A love letter from the United States to the world

DBy John Tribbett

Dear world, it’s me, the United States, on Valentine’s Day. I should be giving you a message of hope and love. I should say, “World, I love you so much, I will work to give you peace, to end hunger and to use my vast resources to fight against ignorance and disease.” I should rhapsodize about the importance of preserving the air we breathe and the water we drink. Together, I should assure you, we can find a way to increase the living standard for all people and usher in peace. I should tell you this means so much to me because I can’t live without you and that I will do whatever it takes to keep us together.

But, I don’t like those trite messages of love and hope talking about impossible relationships with unobtainable goals. Where’s the bottom line in that? Besides, we’ve been having our problems lately. I can’t really seem to figure you out. Sometimes you seem to think I am the greatest thing in the world and at other times the worst. I give you movies, fast food, technology and a whole bunch of really sexy media personalities to dream about. Sometimes you can’t get enough of it, and other times you call me an infidel or claim I am materialistic. But you turn around and buy and consume all I have to offer. Then you accuse me of trying to control and manipulate you. You say I am trying to make you just like me and that I don’t respect who you are.

Frankly, I’m getting sick of it. All I have ever tried to do is help. Yes, I have made some mistakes. I supported Saddam (in the early days) and backed Pinochet. I set up puppet regimes. Got the CIA involved with a few South American coups. But so what? I was only trying to help. You never talk about the good times. What about the world wars? Don’t those count for something? And how about that creeping tide of Communism? I fixed that. Well, there is that little North Korea issue with the nukes and the starving people still going on, but so what?

I really thought we had something going. You were always admiring my muscles. My big, shiny cruise missiles, the smart bombs. My highly trained professional soldiers ready to kill and enforce economic sanctions. You thought my military technology was cool. Now you accuse me of being a brute. You know, that Iraqi army is a lot tougher than it looks. If those people could just take care of their own business I wouldn’t have to clean up their messes. Okay, so I financed both sides of the Iraq and Iran war. I had my reasons. I don’t hear you complaining when the gas prices are cheap in your neck of the woods. I do the dirty work and suddenly I’m the bad guy. Just because we killed 100,000 of them last time and lost 293 of our own doesn’t mean they didn’t put up a good fight. We can expect at least that much trouble this time. Does this make me callous and uncaring? Well then, so be it.

I have problems of my own. There’s the economy and the loss of jobs. There are voices in my head complaining about health care, deficits and education. They bicker about needing social services. They try to tell me the war on drugs can’t be won and that drilling in Alaska is a bad thing. Some of them actually claim people within my borders go to bed hungry. They hassle me about the billions I spend building my military might. They don’t understand I have certain priorities, certain connections to maintain within the military-industrial-complex. They have the audacity to claim people from Mexico should be able to come into this country without the proper paperwork and take the low-paying jobs Americans refuse to do. They actually try to tell me these people are an integral part of the economy. Who can blame me for wanting to ignore the whole mess?

You accuse me of being paranoid. You would be too if everyone was out to get you. After you came and attacked me it changed everything. I couldn’t believe you would do such a thing. Some of you even had the nerve to imply that I was culpable. Sure, you were polite about it and extended your grief, but underneath it all I could tell you thought I deserved it. You called me arrogant. Well, if you aren’t with me, you’re against me. The connection between evil forces is plain to see. And if it isn’t clear now, it will be soon. You watch, when we go after one they’ll all get together to fight us. They might hate each other; I mean, that Osama guy really doesn’t have much love for Saddam. Actually, they are enemies of each other in their own way. What with Saddam’s secular views and persecution of his own Muslim people it pretty much flies in the face of Osama’s brand of Islam. He even said so this week. But watch them line up together when I show up. I’ll make them prove they were buddies all along. Even if they weren’t.

I am not without conscience. There is a big part of me that agrees with you that there should be no war, that more rigorous inspections will work and that Saddam is not a serious threat to anyone even if he has a few illegal weapons lying around. I’ve seen the crowds out protesting with the rest of you. Okay, so you might not have seen the opposition to the war given the same priority on television that the number of face-lifts Michael Jackson has had. But it’s there all the same. I acknowledge it and even agree. But there is another part of me that just refuses to listen. I’m fixated on killing Saddam. I can’t help myself. At this point I have so much military power massed around him I’ve convinced myself it’s what I have to do. Otherwise, you’ll think I’m weak.

I didn’t ask to be the big guy, and I resent you implying I’ve become an empire. I’m nothing like Rome or Great Britain. That is an unfair comparison. I don’t have colonies. I have sweatshops for Old Navy and the Gap. I have McDonalds. I have multinational corporations seeking tax shelters, cheap labor and lowered environmental standards. But that is completely different than exploiting with an occupying military. My military stays at home. It’s mobile.

You know, I think this might be it. To hell with your Valentine’s Day and your lofty dreams for the future. I know you tried to work things out with me through the United Nations. You offered to meet me in the Kyoto environmental agreement and the International Criminal Court, but I’m not buying. I can see what you are up to. You’re trying to trick me when all I want is freedom and open markets. I guess I’ll have to do it all without you. Goodbye.

John Tribbett’s biweekly column appears alternate Fridays. Send letters to the editor to [email protected]