Somebody please tell Karl Rove to quit holding up the applause sign.    The minions he manipulates are cheering for an America that does not exist.     The abstract concept of America, and its embodiment of liberties and human rights, is a fiction.     Norman Rockwell's portrayal of America was an idealistic perversion of a landscape, that for many, has been littered with oppression, bigotry, greed, torture and even murder.   Goya's brutal "Duel With Cudgels" would come closer to capturing the essence of the underlying mean-spiritedness of this nation that the Bush administration is working so hard to revitalize.    Yes, there is a dark, brutish aspect to this self-proclaimed beacon of freedom and liberty, and I am going to delve into it.    Read on if you dare to take an introspective look at the darker aspects of our national identity.

This nation's founders captured inhabitants of various nations or tribes from the continent of Africa, brought them to the colonies against their will, and allowed for their continued enslavement through our Constitution.     Abolitionists, like John Brown, were executed as terrorists.    A bloody Civil War and three Amendments to the Constitution still were not enough to end the oppression of blacks in our nation.    The specter of Jim Crow arose in the south in the 1890's, and did not die out until leaders like Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall,  and Martin Luther King, Jr. emerged in the mid Twentieth Century.   Even some peaceful opponents of black oppression, like King, were slain for their beliefs.     In today's world, racism hides behind the veil of "political correctness", and those who practice it often cower from the legal consequences of practicing their bigotry openly.     However, covert as it often is, racism is still a pervasive part of American society.

The Native Americans have not fared so well in America either, at least not since the Western Europeans invaded their continent.     In 1830, the US Congress passed the "Indian Removal Act", which eventually enabled the federal government to resolve the problem of a growing population in the state of Georgia by moving the Cherokee Nation to the state of Oklahoma,   In 1838, on the forced 1,000 mile march, 4,000 Cherokee men, women and children died in what is now known as "The Trail of Tears".  

Tecumseh, a Shawnee leader who organized opposition to forced Native American colonization, showed his insight into the ugly aspect of America when he spoke to the Osage tribe in 1812.   In his speech, he said, "Brothers, the white people are like poisonous serpents:   when chilled, they are feeble and harmless; but invigorate them with warmth, and they sting their benefactors to death."

Thanks to Howard Zinn in Voices of a People's History of the United States for uncovering a telling quote from the Saturday Pioneer, a newspaper in Aberdeen, South Dakota.    Ironically, L. Frank Baum, who also wrote The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, was the paper's editor in 1890, when the quote appeared.    Shortly after the massacre at Wounded Knee, and the subsequent murder of Sitting Bull, Baum's paper wrote, "The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent....and the best safety of the frontier settlers will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians."     What a heart-warming heritage for our nation.

America continued to demonstrate its imperialistic ways in the Mexican War.    Eager to expand US territory, President James Polk annexed Texas, and sent American troops to help this future state gain its independence from Mexico.   In less than two years, America brought Mexico to its knees, and proudly included Texas, New Mexico, and California in its borders.    Maybe the illegal Mexican immigrants of today are simply trying to find their ancestral homes that were seized by conquest.

William McKinley came to office in 1896 to preside over a country that still had a ravenous appetite for expansion.    "Manifest destiny" was the order of the day.    Under McKinnley, the US waged war against Spain in Cuba, and drove the Spaniards out, leaving a power vacuum that was quickly filled by greedy US corporations.    500,000 Filipinos were killed as America wrested the Philippine Islands away from Spain.     McKinley also arranged for the annexation of Hawaii and Puerto Rico during his reign, or, depending on one's perspective, presidency.

In the early Twentieth Century, Upton Sinclair and his fellow muckrakers cast a light into the shadows where ruthless corporations victimized workers and consumers  with their avarice-driven disregard for health and safety.    Sinclair's expose' of the corrupt and dangerous practices of the meat-packing industry (entitled The Jungle)led to the passage of The Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906.   Prior to the efforts of Populists and Socialists, America's system of unbridled capitalism and laisez-faire economic policy by the federal government enabled ruthless corporations to treat their workers like cattle and market products to consumers with little regard for health or quality.

Eugene Debs and other war protestors who violated the Sedition Act during World War I, paid the price with their freedom.    As they sat in prison for exercising their First Amendment rights, over 100,000 Americans died in the "war to end all wars".   Our government could employ flag-waving propaganda to lure millions of young men to face horror and death, but if an individual protested against their use of this propaganda in the "land of the free", that individual went to prison.

Ask the Japanese citizens during World War II for their perspective on the "American Dream".  Or would it be more appropriate to say "Nightmare"?     Over 100,000 of them were displaced from their homes and businesses and herded into camps surrounded by barb-wire.   Their "crime" was "disloyalty".      After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the federal government first employed curfews as a means to marshal control of the "enemy within".   Eventually, they made the decision to move 110,000 people of Japanese descent into ten "relocation centers" throughout the United States.     Most of them were American citizens born on American soil, and they were imprisoned without a trial and without being charged with a crime.    Guantanamo Bay now makes America a repeat offender. 

America is still drunk with power, arrogance, and an insatiable appetite for the accumulation of wealth.      Based on a statement of principles drafted in 1997, and a think-tank created to formulate ways to implement the principles, The Project for the New American Century paved the way for George Bush and his pack of so-called "neo-cons" to launch the unprovoked and unsubstantiated invasion of Iraq.   Several of the war hungry neo-cons, like Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney, signed the statement of principles, and 9/11 gave them the excuse they needed to initiate their aggression.     Their imperial intentions are clearly outlined at     Their concluding paragraph states:  

"Such a Reaganite policy of military strength and moral clarity may not be fashionable today. But it is necessary if the United States is to build on the successes of this past century and to ensure our security and our greatness in the next."

The Bush administration has demonstrated its commitment to making the Twenty First Century the "American Century".     However, the reality is, the invasion of a small country like Iraq has stretched our military to its limits, and two years later there is still strong resistance to the American imposed government, and much chaos.    The sun is setting on the "American Empire" as Bush and his people desperately struggle to fan the dying embers and rekindle the flames.    There are multiple countries with nuclear capabilities.    China is rivalling the US both as an economic and military power.     Terrorism has proven to be the David to our Goliath.   With a $7.5 trillion deficit, America is bleeding red ink, and the effort in Iraq is costing billions that this country does not have.   

Bush has launched a war with no end in sight against the "evil terrorists", an elusive, shadow target which cannot be definitively beaten.     Perpetual fear and hatred of the "terrorists" motivate Americans to support a seemingly endless war, and enable Karl Rove to manipulate the masses, leaving the neo-cons free to pursue their policy of military proliferation of American interests to their hearts' content.     However, the waning strength of this nation, coupled with the rising strength of nations like China, make this model unsustainable.

In 1997, with the advent of The Project for the New American Century, America laid out a publicly available plan for global domination.    Historically, Americans have pursued a policy of aggressive global expansionism under the guise of altruism, the "right of manifest destiny", or under the pretext of protecting its regional interests.     The United States flaunts its lofty Constitution and Bill of Rights, yet with each passing day continues to deny basic civil rights to homosexuals (who make up 5% of the population), defies the UN and Geneva Convention, earns an annual per capita income of $34,000.00 (compared to the world per capita of $7,000.00), and consumes 25% of the world's fossil fuels (while 2 billion people in the world have no access to electricity and Bush has elected to withdraw from the Kyoto Treaty).     In 2000, the Bush regime installed itself to rule our Executive branch by manipulating the voting process.    This regime has engaged in a consistent pattern of false propaganda to manipulate public opinion, unilateral decision-making without regard for relationships with allies or the UN, and has rewarded and promoted its staff members in spite of acts of incompetence and war crimes.     The US Senate is now considering a bill, the Constitution Restoration Act, promoted by America's own religious radicals.   The CRA would, for the purposes of judicial review, recognize "God as the sovereign source of law, liberty, or government."     And Americans thought the Muslim theocracies were frightening?    

Why were Americans surprised at the attack of 9/11?    Certainly it shattered our illusion of invulnerability.  However, there are deeper psychological forces at work.    As Ward Churchill stated in "Some People Push Back",    "America's indiscriminately lethal arrogance and psychotic sense of self-entitlement have long since given the great majority of the world's peoples ample cause to be at war with it."     It is time for America to stop considering itself the center of the universe.   America was not an innocent victim on 9/11.    The people who died that day were innocent victims, but America as a nation was not innocent, and had been asking to be attacked for many years.   Our nation has oppressed and provoked people and other nations since its founding, and has faced few consequences.     9/11 was a wake up call.    It is time for America to come down from its pedestal and take its place amongst the world community, as equals, rather than as condescending tyrants.

I will conclude by stating that I still believe in the inherent decency of many of the people in the United States.     My opinion is that the Constitution and Bill of Rights represent a contract between citizens and government that is unparalleled in its capacity to create a government that represents and protects the rights and interests of its people.    I believe in an economic system based on capitalism, provided there are reasonable government restraints on the power of businesses, and government safety nets for the poor and under-privileged.   Despite the ugly stains on our history, we as Americans had been making great evolutionary strides in the areas of civil rights, inclusion, justice, and toning down our aggressive foreign policy.    However, I am seeing many signs of that progress eroding.    America is a nation comprised of millions of people and dynamics, and to expect it to live up to the idealized notions of truth, justice, and the American way would be unrealistic.    Yet, the fact that the ideal is unattainable does not give us license to abandon the principles of our Constitution to the extent that we have.    Today, I have written about the dark side of our nation to motivate those of us who are willing to look at the uglier aspects of our nature to continue to work toward a more spiritually evolved and enlightened place.