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Rosenblum writes: "It is dead plain: that good-guys sentiment is a distant memory. Forget Machiavelli; we are neither feared nor loved."

File photo, U.S. Capitol building. (photo: file)
File photo, U.S. Capitol building. (photo: file)

As a Whole World Watches...the Incredible Shrinking America

By Mort Rosenblum, Reader Supported News

13 October 13


nce upon a time I felt fairly safe when hard-eyed goons grilled me as one did the other day, toying with his service sidearm and an ominous bunch of keys. I'd pat the blue passport in my left Levis pocket. Goons thought twice before messing with us good guys.

Now the imposing eagle embossed on my passport might as well be a chicken hawk. Wherever I go, it is dead plain: that good-guys sentiment is a distant memory. Forget Machiavelli; we are neither feared nor loved.

Smart as we are, we forget the Internet is an open window on our lunacy. Families from Ulan Bator to Ushuaia watch in rapt disbelief each new episode of the Washington reality show. In idyllic towns they know from sitcoms, they see cops beat the crap out of citizens for doing no more than expressing themselves.

The Comoros, three flyspecks off Mozambique in the Indian Ocean, is as banana as republics get. After 20 coups and two murdered presidents since 1975, it is now peaceably mired in corruption. But at least it has a government.

"You can walk anywhere late at night with cameras around your neck, and no one will bother you," a friend there told me. Comorans are Muslim, respectful of strangers in their midst. "Just don't tell them you're American."

Far more people hate us today than before 9/11, bitter at wars we can't justify, torture we won't admit, and contemptuous treatment of "aliens" who stir our suspicions. Others simply watch our follies and laugh their ass off.

In nearby Madagascar, my driver guffawed as we passed Old Glory flapping atop a Fort-Apache embassy in hardened concrete with towering iron pickets around a vast open field of fire. "Like we're a threat," he said, and then he chuckled to himself for the next mile.

Don't we understand anything? Forbidding embassy walls signal our fear and protect diplomats only while they are inside. Terrorists need only terrorize. A few zealots in a pickup can rain hell on shopping malls and luxury hotels. The more discreet our essential security measures, the less we will need them.

U.S. policymakers forget that a big stick impresses people only until you swing it. Then, as they remain standing, and pissed off, you look ludicrous. Just as Teddy Roosevelt cautioned, they tune out when you speak too loudly.

Of course, America is still great, with its multiple millions of big-hearted people, generous spirits eager to do the right thing. That's the point. Why, our remaining friends ask, don't we sound off, organize, and vote?

From the Ukraine to Chile, people storm into the streets when their elected leaders abuse power. Americans sit in placid silence when shown proof their government spies outrageously on them as if sacrificing their freedoms somehow makes them safer.

Our health-care "debate" - blackmail, really -- baffles non-Americans. Even Comoros recognizes health as a basic human right. Its pathetic 450-bed hospital is known as the death house, but European aid is helping. The country is desperately poor. What's our excuse?

Intelligent people everywhere ask me the same question: How can so many rich Americans be mean-spirited and self-serving enough to let poor people suffer needlessly because medicine isn't, as the law phrases it, affordable?

Since before the Vietnam War, critics differentiated between individual Americans and their government. That is changing fast as elected representatives ignore their oaths for their own narrow purposes. Friends who shrugged off our foibles now fulminate at their own brushes with a country they don't recognize.

This incredible shrinking America impacts everyone. As European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi says, our shutdown imperils the global economy. In close focus, seemingly petty details show this is about far more than money.

At the airport in Madagascar, a uniformed policeman at the gate hefted my underweight carryon and declared it too heavy. "Give me something for a Coke," he demanded, with breath reeking of beer. He smirked, knowing I would not miss my flight to object to a boss who'd expect his own cut. He pawed at my pocket and snatched the biggest bill, barely worth $2.

(Note to Madagascar: Air France flight, 1:30 a.m. Sept. 30; I can identify a mug shot.)

I mentioned this to a duty-free shopkeeper, who replied ruefully. "It's shameful, but that's how it is." Back in Paris, I pondered pursuing the guy on principle. Then I reflected. Corruption is malfeasance that prevents a system from functioning as designed. I'm American. Talk about people in glass houses...

Samuel Jackson put it simply enough: Let's wake the fuck up! In places like Comoros and Madagascar, citizens have to put up with whomever maneuvers into power. We don't.

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+113 # sibbaldflats 2013-10-13 14:11
Up here in Canada, one of our better-known journalists picked a really bad time to release a book pitching our country's merger with the U.S. We've got our own problems, to be sure, first among them a wretched teabagger-wanna be federal government in Ottawa. But the notion of joining such a dysfunctional, decaying entity is noxious and preposterous. Living under our own HarperCon government is as close as we want to get, and plenty bad enough, thanks.
+30 # Mannstein 2013-10-13 16:02
What's remarkable is that relatives of mine in Canada think the Teabaggers are the greatest thing since apple pie. As Americans like to say "Go figure"!
+52 # Glen 2013-10-13 17:09
I noticed, when in Canada, that the younger generation was in favor of American propaganda, so supported "our own problems". That, even to the point of resenting taxes for healthcare and supporting the North American Union. It was astounding until a very intelligent man of middle age explained that the younger generation had not lived without healthcare and did not understand the ulterior motives of the U.S.

Merging with the U.S. even further than in the past would be the biggest mistake Canada ever made.
+9 # WestWinds 2013-10-13 22:47
>>Merging with the U.S. even further than in the past would be the biggest mistake Canada ever made.
+5 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2013-10-13 21:18
Just some observations regarding China. I have a wife in China. We are working on her Visa. I travel to China several times a year. As Wen Li and I hand-in- hand walk down a busy street in Wuhan City, with very little exception, the Chinese who observe us, pass us by, have warm looks toward us. I do keep in mind that I have warm looks and feelings toward the Chinese so I get back what I "put out." Having said that, it is very difficult to spot, observe, policemen. Sometimes, I have traveled for miles w/o seeing a policeman. And that last observation is not unusual. When one does see a policemen, that public servant is dressed much like a U.S. school crossing guard. No pistol, mace, no billy clubs are strapped to their belts. Now, I'm not being nieve. If a serious matter does breaks out, I have heard, a policeman, usually wearing a black trench coat does what he has to do. But, then, I have not actually seen a policeman wearing a black trench coat. And I have been traveling to China for 5+ years. What I do see, very kind Chinese people who do whatever they have to do to survive. Yes, there is poverty in China but where are the beggers? During my five years of trips to China, I have seen one. The typical Chinese family has a little business. But then, what do the Chinese need? By law, with exceptions of course, the Chinese couple is allowed to have one child. I'm not saying I want to live in China and run a small business. Yet, China is a fascinating country.
+8 # fdawei 2013-10-13 22:55
Yes, sibbaldflats. You said it. What could have been in the mind of that "journalist," "author," to have even thought of a merger with that dysfunctional elephant south of the border?

Harper is also no gift, and I always wonder how he maintains his power and control over the citizens of Canada.

(Disclosure:) I am Canadian, but haven't lived in Canada for more than two decades.
+3 # sibbaldflats 2013-10-14 15:41
How do they do it, you ask? Harper maintains control by electoral fraud and other ways of undermining democracy. While the U.S. govt. has gone into partial shutdown, Harper closed down Parliament this fall in a bid to duck serial scandals erupting in Canada's unelected Senate. We call it proroguing Parliament and Harper employs it whenever he feels the heat. This kind of scumbag behaviour is becoming normalized, thanks to Harper. These miserable, treasonous oafs can also count on a fractured opposition that splits the ballots, ensuring they got a MAJORITY govt. with just 39% of the vote last time. The Liberals and NDP are now roughly equal in popularity which greatly enables the Harperites. And by casting Canada as a tarsands petro-state (though govt. coffers predictably never seem to benefit much from it) the Harpercons have also managed to divide and conquer by pitting those opposed to this economic model against those in favour. I fear we're in for a good number more years of this.
+3 # indian weaver 2013-10-13 14:35
Well put. It's past time to get rid of this government - meaning those who supposedly run it. Oh, not government. I mean Fascist Plutocracy of Terrorists, Assassins and Torturers, Inkorporated. Everything the government does now is counter productive to having decent lives for The People - worldwide, as is so well sketched by this author, the enemy force if you will. With NSA and everything else attacking the entire planet (drones, lies, weapons of mass destruction, The Wehrmacht of $trillions wasted, evaporation of all social safety nets coming soon, wiping out the post office, Medicare and Social Security soon to be liquidated, this government has made itself unwelcome on the planet, no good (in fact, bad) for anything except those running it and owning it, period. It's outlived its usefulness as currently configured. amerika is the greatest danger to mankind and the planet of all entities upon our Great Mother Earth. It's immense power is completely corrupted by greed and arrogance. Too bad. Obama et. al. could have been a force for good. Instead, just the opposite. How horrible.
+36 # Billy Bob 2013-10-13 16:26
Is this what it felt like in the Soviet Union during its last years, from the mid-70s on?
+34 # Barbara K 2013-10-13 18:09
Check this out. It should make your blood boil to see just what sneaky crooks are running the house:

+20 # JCM 2013-10-13 19:00
Everyone needs to see this!
+10 # Billy Bob 2013-10-13 20:19
I DID check it out and it IS DISGUSTING.

The Reptilicans should not be trusted with any power.
+6 # hoodwinkednomore 2013-10-13 23:29
Thanks, Barbara K, for catching this. I think every person needs to see this. Thank You, Senator Van Hollen!
+8 # unitedwestand 2013-10-14 00:15
Yikes! My stomach is in a knot after that video. This needs to be shared.
+8 # unitedwestand 2013-10-14 00:32
Shocking video. A must watch for all and for all to share.
+3 # ChickenBoo 2013-10-14 12:47
Quoting Barbara K:
Check this out. It should make your blood boil to see just what sneaky crooks are running the house:


OMG! This needs to be sent everywhere. But hey....where's the Democrat outrage? How come this is the first we hear of this?
+26 # wantrealdemocracy 2013-10-13 18:31
Yes,we are like it was in the U.S.S.R. near the end. Strict rules as to when and where you could be and lots of police watching. People did not smile or look at one another. They were all afraid---as we are now. We know things are bad and getting worse but for some reason we are scared into silent obedience. We will not listen to facts about our government because we don't want to know just how bad it is. We will not give up on all the stuff we learned in second grade about how special and blessed we are to live under our honorable and trust worthy government. We mistakenly thought we lived in a democracy---and we don't want to admit we have been damn fools since the coup of Nov. 22, 1963 when the real powers killed our President.
+3 # jwb110 2013-10-14 10:51
Quoting Billy Bob:
Is this what it felt like in the Soviet Union during its last years, from the mid-70s on?

Exactly what the Soviets felt. America is under a Stalinist regime not a Nazi regime.
-1 # ChickenBoo 2013-10-14 12:36
Quoting Billy Bob:
Is this what it felt like in the Soviet Union during its last years, from the mid-70s on?

This little comment is actually way more important then it looks. The same evil group that brought down the Soviet Union is now focused on the US. Russia crashed because it couldn't pay it's bills. The United States has alot of wealth, so did Russia, but none of it will help the people. PLEASE watch this video. It will send chills up your spine.
+1 # karenvista 2013-10-16 22:13
Quoting Billy Bob:
Is this what it felt like in the Soviet Union during its last years, from the mid-70s on?

Exactly! I was there then and it's amazing how much like the Soviet Union we have become, except worse because of technology.

We won't be allowed the opportunity to resist, we'll just be marginalized into oblivion and the tiny group of our corporate overlords will rule without having to be inconvenienced by our complaints.

Why are they militarizing the police forces everywhere?
+53 # davidh7426 2013-10-13 17:03
Message to the American people ::

America, your response to the shenanigans of your elected representatives can be summed up in one word...


and while your sleeping, everything you hold dear is being stolen from you.

+6 # economagic 2013-10-13 21:21
You do realize, do you not, that rank and file TP-ers fervently believe that they are the ones who have woken up, and that claims that they are bankrolled by billionaires they despise right along with FDR are nothing but lib'rul propaganda?
+8 # davidh7426 2013-10-14 08:38
I do...

There are none so gullible as those that believe that they and they alone are in possession of "THE TRUTH", and that all others are just delusional fools.

Sadly the gullible ones make up 99.99% of the worlds population, so there'll be lots of tears at bedtime when they realise they've fooling themselves.

And yes, I'm one of the 99.99%, but I'm working on it ;)
+8 # unitedwestand 2013-10-14 00:40
You are right. Most people I talk to just don't want to know. Many are hanging on to their precious status quo and think it will always be okay, this is the great USA after all. We always manage to end up doing what is right for the country.

If only we could get in a time machine and go back to the year 2000 and reverse the outcome of the Presidential elections. The harm of this election was the start of the USA's dismantlement.
+1 # davidh7426 2013-10-14 08:43
Thank you Unitedwestand, for another version of 'THE TRUTH'.

I'm not sure if I agree as to who's to blame though, but that's my version of 'THE TRUTH'.
+27 # Sweet Pea 2013-10-13 17:22
And exactly how do you propose that we accomplish this when we know that money drives our politicians? So many people in the U.S.A. really got excited over voting for President Obama. They thought he would bring "CHANGE" only to realize that "BIG money" makes our laws and any "CHANGES".
+5 # mortrosenblum 2013-10-14 03:57
Sweet Pea, are you saying that a third of a billion Americans should simply accept the fact that "big money" now rules the world's only remaining super power and then settle down like as lower forms of Animal Farm life? What exactly would you propose to do?
+32 # reiverpacific 2013-10-13 17:25
As I discovered early on, living in Franco's Spain and Suharto's Indonesia (both openly operating Fascist states supported by the US), you can love a people, their customs, culture, music, food and quirks, whilst despising their governments and opposing them as best you can.
The US has CREATED, armed and buttressed so many Banana Republics and toppled so many democratically elected leaders and governments -on behalf of it's ruthless corporate bosses (Including Chiquita Banana, formerly United Fruit, speaking of "Bananas") that is like any addict -it becomes fully addicted it's drug of choice (In this case war, excuses for war and overwhelming greed) which it it consumes and dispenses so liberallly -eventually requiring intervention and treatment before it descends into insanity and death.
Sound familiar yet?
+3 # economagic 2013-10-13 21:32
I'm sorry to say that I see that reference to addiction all too seldom. At this late date I can't remember for sure whether I figured it out in the mid-80s or the early 70s. I know for certain that I was saying in 1972 that our blindness to our contradictions and our attachment to our myths was doing us in. In the 80s I was living with a wife who was a food addict, who eventually ate herself to death despite years of 12-Step programs that exposed me fully to the recovery literature of that time. Either way, when Anne Wilson Schaef's "When Society Becomes an Addict" was published in 1988, I was sufficiently familiar with the concept that I saw no reason to read it.
+4 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-10-14 10:56
Worst addictions: Oil, Money, unmonitored Power.
+2 # Granny Weatherwax 2013-10-15 07:53
May I suggest Eduardo Galleano's "las venas abiertas de Latina America" (1974?) a.k.a. in English "the open veins of Latin America"
Galleano is a socialist but his book remains the most complete analysis of Latin America History (1492 - 1974) to date.
+6 # Unicorn144 2013-10-13 18:07
Never fear !: let the New Confederacy and their KKKoch brand Fascism destroy America and plunge us and the entire world into a total depression and recession. Naturally they are hoping they can blame it all on President Obama: and there are those who will go along with this lie, as it comforts them. But lies, unlike the truth, don't sustain for very long. Red China is now talking openly about making their own currency the new World Reserve Currency. Wars have been fought for much less. For those who don't know what this means I suggest you Google it: and read about the catastrophic scenarios that would ensue if it happened. Barack will have to declare a National Emergency, invoke section 4 of the 14th Amendment: and then watch as they come to impeach him on any number of trumped up charges, and probably there will be an assassination attempt or two.... But now Wall Street has woken up: so something is going to happen all right: Tomorrow. We are hours away from total fiscal collapse. National Security will force Barack to make the choice to save America. Now we shall hopefully see the Global Mahdi of the Caliphate of Islam, Messiah at the Global Level. He alone can stop us from utter destruction: and Joe Biden knows it....
+5 # RLF 2013-10-14 06:59
The irony here is that those that will lose the most are the big banksters and Wall st. if we default. They have created a monster that they can't control!
-6 # MidwesTom 2013-10-13 20:22
When I lived in Buffalo the hospitals did a steady business of Canadians coming to Buffalo for elective procedures which they could get quickly in the States. I would think that ACA will put an end to that business.
+6 # bingers 2013-10-14 10:45
Midwest Tom....

Hah! Why would any sane person come from Canada where the treatment is (if I remember correctly) rated 8th in the world come to a country where you get the 37th rated care at a very expensive cost? In Canada you may wait for care when time is not a problem, but when necessary you get in immediately. So if you're willing to pay thousands of dollars for inferior care because you're too impatient to wait a few weeks, then I would say those are the people who you shouldn't be using as an example because they obviously need psychiatric care more than physical care.
+4 # janie1893 2013-10-14 00:49
The country that created the ploy of non-violent civil disobedience has forgotten all about it. Now we whine on our electronic gadgets. whaaah!
+4 # bingers 2013-10-14 10:46
Ghandi might disagree with us originating non-violent protest. We certainly have a long history of violent protest though.
+6 # ladymidath 2013-10-14 02:55
We in Australia have just elected our own Teabagger government. Tony Abbott will make the right wingnuts look sane.
As much as I feel for the people of America, I am afraid Abbott the Mad Monk will lead us down the same path.
+1 # JohnBoanerges 2013-10-14 16:16
Mort, oh, Mort, where DO you get such notions, "We don't". You 'ave just painted yourself into such a corner. Maybe YOU "don't" since you have the power to exit the matrix (though I doubt you will) and all individuals "don't" on the same basis, but "We"? You have a mouse in your pocket? You can ONLY speak for yourself. Since the clear implication is that the "amerikan" electorate can 'vote' themselves clear of such corruption, tell us gentle readers why that hasn't happened. Tick tick tick tick. Time is running out on your answer. Time is running out on the empire and times is running out on delusional voters and people who feel that the "system" will 'save' them. Goodbye.
+2 # mortrosenblum 2013-10-15 06:26

I suppose if a plurality thinks as you describe, it may well be too late. It's not that some "system" will "save" anyone. Democracies get the systems they deserve. Put some energy into making it better.

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