Proud to be an American?: Reflections on…

Via Ann Halsig
on Aug 27, 2012
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Source: via Ferry on Pinterest

Reflections on the U.S. American Presidential Elections, 2004 to 2012.

I almost didn’t go to class that day. My eyes were swollen from tears and a lack of sleep. I didn’t want to look anybody in the eye. I didn’t want to be seen in this state. I felt angry with everyone, because we all could have tried harder. We could have done better. Because this shouldn’t have happened…again.

But I did force myself to shower and dress. I forced myself into the car and off to campus. My first class that day happened to be with one of the most progressive and enlightened professors from whom I’ve ever had the honor of learning. I kept my eyes down. I knew she’d have to talk about it. She was a Communications professor, but not just any kind of Communications: I would later have her for Mass Media and Society. That particular year—2004—I was in her Intercultural Communication course.

There were students in the class that didn’t like her style of teaching. She had been honest with us that there were times she felt afraid for her job. It’s been a long time since I lived in the U.S., so I don’t know what things are like now, but in 2004, there were more than a few university professors justifiably afraid for their career—tenured or otherwise.

I happen to know that at least one student had threatened to “report” her—for what? For empowering us to think about the world differently? For drawing our attention to the fact that the world’s suffering didn’t stop because U.S. Americans became uncomfortable hearing about it? For all of that. He had the Patriot Act on his side, anyway. That dissent was often the noblest form of patriotism never seemed to occur to him.

And on that morning, she too looked down. She was tired. Her podium held her up as she spoke to the class. She didn’t want to be there either, but she was there. She was doing her job. At one point our eyes did make contact across that massive classroom where I sat toward the back, and she said to me, without attempting to lower her voice in any capacity,

“Ann, I’m sorry, but I can’t look at you today. I’m afraid I’ll burst into tears.”

And then we both did. As did several other students, because we were ashamed. Because we felt every bit the bumbling (not to mention dangerous) clowns we must have seemed to the world around us, beyond our borders.

As ever, there were plenty of theories: Diebold was boldly given the task of tallying the votes yet again, for crying out loud. But the bottom line was that enough U.S. Americans chose to vote for Bush—chose—that in the end he was, for the second consecutive four years, the President of the United States of America. That fool. That murderer. That liar. That idiot. That puppet.

I decided when I was 16 or so that I didn’t want to live in the United States if I could help it (I realize, incidentally, how privileged I am to have the choice).  But on that day, my skin began to itch, my heart began to race, my nerves began to fray in a way they never had before. I had to leave. And a year later, I did.


I remember the buzz around Obama’s book Dreams from My Father.

And I remember hearing that he might run for the presidency. (Let’s hope he doesn’t, said a Jamaican friend. I tell you, if he’s elected it’s only a matter of time before the man’s shot.) None of us thought it would really happen, but I bought the book just the same, just in case. I read it on the bus on my way to and from work over the course of three days.

One night, coming home from work, as I neared the end, another woman on the bus stared at me until she caught my eye. She beamed. “It’s wonderful, isn’t it?” she said. Afraid she’d hear my telltale accent, I just nodded and smiled.

It was. After all we’d been through over the last eight years, that this man could be our Commander in Chief—that we could somehow overcome the shadow that Dubya brought upon us in so many ways—the mind boggled.

And on that day, when I woke up to hear the news (no more all-nighters—not after that last one), how my heart soared! I literally floated to the bus stop. My shoulders back, my chest out, for the first time in my adult life, I was well and truly proud to be a U.S. American.


It hasn’t been perfect, has it?

There are some things that grate on me so profoundly (his shady stance on Israeli Apartheid; his use of drone warfare, as though that’s a viable alternative, as though it somehow means he’s not a warmonger). But there have been some extraordinary things, too.

Not enough has changed, but in his four years I have seen more positive changes in U.S. American domestic policy as a direct result of his presidency than I’ve seen from any president in my lifetime.

Now they’re saying that Mitt Romney could very likely win.

Have you heard this? Listen, I’m not saying the Democrats are the answer. Obama hasn’t ended these terrible wars, there remain prisoners in Guantanamo, and the state of the nation is not good. But this is the United States we’re talking about. The Peace and Freedom Party is not going to win. The Independents are not going to win. Not this year. I have hope that those things will change— it’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. But my hopes for the U.S. American presidency this year are thoroughly tied to one outcome: Mitt Romney cannot be the next President of the United States.

There are so many issues with the Romney/Ryan platform, it could take up an entire article.

With threats to cut education funding by a further 20% and eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, it’s not just hard to find hope—it’s downright frightening. Not to mention, the man is simply dodgy. Not only is he unashamedly pushing to make the rich richer and just about everybody else poorer, he’s also got tens of millions of dollars stashed away in the Cayman Islands on which he isn’t paying a red cent (and then some).

But this isn’t just about Romney/Ryan. This is about what happens when those who voted for a man on a pedestal see that man step down. Obama isn’t Superman, for crying out loud. The editorial of the Utne reader this month called him “pragmatic”—Merriam Webster defines that (in part) as “practical as opposed to idealistic.” Remember the 2008 campaign? It was founded almost entirely on idealism! That’s why everybody’s hurt. Because the big boom trailed off into little bumps. Because Obama knew then what he knows now: that slow and steady wins the race. But loud and flashy won the election. He couldn’t be straight with the country, and now people feel lied to. But would he have won otherwise?

We should have run for the hills in 2004. We should have told George Walker Bush under no uncertain terms that we did not, we could not support his and his cronies’ tyranny any longer. We should have stood proudly against this man who had hurt us personally, who had hurt our image for the rest of the world, who, along with Cheney and Rove and the lot of them, was responsible for two of the longest, most heinous wars in U.S. history. But we didn’t. And now, what we couldn’t do to Bush is what we’re willing to do to Obama. I contend that this is patently insane.

The bottom line is this: A vote against Obama—whether we like it or not—is a vote for Romney.

And a vote for Romney is a vote for the same values that drove George W, George Senior and Ronald Reagan.

I realize that many people might think that as an ex-pat I have no right to opine on the matter. Hell, even when I lived there, I was told regularly and in no uncertain terms to get out. But the fact of the matter is that the U.S. remains a tremendously powerful country. They’ve still got the most nukes. And although 15 percent of the population lives under the poverty line, although the national debt is roughly $16 trillion, they’re still the seventh wealthiest country in the world.

That means that for all the changes the late 20th and early 21st centuries have brought us, one thing remains: the person elected as President of the United States matters—not just to Americans, but to the world.

Editor: Lynn Hasselberger

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About Ann Halsig

Ann Halsig is a freelance writer with a background in Social Science and Ethnic Studies. She has lived and worked in the U.S., England, the Philippines and currently resides in France. You can check out her musings, meanderings and misadventures on her blog or hire her for some word whittling here.


22 Responses to “Proud to be an American?: Reflections on…”

  1. yogi henry says:

    sorry……i didn’t think the spewing of hate was welcome here. The american people will vote and the winner will be the next president, with or without your anger and disdain.

    I am reminded of the adage: “resentment is like drinking poison waiting for the other person to die”. Give up your resentment towards past presidents no longer in office. move on and “let go”.

  2. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Very nicely written, Ann. Again! It was a pleasure to read, as reading. This time, though, I'm gonna have to disagree on content.

    A vote for a third party is NOT a vote for Romney. Both parties pretty much grant that only seven states are in play this year, all the rest are pretty much decided. So, unless you live in one of those seven, any vote is a wasted vote in terms of selecting the winner. Any vote in the seven is only symbolic. A vote for either Obama or Romney if you are in one of the seven is a symbolic vote for war.

    The issues Ann brings up are important for what they are. But, relatively speaking they are trivial. The "big three" are so big, they make abortion, gay marriage rights, cuts to education, belief in Creationism etc etc tiny little things in comparison.

    The Big Three are…

    1. War. Imperialism. The military-industrial-congressional complex.

    2. The American Gulag. I.e., millions of mostly minority men imprisoned for victimless crimes. And the related problem, neighborhoods ravaged by the war on drugs.

    3. Impending financial collapse due to decades of extreme over-spending that has accelerated under Bush-Obama. Crony capitalism, i.e. Wall Street, Detroit, and Washington all in bed together are part of this problem.

    Romney and Obama, the Reps and Dems, quibble over minor details of one and three. Attitude, anyway, is different for one: Dems put a nicer face on war and imperialism. (Anyone for a nicer face on war and imperialism?) They both just simply ignore two. A vote for either is a vote for war. And the American Gulag. And financial collapse/crony capitalism.

    A vote for Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party (on the ballot in 50 states) would at be a symbolic vote against war, Gulag, and collapse. A vote for the Green Party (on the ballot in 30 states according to someone here at Ele) would at least be a vote against war. The Peace and Freedom Party? Are they on any ballots? They would also be a symbolic vote against war.

  3. ann says:

    while i very much appreciate your perspective, i have to respectfully disagree. in fact, it is out of love – a deep love for truth and humanity – that i am so terribly angry. and i do not agree that it is time to "move on and 'let go'." perhaps you're unfamiliar with that old adage about how one goes about becoming doomed to repeat history?

  4. ann says:

    Peace and Freedom are also the only openly socialist party on the ballot – so there's that. and thank you so much for your post – thoroughly true, every bit of it. i reached for the points that seem to be banging on and on in the media, and also points that i think are reflective of romney's character. that he would see planned parenthood funding done away with is a direct reflection of the ongoing crimes against women in our society. this specific attack has just cost millions of women in texas so many necessary services…I'm dumbstruck. u.s. american students are being sent home early some days, or having one of the five school days cut out, because there simply isn't enough money to afford them a full-time education – and they want to cut it further…that is both an attack on our children and on our future. and at the end of the day, much like bush, et. al., romney is a liar (remember al franken's "lies and the lying liars who tell them"?) and a thief. and those are two very important character traits to take into consideration when voting. but even before obama officially decided to run, i was asking myself, "what would he do in his second term?" i remain tremendously curious about that one.

  5. […] back on the previous two elections and share my hopes and fears for the on upcoming. Have a read by clicking here, and do let me know what you think! And, as ever, thanks for reading me! Share […]

  6. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Hey Ann, and I also enjoy the discussion. But "thoroughly true, every bit of it"? You might want to review point three!

    As bad as Reps and Dems have been on spending, Socialists would be exponentially worse. Reps, Dems, and especially Socialists all believe that government can take care of us. That idea, eventually, spells financial collapse. Southern Europe is a harbinger, but all advanced nations are teetering on the edge. Do we still have time to change? Hard to say, but it has to be done now, thus point three on my list trumps all the comparatively little things that everyone is getting so worked up about.

    That being said, the American War Machine has to be the biggest issue. I think libertarians and socialists (well, libertarians and SOME socialists) can agree on that. Murray Rothbard, one of the most important libertarian economists and historians of the 20th century, was also an early member of the Peace and Freedom Party. He knew that socialist policies can only destroy the economy, but also knew that war was the number one issue and so he joined the anti-war party. (Of course he also joined the Smoker's Rights organization, even though he was not a user and didn't like cigarette smoke!)

    As for, character, a word of caution from the aged. Romney and Bush might be much better people than you think. I was going to add, "and Obama might not be as good as you think," but in fact, he seems to me to be an exemplary person. However, and here's the word of caution, it's so easy to think good of people who are intellectually and culturally similar to yourself and to think bad of those with different values. Everybody does it, on both the right and left, and everybody is generally wrong. It's hard to break out of that 'they are bad' mindset when those around you and those you respect are of the same mindset. A few people, as they get older and more experienced in the world, i.e. encounter in real life lots of good people of the opposite mindset and bad people of the same, realize that political/cultural orientation is not a very accurate barometer of goodness.

    In any case, is being a good person really all that important? Political beliefs are often more important than character when we are talking about power. If you are the victim of American bombs, or incarcerated in the American Gulag for committing a victimless crime, the personal qualities of the American president don't make much of a difference to your life.

    Clinton, who had serious and frankly despicable women problems, might have done more to save us from financial meltdown than any president in the last, say, fifty years. A bad person does good.

    Going back a bit farther in history… King George, in terms of character, was one of the best to ever sit on the English throne. But his firm belief in the divine right of kings brought no end of trouble. A good person does bad.

    As an old guy to a young person, hope I haven't come down too hard. At least we have this in common, we are ex-Pats for peace!

  7. Ben_Ralston says:

    I didn't see any 'spewing of hate' here – certainly not anywhere near as much as your use of those very words evokes 'yogi henry'.

  8. maxzografos says:

    I beg to differ. The author's article is as forward looking as it gets. It's not about past presidents. It's about who will be the next president. It's about knowing what the options are. And as such, I loved how she made her case. Thanks Ann!

  9. ann says:

    i might not be as young as you think! don't let my blatant disregard for capitalization in comment threads fool ya! as to your first point, the overspending to which you refer reflects not upon socialist standards – rather, this is the firefighting of capitalists! the problems european countries are currently experiencing in their respective economies have nothing to do with a socialist agenda – but you're right (and therefore, in my opinion, it is true), that it is "due to decades of extreme over-spending that has accelerated" in recent years. that overspending hasn't been on healthcare and education, though. i don't know what kind of person obama is, and i firmly agree with you that character doesn't always determine a person's ability to lead…but what direction do we wish to go? i assure you that my opinion on the bush family remains unchanged, but those are good reminders from a forgiving and open-minded person. and i maintain that, despite the fact that it has become so commonplace, a proven liar and thief has no business in the oval office, or in any position of leadership. i don't know if obama is a "good man." i know only that romney is not. thank you so much for your thoughtful and thought-provoking comments!

  10. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Once again, very nice! I thought there was no way you could defend that “thoroughly true, every bit of it” comment. But you have managed it.

    Just one comment this time around, “Capitalism” has two very different meanings. There is free market capitalism and there is crony or authoritarian capitalism. Both are lumped into a single whole by both liberals and socialists, who then blame one for the sins of the other. Ie, they blame the free market for the sins of crony capitalism. They’ve been doing it (the lumping and blaming) for 130 years. “Capitalist firefighting” can ONLY be crony/authoritarian capitalism or, as I prefer to call it, following Mises’s definition, fascism. Capitalist firefighting has nothing to do with free exchange by free people.

    Ok, we’re getting way off topic here but I have a feeling you don’t mind, and I enjoy throwing in an incendiary comment or two each time around. In early 1930s Europe, Mises (who had good examples of both right in front of him) defined both socialism and fascism more succinctly and elegantly than anyone else. Socialism means state ownership of the means of production; fascism means private ownership under state control. From the libertarian perspective, then, both Romney and Obama are mixed socialist-fascists, thus it’s very natural that neither has any overriding desire to end war, release unjustly imprisoned millions, or fight the crony capitalism that defines the Wall Street-Washington grip on the economy.

    What Reps and Dems do is excite opposite parts of the populous with highly-charged but less important issues to keep support, divert interest from the important issues, and define themselves as somehow different from the other side when really, they are just Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.

    Oh, and the capitalization (as distinguished from capitalism) point brought a smile! But I was judging from your pic. It’s all relative, though. Old to you might be very young to me.

  11. ann says:

    that teacher – the one i wrote about in the first part of the article…once we were walking to class together, and as no one was in earshot, i got up the nerve to ask her: "are you a socialist?" she paused, even stopped walking and turned to look at me. "ann, i'm not a capitalist or a socialist. and frankly i just cannot accept that there are only these two ways." over the years that's given me pause for thought time and time again. a pleasure sparring with you, sir 😉

  12. Edward Staskus says:

    I have to disagree about your description of the Wars on Terror as being the most heinous the USA has ever engaged in. Although the Defense Department budget today is more than 30 percent higher than during the height of the war against the North Vietnamese and the Viet Cong (even when adjusted for inflation), that war in terms of destruction both human and material was much more heinous, by which I mean greater in effect and affect.

  13. Mark Ledbetter says:

    The pleasure's been mine, both the sparring and the reading. Content aside (and heck, who knows what's true anyway?) it's a pleasure to read well-put together words and ideas.

  14. ann says:

    i couldn't agree with you more, edward. which is why i wrote, "two of the most," rather than, "the two most" – i think you'll agree there's a distinction between the two phrases. what happened in both vietnam and cambodia leading up to, during, and following the unfathomable atrocity of the vietnam war – the impact of the decisions of the united states government…well, quite frankly, it leaves me speechless. i hold near to my heart the many soldiers and civilians (u.s. americans included) who suffered so insurmountably for such stupid american hubris.

  15. ronaldanne1 says:

    What an insightful take on the political climate. I have my issues with Obama, war, and the NDAA which is almost a deal breaker. However, Romney and the people he will bring into our government are frightening. I do not want to see the Country turned into Texas. Obama is a pragmatist, and I think it may be the only way to get anything done given the extreme biases of the Republican Party against the President, what he represents and is trying to accomplish.

    I believe History is the story of progress; it is as inevitable as evolution. Those who try to stop it are engaged in a futile effort. I truly believe our descendants will look back, as we look back to Jim Crow, and wonder "what were they thinking?". So regardless of what happens in the short term I remain an optimistic pragmatist.

  16. ann says:

    indeed…i guess my biggest weakness right now is that i still have this hope that some leader will come along and guide us to a better future…truth is, leaders have always fallen off their pedestals, and the only way i can see to the kind of change we need as a planet and a species is communal. optimistism is vital…some days it's hard to hope.

  17. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Leaders, huh?I know I've totally used up my quota on this thread. But I just can't help making a comment on leadership for all y'all.

    Yep, there's lots of problems with leaders. First of all they are human, which automatically makes them flawed. Then they need help from sub-leaders, who are not only flawed but pursuing agendas all their own. And finally, neither leaders nor sub-leaders can really do anything anyway because the actual doers are bureaucrats, who are not only flawed and pursuing their own agendas (which involve personal gain and turf warfare) but are protected by invisibility and unaccountability. Usually, the only time leaders can do something really big is when they do something really bad. Like start a war.

    When y'all get tired of looking for leaders and governments to save us, consider a leaderless system. Like libertarianism.

    Or if you just can't stomach that, how about a Swiss-like system? You know who the leader of Switzerland is? Even the Swiss sometimes don't even know because s/he is just so unimportant. Despite (actually because) they don't have leaders, the Swiss have the highest living standard in the world and a the world's most peaceful foreign policy. It's not exciting. Doesn't make the news. Just makes a good life for the people.

  18. ann says:

    nah, you can't have used up your quota – you've got too many interesting points to make! leaderless movements also bring to mind the zapatistas in chiapas, mexico. what do we mean, anyway, when we say, "by the people for the people"? cheers, mark – all really good points again.

  19. […] He offered hope, when there was none left—and most importantly, he is a man who knows the difference between a moon and a space station. […]

  20. This is the same tired argument of the vote for the lesser of two evils designed wholly to get you to support an evil system by compromising on your principles. You are voting against Romney, not for Obama. What perplexes me is how you could be so uninformed to think there is a valid difference between the two besides party rhetoric.

    Don't compromise on principle. Vote with your dollars. It's a rigged game, voting for the lesser of two evils is still evil. You will suffer a greater karmic burden by compromise. If standing up for principle results in the other guy winning, how are you responsible?

  21. […] In American culture, in our politics, we’ve been cynically divided into the Red Team and the Blue … We’re all playing football against one another and betting on horse races in the news, but we’re not really talking to one another and, most importantly, we are not addressing the dire issues that threaten to destroy human civilization. […]

  22. ann says:

    i totally see what you're saying. i can see completely how what i've written might make informed people like yourself cringe. but i stand by it nevertheless for two reasons. firstly – most importantly – it's someting indefensible: i have faith in his second term. even before i knew he was the dem ticket for 2008, i always, always said: i want to see what he'll do in his 2nd term. you know what i'm on about. the second is that in spite of the fact that he has most certainly to this point not proven to be be a leader of the standard that we deserve, he is the best we've had in so motherfucking long…and isn't that worth something? he isn't clinton – he's way way way better than clinton! i've got space for carter, but i contend that he's bolder than carter. in my life, he's the best we've seen. and i'm still not saying that's good enough, but it's reason for me to ask people to vote for him over scary, scary mittens. but respect to you. you're right. i hope you don't hate me for hoping.