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A View of America From Across the Ocean

Siv O'Neall, Lyon, France

A Crisis Papers Guest Essay

June 1, 2004

Having lived for extended periods of my life both in the United States and in different countries in Europe, I feel as if I belong somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean -- so maybe I can look at both sides with something that can possibly be called objectivity, or at least a view from the outside.

I love the United States, I love the variety of people, of climates and scenery and of ways of life. I love the openness and immediate friendliness of Americans. I have lived in France longer than in any other country, I still feel somewhat like a foreigner when it comes to their amazingly rich culture, but also their stubbornness in always sticking to their own way of looking at history and the world.

But there was never any real indication as far as I could tell of anti-Americanism in France. The French life style and the American life style are so different that there has to be some kind of a culture shock when the two meet. On the other hand, there is a healthy amount of curiosity about things American in Europe in general, an interest in America, its people and its institutions of learning.

Europeans actually have no problems with the American people, just amazement at the level of acceptance George W. Bush is receiving still today, from the people in the U.S. We keep asking ourselves why they seem so utterly blind and deaf to what's really going on, to what has been spawned and hatched by the PNAC (Project for The New American Century, founded in 1997) people. We are aghast at the ineptitude of George W. and his refusal to change the course of the hard-right policies he's the tool for. Europeans are becoming more and more aware of the fact that it is not Bush himself who is directing policies, but the monstrous megalomaniacs, some of them behind the stage and some out in the open. Bush is seen correctly as the guy with the friendly smile but without the slightest bit of intellectual curiosity, the guy who fooled the voters in 2000 by being so unassuming, so much like them.

As far as Europeans are concerned, I doubt if very many on this side of the Atlantic still see exactly to what extent the Bush regime is dangerous for the whole world, how the military-industrial complex, especially the big corporations getting increasingly on top of the running of world affairs, have been gathering steam for a very long time. These ordinary Europeans may see the colossal dangers to the environment, the outrageous waste of energy that's taking place in the U.S., even more than in the rest of the industrialized world, and the present-day crisis brought about by air and water pollution and toxic waste. But they are probably not quite aware of the extent to which the Bush administration has contributed to the worsening of the situation. Europe was highly irritated and even appalled by the new American system of reneging on one international treaty after the other, but this was not enough to make most of them see to what alarming extent this administration was unconcerned by criticism from abroad.

However, the extent to which the people in power in the U.S. have let outrageous things happen, have even willingly gone along with or taken part in the swindle and cover-up; the pattern of lies, distortions and secrecy that form the base of the neo-con scheme of taking over the running of the world -- all of this is now finally becoming increasingly clear to the world. The people who at first did not understand the outcry of the progressive 50% in the United States -- several told me at the time: 'Ok, so you have a president who is not very bright, but what harm can he do?' -- are now finally changing their attitudes. The goal of the U.S. achieving total domination of the Central Asia oil region and the military omnipresence planned from the very beginning by the PNAC people are finally coming to light all over the world. People may have seen the ineptitude of this regime at an early stage, but not the carefully planned disruption of geo-political balance that was a major part of their scheme to rule the planet.

However, the President installed by the Supreme Court didn't curry much favor from the American people in the early days of his Presidency. After what the Neoconservatives hailed as the disgrace of the Democratic party (the guillotine effect of the blue dress scandal!), they considered the ground as well prepared for a fascist take-over. Things did not work out quite their way to begin with.


America - the invincible country of the brave and the land of the free! Many Americans were now suddenly getting drunk on the desire for revenge and they closed up around the President who was going to protect them from evil terrorism. The propaganda machine worked just fine this time around. Americans were hypnotized and terrified and mentally immobilized.

Without getting into any conspiracy theories, it is quite certain that this catastrophe was the necessary event to make a more fascist-like takeover possible. Shock and fear were breathed into the minds of Americans and they have been kept alive by various ingenious methods ever since that day of horror.

And also, to help cement the support of the American people, religion took a front seat. Ok, George W. had all the way claimed to be a born-again Christian, ever since he had had the so-called revelation, when he turned 40, of the evil life he had been living until then as a drug-user, a drunk and a frat-boy womanizer. This image of a flamboyantly pious president was of course just made to camouflage his past, but obviously a lot of people were taken in by this conversion to God, the man's turning away from all the sins of his youth. In fact, it made him even more human. The guy with the folksy attitude and the ever-ready smile even shared their weaknesses.


It must be made clear that we are not talking about ordinary religion. What we are talking about is bigoted fundamentalism, self-serving piety that serves the purposes of usurers and religious hypocrites with highly materialistic aims in clear view.

How could the faith and the wisdom of the Founding Fathers turn into such utter depravity? How could people be made not to see the self-interest behind the veil of piety? The money grabbing of the high priests whom George W. lines up with, the tele-evangelists, is after all well known. Yes, but in the United States of America, it's a virtue to own money. We have not put behind us the mentality of the Puritans who first settled in New England. We subscribe to their commandments even today in the highly superficial and unthinkingly materialistic era we are now living in. It's now very much the fašade that matters. The oh so moralistic right-to-life advocates totally forget about morals when money is concerned.

When you look at the basic differences between Europe and America, the value of money is an essential fact to grasp. In America you are honored because of the money you possess. It is a virtue to be wealthy. Oh, we are still subscribing to the Puritan belief that God is with those who succeed in life. It's so convenient after all, to believe that money is God's grace. Wealth by the grace of God. Power by the grace of God. You can't help wondering: where did we go wrong? In Europe where countries are steadily getting more and more secularized, the fundamentalist drive is seen as the essence of a Christianist Ayatollah. Whenever Europeans hear of Bush claiming that God told him to go to war in Iraq, that God is his ultimate advisor, they cringe. It is just the final proof that Bush is a crackpot, that he should be placed in a well-padded place with his puppet masters next-door.


During my very recent visit to the U.S., I was struck immediately and consistently by the way nothing has changed since before September 11. I was there right after the event too and there was certainly a desire for revenge then, but there were also signs of plain upset, sorrow and bewilderment. Now, it seemed as if America had gone back to the ignorance and couldn't-be-bothered attitude which is often believed to be typical of the average American. There are still more flags hanging out of windows and American-flag bumper stickers. But people seem to once again have ceased to question what was actually behind the catastrophe. September 11 and Saddam Hussein seemed to fit so well together -- after all the propaganda Americans had been subjected to -- that the tougher questions were left unanswered, too willingly. Bush's advice to go out and buy after September 11 seems to keep working.

Why don't Americans realize that they are so obviously being manipulated? Well, first of all, they don't have much of a chance to find out! The mainstream media don't let them see on a daily basis even the least sign of the criminal acts that are taking place consistently behind their backs. European television and general news coverage are much more open in showing the truth behind the screen of propaganda, even concerning the state of things in the U.S. administration, but Americans themselves are kept in ignorance. Let's not fall into the trap of Europeans who say: oh Americans are so na´ve! No, I don't think they are any more na´ve than people would have been elsewhere in the world given the precious little true information they are given from the news media. But it seems to be a fact that they had at one point settled in as deaf and blind flag wavers, not seeming to care to find out about the truth behind the neo-con insidious slogans, the secret scheming behind the stage.

Why can't we stand up on our own, stand up and oppose the government, stand up and get out on the streets and protest? I know that masses of people do now and did during the Vietnam war. They did especially on February 15, 2003 - before the beginning of the war in Iraq, when hundreds and hundreds of thousands of Americans joined millions in the rest of the world in their opposition to the war. But why didn't the people in Congress stand up and object to the abuses and excesses of the government until the time when the walls came tumbling down? Why did we let the government be a sealed-off entity until after hell broke loose with the news from Abu Ghraib?

We need to sober up, to see that the world can go on without our hypocritically moralistic interference in the running of other governments all over the world. Stop the brainwashing, slow down on buying and conforming at all cost, take a break and try to look at the rest of the world. Europe is becoming more and more a mirror image of America for sure, but I do believe I see more restraint here anyway than in the run-away attitudes of American consumers who need to be entertained to the point where the war footage on television actually becomes part of the entertainment. We shudder, but do we also get our kicks out of the horror?

Maybe the ghastly revelations made during the last couple of weeks of inhuman treatment of prisoners all over by the U.S. military and mercenaries will give proof to Americans and to the rest of the world of what we are heading for today. How close we are to the brink of total corruption, how close we've been to the edge of sanity. The hair-raising ineptitude of the people conducting this war in Iraq is just one side of the coin. The extreme callousness for human suffering and disregard of moral and legal concerns is the other side.

Europe must not, however, lose faith in America, in the democratic forces that are very much alive among the American people. The only way we can possibly get democracy back in the world is by working together on the one goal that is, in the final analysis, the one of the overall importance - getting democracy back by crushing the behemoth of the global corporate power. It is the self-interest of the military-industrial complex with its corrupt ruling minority and their facile weapon of double-speak to mislead public opinion that has led us into today's chaos. Information and waking up the sensibilities of our people are the first steps towards liberating us from the totally destructive power which has invaded minds and territories.

If it had to come to this looking into the abyss in order to rid the world of the mortal cancer that has been eating away at our democracy, then maybe it has been worth everything we have had to go through. The nefarious cabal had been looming in the background for years and they would never have given up unless they were completely destroyed. After all the Bush scandals and lies and the collapsing situation in Iraq, the walls seem to be finally crumbling on this monstrous neo-con edifice. Our national and international nightmare may finally come to en end.

Siv O'Neall was born and grew up in Sweden, graduated from Lund University. She is living in Lyon, France with her family after having lived extensively in Paris, France and in New Rochelle, N.Y. She is now retired but she has worked for many years as a French teacher in Westchester, N.Y. and as an English teacher in the Grandes Ecoles (Institutes of Technology) in France.

Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances