Sunday, November 16, 2014

My love-hate relationship with the USA

When the United States of America attacked Iraq in 2003, the rest of the world, especially Europe, just loved to hate the USA. There was tons of bad press, protest marches and so on.

I couldn't stand the hypocrisy of those protest marches in particular. For example here where I live there was a (needless to say completely futile) protest march against the invasion of Iraq, which disrupted normal traffic. I found this especially hypocritical because there were no such protest marches eg. during the Rwandan genocide or when Russia attacked Chechnya in 1999. But when it's the USA who's invading a country, then people love to hate it, and organize protest marches because it's trendy and it gives them a feeling of having the moral high ground.

I detested this hypocrisy so much that I actually flung to the other side, ie. I started liking the USA. After all, I knew (and still know) lots of Americans online, and they are on average really smart and good people. The USA has made lots of great achievements in all kinds of fields, such as science, technology, space exploration, medicine, the film industry, the gaming industry, and so on. Sure, there are also lots of stupid people there who do all kinds of stupid things, but honestly, show me a country that does not have its good share of stupid people who do stupid things, and I can call you a liar. I could tell you countless examples of sheer stupidity in my own country, all the way from individual people to the governmental level. It would actually be quite hypocritical to mock another country for stupidity when your own country is no better.

However, over the years I have grown a bad taste for the USA as a country, when I have seen so many things that no other civilized country does (at least not in such a scale). And it's not only one or two things, but so many of them combined...

There's the police brutality thing, which is genuinely something that's significantly worse in the USA than in most other civilized countries. In the USA, the police force often acts like it's a military force in a foreign, hostile country, and they are extremely trigger-happy. When you watch the police in action, it's often like watching a military operation. In fact, one could argue that in many places in the country the police is actually more like a paramilitary organization. Their gear, their armament, vehicles, their training and behavior... they are all like directly lifted from some military training course.

Of course there's nothing inherently wrong with that, if it weren't for the fact that they not only look like military forces, but they also act like it, shooting to kill from the slightest of provocations, resulting in numerous deaths of people who were no threat. In fact, you wouldn't believe how many people the police has shot to death in the back who were unarmed and fleeing, and even people who were in the act of surrendering. The most typical shooting happens when the suspect has a "knife". Often the shooting happens from tens of meters away, and oftentimes the "knife" really wasn't.

And that's of course only a small fraction of all the police brutality and abuse. And the most damning thing is that the police forces always protect their own. Whenever possible they will never even start any investigation, unless there's a public outcry. When there is an investigation, overwhelmingly the officers are found either completely blameless, or slapped in the wrist with a very minor infraction. This even if the officer killed someone by shooting the fleeing person in the back.

And the United States government does nothing to stop this. In fact, the government promotes police brutality. We saw this in how both the police, and the government response to it, behaved during the Occupy Wall Street movement.

This is most certainly not something that just happens in all countries. This is pretty much unique to the United States, among most civilized countries, and thus is one of the reasons why I cannot sympathize.

Another point of contention is the recent NSA mass surveillance leaks. While mass surveillance is not absolutely unique to the United States, it's still rare (at least on that scale), and something that I cannot endorse.

Anti-terrorism laws are a very complex subject, and it's not a black-and-white situation. However, abusing those laws to prosecute or extradite people for completely unrelated crimes is another thing I cannot endorse (and also almost unique to the United States).

Then there's the hints of theocracy of the country, which is also almost unique among most civilized countries. In fact, the theocratic vibes in the United States have only gotten worse during the past decade or two.

It's rather curious that the United States is one of the very few countries in the world where the separation of church and state, the prohibition of a government-promoted religion, is codified in the constitution of the country, yet the United States is one of the most theocratic countries of the western world. For example in many European countries there is no separation of church and state codified in their constitutions, and many of them actually have official state churches... yet they are still enormously more secular than the United States.

The situation has got so bad that a politician will basically commit political suicide if he doesn't show overt religious traits. In fact, an openly atheist politician would never be elected as president, no matter how qualified he would be for the position and how good and effective his plans for the betterment of society would be. In fact, a complete dictator would be elected as president in his stead if he just says some few magical "God bless you" and other such incantations. This is absolutely insane.

The overtly religious tendencies have much dire consequences than simply who gets elected to office. Homophobia and discrimination against atheists and other such people is rampant at many places. They are often treated worse than mass murderers and child rapists. This is simply something that I cannot condone (and also something that's pretty much unique to the United States, when compared to other civilized countries).

Needless to say, my opinion of the United States has deteriorated quite a lot during the past decade.

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