I grew up during the Cold War. My parents, teachers, and other adults in my life spent a lot of time teaching me why America was a great country, and why the Communists were evil.
I was taught that the Bad Countries had dictators, or maybe puppet legislatures. Their governments would listen to phone calls, read mail, and otherwise spy on the population. Anyone expressing an anti-government viewpoint would be arrested, and vast portions of their citizenry were imprisoned and tortured in ghastly gulags. Worst of all, the “Commies” were determined to conquer the world, so we had to be armed and wary against this “evil empire.”
We Americans, on the other hand, lived in a country that chose its leaders by popular vote. Rather than a king or a dictator, we had a president who couldn’t do anything without the approval of Congress or the courts. Our government cannot go searching and snooping without a damn good reason. People are free to criticize the government without fear of retribution. No one can go to jail without due process: every opportunity to present a case before a jury of one’s peers. Best of all, America is a benign power and would never go to war except to defend its own freedom.
It was freedom and government by the people that make America great, and it was oppression and tyranny that made the Nazis and the Communists bad. But what have we become?
We’ve become a country where the highest court violates the will of the people and the constitution it’s sworn to defend to appoint a government that proceeds to snoop through our records, read our mail (e- and snail-), and monitor every activity possible. Those that oppose this government’s policies are demonized and condemned. The American government claims the right to arrest anyone it pleases, torture them, and hold them indefinitely without providing any reason or answering to any judge or jury. And now it engages in wars of conquest, to depose governments that it doesn’t like, to impose puppet regimes, and to rob other countries of their resources.
In short, we have become the kind of country that we were all taught to despise. So when we criticise the country that America has become, it is in reverence to the America we were taught to believe in. This country still exists within the hearts of its people, but it has been sabotaged by a gang of looters and thugs. This is a shame not only for those of us who live here, but for those in the rest of the world who look to America as a beacon of liberty and hope.
Let me leave with a small bit of hope: Germany is now one of the most progressive and liveable countries in the world. If the country that gave us Hitler can come back to civilization in such a short time, so can we.