often tried to be both polite and diplomatic where my views might cause distress in a listener. Unlike my friends during the free 1960's, I have never felt that honesty and outspokenness should be absolute. I once asked an overweight woman when her baby was due and was shamed into watching my words more carefully. Viewing the Edwardian reticence on display on "Downton Abbey" and the occasional challenges to social verities in the aftermath of World War One is instructive. Now that I'm an oldtimer, my received values are challenged daily by several generations of young and even middle-aged people who utter "fuck" without a thought, even though it often continues to be spelled "f*ck" in print.
For me, the ultimate moral value is to avoid hurting others, in deeds and even in speech. This makes criticism of Islamic absolutism difficult. But if Muslims shared my prime value, then perhaps there would be less sensitivity and violence, and more tolerance. At the moment, this does not seem likely.
Here is a 2009 documentary by Adam B. Ellick who profiled Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl whose school was shut down by the Taliban. Ms. Yousafzai was short by a gunman on Tuesday. Her outspokenness and courage made her a target for the Islamicist fanatics.
Monday, September 17, 2012
An internet group called InterNations contacted me about featuring my blog on their web site. They asked that I put their badge on my blog (you can see it on the right, a bit too big for my tastes), fill out a questionnaire and send them a photo. I spent a bit of time thinking of answers to their questions and began to ruminate on a post about expatriation in general and my experience specifically. The photo I picked is above; Here is the rather simplistic questionnaire and my attempt to describe this adventure I'm on.
1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Thailand, etc.
Born in Ohio in the U.S. Midwest, the son of a plastics salesman and his Canadian bride, I grew up after World War II in the south and as a teenager in Southern California in the 1950s. I was married twice and helped raise four kids, now grown. My working life included careers in journalism, entertainment public relations, and magazine publishing. Twenty-five years ago I redefined myself as an academic, got a Ph.D. in environmental history and taught classes in philosophy and U.S. history. After retiring, I traveled the world and five years ago settled permanently as an expat in Thailand. Now I teach English several days a week to monks.
2. When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
In the spring of 2006, I began writing an opinionated blog about my travels and thoughts on spirituality and world events, not to mention the perils and pleasures of aging. I chose for the title "Religion, Sex & Politics" because I was taught these were topics that should never be discussed in polite company. But they happen to be the categories of life that interest me most.
3. Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
All of them (and none). I've written more than 500 posts and almost never go back to read over them. The most popular have been posts about the conflict over ordaining women as nuns in Thai Buddhism and the playground for sexpats in Pattaya. It's more of a sequential memoir than a travel journal, but my life in Bangkok always provides food for thought. I'm happiest when I've succeeded in saying something honest about myself. Quite often these are confessions of failure and hope for acceptance. As for religion, I've traveled a path from practicing as a devout Catholic (with social justice leanings) to a deep respect for the Thai mix of Buddhism, Brahmanism and magical animism. Mostly the spirituality I affirm is all about being a good person in this world with no thought for institutional rules and an afterlife.
4. Tell us about the ways your new life in Thailand differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Before I left the U.S., I was a elderly, retired bachelor living in a converted garage in northern California whose major daily event was a trip to the café for cappuccino. Now I'm married to a wonderful Thai woman and we live in a 9th floor apartment with a spectacular view of the city I have come to love. I took to expatriation like a duck takes to water and never experienced culture shock. This is perhaps because I visited Thailand three times before moving here for good, and an old friend living in Bangkok and Surin schooled me in the ways of Thai culture. At the end of my first year, another friend nominated me as expat rookie of the year, which pleased me enormously. I am fascinated every day by the life I lead here and the adventures that take place all around me.
5. Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Thailand? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
When I was younger I traveled to many foreign places, living in London for two years in the 1960s, and in the years after retiring from teaching I spent extended periods in Buenos Aires and in Tamil Nadu, India. Although I never dreamed of expatriation in Asia (Paris or Mexico was a more likely choice), on my first visit to Thailand, a side trip after India, I became quickly hooked and never looked back. If I had it to do over again, I would have moved to Southeast Asia at a younger age. Learning Thai when I still had my hearing and memory would have helped.
6. Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
At first, it was impossible for me to figure out why Thais, even in the big metropolis of Bangkok, walked so slowly. I constantly found myself rushing to get passed them, like the broken field running of a quarterback. Eventually I had an epiphany: The real goal is not to get anywhere quickly but to stroll leisurely and enjoy the sights. Thailand taught me this.
7. Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Thailand?
First, stop thinking in dollars, Fahrenheit temperatures, the 12-hour clock, distances in miles and weight in pounds; Thailand and the rest of the world do it differently. Second, don't try to sit on your heels or eat food as spicy as the Thais like it; you have to be born here for that. Finally, keep an open mind and jettison your preconceptions about differences between human beings.
8. How is the expat community in Thailand? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
Expats come to Thailand for work, retirement, the beaches, or sex. And too many of them constantly bitch and moan about Thais and Thai culture on the expat Internet discussion boards, or in letters to the editors at the two English newspapers in Bangkok. Politically, they side with the upper-class royalists against the democratic aspirations of the majority of Thais who live outside the capital. I've found that many of those who move here to retire and/or come to find a life partner generally keep an open mind and are curious about their new home. My friends read articles and books, and attend talks on politics, Buddhism and culture organized by the Foreign Correspondents Club, the Siam Society, Little Bang Sangha, Bangkok Art & Culture Center, and the National Museum Volunteers. Bangkok is a big city; it has something for everyone.
9. How would you summarize your expat life in Thailand in a single, catchy sentence?
Sunday, September 09, 2012
They all said it -- Michelle, Barack, Bill -- at the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina this week, and no doubt every speaker at the other party's gathering in Florida echoed this claim: America is the greatest country on earth (adding the request for God to send a blessing that this sanctimonious country certainly does not need). Obviously no one invited Jeff Daniels, the actor who plays the fictitious anchor Will McAvoy in Aaron Sorkin's new TV drama, "The Newsroom" that just finished its first year run on HBO. In this clip, McAvoy, a self-proclaimed Republican who's heard enough and can't take it anymore, answers a trite question with a denial of that civil religious claim. That a real TV celebrity might discover honesty is only a fantasy, but the well-researched facts from Sorkin's writing team made the "greatest country" trop sound ridiculous. Does anyone still believe it?
Yes, judging from the scripted hoopla along with patriotism, jingoism and nationalism on display by the politicians, delegates for the TV audience. Misty-eyed representatives from every significant demographic group could be seen in photos from the two events -- I live on the other side of the globe and have no cable tv to watch -- giving their all for the candidate of their choice. A good friend told me on Facebook I was cynical when I posted a link referring to Michelle's studied stutter and slick sincerity, but I was hesitant to reveal my own feelings, that her highly praised speech was worthy of an Oscar but not the adoration heaped on her by liberal commentators.
The vast majority of my social network friends today are liberals and progressives, Obama supporters all. But most of my friends from the high school we attended in Southern California who I am still in touch with are Republicans. A few have shunned me; but at least one is tolerant of our differences and we play word games online together. There is no accounting for political (or religious) tastes. George Lakoff thinks that liberals represent nurturing mothers while conservatives emulate autocratic fathers. Both sides love their children and pets but only those on the left seem to love the children of the Other; the right is more limited in their definition of who they care about (certainly not gays, Muslims, immigrants and abortion doctors). The people in my high school circles came from the upper middle class and stayed there, while I early on yearned to associate with musicians who took drugs and often were of a different color.
A bit of a confession here: Even though I'd supported Democrats since beginning with Kennedy in 1960, I voted for Reagan to be re-elected in 1984 over the Democrat, Walter Mondale. I did it because I figured another four years of his cartoon rule (an actor was president of the U.S.?) would hasten the revolution I fervently wished for America. I was wrong. And in 2008, after moving permanently to Thailand, I made no effort to get an absentee ballot because I was certain Obama would carry northern California where I remained registered. An expat then for only a year, the doings back in the U.S. still concerned me personally, and it was easy to see that an Obama administration would be light years away from the devastation that George W. had left in his wake. I rejoiced at his victory.
Patriotism for one's nation is a difficult passion to resist. It's inculcated from an early age, passed down from relatives and neighbors and reinforced by civil religious ceremonies like the 4th of July with its parades, barbecue sacrament and fireworks displays. Historically, nationalism is a fairly recent phenomena, as Benedict Anderson details so well in his masterly Imagined Communities. Before nations, there was loyalty to one's tribe which took the communal form of ethnicity and religion, or the flag waved would belong to the ruling dynasty. Nations, as Anderson points out, required printing and newspapers, along with centralized education and military service. Modern technologies like radio, film, TV and now the internet, hastens the process which glues disparate people together.
Which does not explain why some people are repelled by "the last refuge of a scoundrel," Samuel Johnson's definition of a patriot. I feel as if I were born to rebel (which doesn't account for why my more conventional brother the lawyer has similar political views, even though our parents voted Republican and our mother loved her "Tricky Dick" Nixon. The people I know who settled down close to where they grew up have leaned toward conservatism while those who traveled far afield seem more liberal in their opinions. My former colleagues from journalism, publishing, entertainment PR and education have broader perspectives I think which encourage tolerance for difference (the reason why Democrats appear more tolerant of Republicans than vice versa; viz. Obama's numerous failed attempts at bipartisanship). Most of all, I think travel gives you a unique slant on the rhetoric "back home" and mutes knee-jerk patriotism.
I left America not so much because of my dissatisfaction with "Democrapublican" politics and the expansion of Empire and its wars for oil but because it was cheaper to live abroad and I could survive better outside the U.S. on my Social Security pension. Abandoning family and long-time friends was no easy decision, despite the convenience of the internet which today allows us to keep in close touch. If my second marriage hadn't failed I would probably still be there. The need to reinvent myself led to several years of travel which opened my eyes and doors of opportunity. Never in my youthful dreams had I ever imagined moving to Asia (Paris was the goal of choice in the 1950s, Mexico in the 1960s and 1970s). Once ensconced in my expatriate palace in Bangkok, I joined the local branch of Democrats Abroad (who still send me email despite my lack of attendance at their meetings) and discovered that Google News and other sources kept me fully informed about the American scene. There are two English newspapers here with adequate coverage of overseas activities (although strongly biased toward the Thai military royalist elite). Even without TV cable news in English, I can get live telecasts from Russia Today and Al Jazeera on my iPad (which I trust more than similar digital offerings from BBC and CNN).
The longer I lived away from the "greatest country" rhetoric, the more dissatisfied I became with American politics. Obama has been a huge disappointment. He quickly sold his soul to the bankers and corporate CEOs, not to mention the military industrial complex and the Jewish lobby. His policies resemble those of a modern Republican before that party was abducted by aliens. Of course, Clinton before him was not much better. In fact he set the trend of abandoning the base for the goals of his corporate backers. It's a cliché to say that America has the best government money can buy, but it's true. The rank-and-file in each party blunder along, swallowing the mythical American dream (try selling those lies to the Native Americans and the Mexicans that owned California and Texas before the Europeans took over). Following the news that is so profoundly and continuously disturbing is clearly an addiction, one that is very difficulty for this long-time news junky to shake. Time and again I've vowed to break the habit. I'm an active Facebook user and post frequently, but I've tried to avoid items about the conventions and the upcoming election, choosing to focus instead on stuff of interest about Thailand, Asia and the world in general. But the monkey on my back keeps biting and refuses to let go.
America Anonymous: I will not now nor will I ever again vote in another American election, not for Obama and not against Romney/Ryan. A plague on all their houses. Since 1960 I've been told to vote for the lesser of two evils. While I wouldn't call Obama evil, he is clearly a fraud, a snake in sheep's clothing. That he is clearly a better choice than R/R who wil revisit Bush's efforts to strangle government in a bathtub makes no difference to me. The Empire is rotten to the core and ultimate doomed (although not, hopefully, until I am gone from the scene since I depend on the continued existence of Social Security). I'm neither an investigative reporter nor a very wise man, but I've participated in the political process since 1960 and I don't see much change. Sure, blacks are a little more equal as well as women, but the fat cats are firmly in charge now and the U.S. is the most dangerous threat in the world to global peace. Democracy and the politics that pretends to sustain it is a failure.
No, America is not the greatest country in the world. And if I thought there was an Old Testament God, I am certain that he would curse rather than send his blessings. Hell has a very special place for those politicians who have trashed the American dream. (Thank you, Howard Zinn, for educating me!)