During the routine interview at the Immigration and Naturalization Service, every applicant for citizenship is asked to state the primary privilege one would be granted as a citizen of these United States. The correct answer is, of course, the right to vote.
Now, the applicant might have come from any number of countries where citizens do have the "right" to vote. What is clearly implied here, however, is that a citizen's right to vote in the United States is far more meaningful as a reflection of a people's free and democratic participation in the government of people by the people and for the people, as the nation's founding fathers had intended.
But these "people" did not include the women, who only gained their suffrage in 1920 (the Egyptian women had gained their "right" to vote in the 1880s!); and even though the 15th Amendment to the Constitution in 1870 gave Americans of all races and colors the right to vote, some states did not ratify the Voting Rights Act until late in the 20th century.
The "people" now do have the right and do exercise their privilege to vote, as well as not to vote, based on their beliefs, inclinations and political persuasions. But vote on the basis of what knowledge or wisdom? What distinguishes a citizen of 18 years of age or older from a younger teenager or a sub-teen? The answer, one would rightly expect, is general knowledge, exposure and experience.
The girl, the INS officer who interviewed me for my citizenship application some years back, was young enough to be my daughter, barely over twenty and with a definite Spanish accent, cordial and yet with an aura of self-assured authority as to whether I should advance to the next stage - the swearing-in process as a new citizen.
I thought to myself, "How much does this attractive young lady really know about the nature of this political process, the American democracy, the right to vote, or the role that the American public plays in determining the course of this country in the context of global dynamics?" Another look at her smiling innocent face, and I was convinced that any trace of skepticism or self-doubt in her attitude would not have permitted her advancement to the position she held.
In 1960, when I was about the same age as this INS agent, my first job as an exploration geophysicist sent me to a rather remote Northern California town - Colusa. At that time, the town of Colusa consisted of a Main Street less than a half-mile long, with run-down buildings on both sides, and one humble general store. This sleepy town, skirted by always muddy rice paddies swarming with bloodthirsty mosquitoes had, nevertheless, a boisterous claim to fame: A sign at the entrance to the Main Street declared "The Prune Capital of the World". And why not? Who was going to challenge that claim or show that the "World" is a pretty large place and prunes are grown elsewhere as well? Very much like the young lady, I had no reason to be skeptical about such things. As my job moved me around the country, there were many "World's Biggest" and invariably the "World's Best" things I encountered, from Texas T-Bone steaks to juicy watermelons and Louisiana crawfish.
The reason I, and I believe practically all other immigrants who ever came to this country, did so was simply to pursue a better life, meaning greater economic opportunities and higher living standards. The concepts of democracy and political freedom might have had some meaning for the very few diehard ideologues, none of whom I ever personally encountered, and that included my Hungarian contemporaries who had supposedly "escaped" the tyranny of the Soviet invasion of their country in 1956 and were granted asylum supposedly for political reasons.
No doubt, the expectations of better living standards and greater prosperity were here to be realized at a purely material level. And a better life at a purely material level was all we were expecting. That's why our neighbors to the south are today risking all to cross the border legally or illegally, not to gain the privileges of voting or exercising their rights in political participation, but to enjoy a more prosperous life and other material benefits that this society does provide.
These are bare, pragmatic truths, and like many other truths they are rather cold and bitter to swallow. Our ideologues, politicians campaigning for position, and our tenured academics who glean their knowledge of the world from the books they read rather than by walking the pavements, would like us to believe otherwise.
The "Dumb Blonde" on a television game show, struggling and failing to identify Budapest, is more than just funny or entertaining. So is another sketch captured on television, where seemingly educated "Middle Class" folks would locate Iran in place of Australia on the geographic map, or opine that Iran should be bombed to smithereens, without having any clue as to why!
But unlike the "Dumb Blonde", I do know what country's Capital is Budapest, that Hungary is a European country, and that the name has nothing to do with hunger pangs. I also know the difference between Iran and Iraq, even though both names sound the same. I also know that the proper pronunciation for etc. is not "exetra" as some rather prominent public figures blurt out.
None of this, of course, makes me "better" than anyone else, only somewhat bitter that innocent ignorance, unbeknownst to itself, wields so much power and influence over this world.
I first experienced this during a routine check-up at the student health center at UCLA in 1958. The nurse, noticing that I was from Iran, pointed to her paycheck she had in her hand and, showing a degree of disapproval, glibly commented that some of the taxes she paid provided us foreign students with educational opportunities in America. I could see that she felt we all owed her for that generosity.
My response was, "Yes, but you probably have no idea what you are getting in exchange!" After she brushed off my remarks, which she had misconstrued as a distasteful, boisterous gesture, I tried to explain what I meant, but to no avail.
Explain what, and to whom? Explain to that hard-working, honest and na´ve nurse what a small price it was that she was paying for another peoples' submission and compliance to the demands of a superpower half-way around the world, so that she and others like her would continue to enjoy all the advantages of life they had come to expect as their birthright?
To make her understand what her taxes had bought, I'd have had to drop my drawers, bend over and expose the scar from the bayonet wound I received as a student demonstrator during the CIA coup in 1953 that overthrew our popular leader and snuffed out a nation's "democratic" aspirations for generations to come. I can imagine what a shock that sight might have been to her and to the staff; yet another misinterpretation of my intentions!
She wouldn't have believed me, anyway.
She, like the young INS official years later and, in fact, great majorities comprising the voting public, sincerely believe in the "process". Unique among the civilizations of the world, the American public enjoys the government of the people, by the people and for the people; at least that is the way it is supposed to be.
But, is this really the case? Before answering this question, please let me clarify my position in all honesty: If it ain't broke, don't fix it; or as the Farsi expression goes, "Don't wrap a bandana around a head that doesn't ache!" All criticisms aside, we have been enjoying the benefits or the fruits of this civilization for a long time. Things haven't been going so bad - thus far!
So what if our corporations run our lives, if our foreign policies have been, shall we say, less than reflective of our noble self-image, or if better than three-quarters of our citizens believe in the Biblical accounts of creation?
So what if our sources of news and information are bottom-line driven corporations whose objectives have little to do with honest journalism and the portrayals of the truth? It's ratings, stupid, ratings!
So what if special interest groups and lobbyists influence policy decisions at the highest levels; and so what if Israel and its supporters here determine whom we fight or bomb on the other side of the planet?
Sure; there are major disagreements, debates and arguments that we even see and hear these days among the candidates for the President as to the decision to go to war in the Middle East or the war's future course. But we all know - and by "we" I include the blonde bimbo and those who "know" that Iran is in Australia - that the folks we are killing are "bad" people who wish to do us harm. We all "know" that Islam is now the greatest threat to our civilization, that Iran is about to acquire atomic weapons and long-range missile to attack us. Of course, we all "know" that anyone who opposes righteousness, honesty and nobility is, by definition, evil, and evil must be dealt with. Our President has repeatedly told us that truth, and "knows" that we are the ones who are righteous, honest and that our cause is always the cause that is noble.
Our illustrious politicians, the candidates for the President, must also play to this general public mindset, even if they know better. After all, there could never be such a thing as an honest politician; that's purely an oxymoron.
Take Senator Obama, the apparent front runner for the Democratic Party. I wrote an article about the then rather uncertain Obama in May, 2007, titled "The Rape of Obama And The Future of US-Iran Relations", published in 'payvand'. Now, almost a year later and no longer a virgin, the very confident Obama walks as proud as a peacock and casts his charm on the bovine audiences nationwide. Once his innocence was lifted, he had no qualms about getting his nose "browned" by kissing up to certain sources of money and publicity; he has now shamelessly stooped to the same low levels of integrity and honor as his competitors or, in fact, any other politician running for any office in the land. The articles by Joshua Franc in counterpunch and Naomi Klein in Huffington Post say it all.
The irony is that a survey carried out by Iran's own news web site, "press tv", indicated that Obama was considered better than Hillary Clinton by 83% to 17% by those who log on to that source, perhaps mostly if not all Iranians. The logic, I am sure, is that the guy is Black, and Blacks are regarded as more sympathetic to the causes of the downtrodden and oppressed folks than are the Whites! Little do they know that Mr. Obama is as Black as Oprah Winfrey and Condoleezza Rice - Blacks who are actually as White as, or Whiter than, even the most advantaged Whites, all with the same ambitions and attitudes for self promotion!
I implore you to read Joshua Frank's article.
If Obama had any sense of decency and valor, when confronted by his Jewish interrogators about the accusations that he sympathizes with Moslems, he would not have rejected those allegations as though they meant he was suffering from leprosy or plague or inflicted by some "terrorist genes" in his DNA. Instead, he could have simply responded nonchalantly, "I am actually a Christian. Besides, my religion is my business."
So much for this political whore, now let's go to Senator McCain, our Republican Party candidate:
One would expect this old soldier to show more guts and savvy than others in the race. Having had his experiences in "Nam", he clearly should know better than to speak like a testosterone-laden, HUMMER driving, tobacco spitting thug looking for a fight. Yet he does; and to reach his political objectives, he is too much of a coward to reject the endorsement by the lowest of the low, the mentally disturbed and emotionally convoluted followers of the arch evangelical Zionist, Pastor John Hagee with his messages of hatred and barbarism.
So, Obama rejects Louis Farrakhan's endorsement for the fear of the Jewish power, and McCain embraces the monster Hagee's support for exactly the same reason!
Whose country is this anyway?
Finally, what about Hillary Clinton? She did follow the "manual" to the letter. But perhaps her worship of Israel at the various AIPAC and other Jewish organizations' gatherings was not viewed as convincing enough. Her vacillation between outright support for the war on Iraq and saying that she was misled into voting for it at the time; and now maintaining that regarding Iran she would leave "all options", meaning even a preemptive military attack, on the table, speak volumes about this candidate's visions and wisdom.
At the stage in America's recent history when, perhaps for the first time, what happens elsewhere in the world can have highly consequential effects on its fate as a world empire, Hillary Clinton seems to lack a well-defined appreciation of foreign affairs. We know what John McCain wants to do, bomb bomb bomb Iran, etc. He is not a well man, but at least we know what drives him and we know that the same neoconservative cabal behind the current President will be around to refuel him should he run out of steam.
Obama has already sold his soul to the devil and is beholden to the Jewish Zionists for his future in American politics. He has repeated often enough that Israel's defense takes top priority over any other consideration, and that, in his opinion, Iran poses the greatest threat to everyone.
A new breed of neoconservatives, or converts from the Republican neocon clique, will no doubt occupy all the strategic positions in his cabinet, should he become the next Commander-in-Chief. This young Black social climber, just like the other orator of eloquent sentences empty of substance, Condoleezza Rice, will stop at nothing to make a name for himself, even at the expense of the nation's best interests.
Quite ironically, it might be Mrs. Clinton, should she make it, who has the potential to employ her feminine shrewdness and cunning and resort to her vast political savvy and connections, and who'd have the self-confidence to push away the ladder that brought her up to prominence, renege on old promises and obligations, and attempt to do what she truly sees as the best job for the nation. I am not going to hold my breath for that eventuality to materialize.
So, I won't be exercising my right to vote in these Presidential elections, either. I'd rather not choose by default.
I am, however, concerned about the bind we are in. Our economy is in shambles, we have lost the respect of the international community to a great degree, both as a global superpower and as a role model, have created new enemies and emboldened our old antagonists, and we are continuing with policies that promise to be leading us into deeper quagmires. But what is most discouraging is that, with the current slate of candidates for the office of the Commander-in-Chief, the light at the end of the tunnel is rather dim, indeed. If we do not handle our foreign affairs properly, our domestic revival will require some kind of Divine intervention, and in my opinion, that Divine intervention will not be the prophesied Armageddon that Pastor Hagee has envisioned!
I have been asked many times before, and with an understandable air of cynicism, why I have chosen to live here if I find so much wrong with its political process. My answer has been and remains, "I like it here better than anywhere else!"
Why, then I am asked, do I criticize it so much? My answer, again, is quite simple, "I criticize it because I'd like to keep it from falling apart."
Any other questions?
... Payvand News - 03/04/08 ... --