Is it just me who cringes at the word “homeland?” And is it just me who hears the sound of jackboots trampling the lives of dissenters in its echo?
The term “homeland” has been bandied about since September 11’s attack on American soil for understandable reasons. But why “homeland” and not “country” or “nation” or simply “America?”
I’ll tell you why: because implicit in the term “homeland” are the imperialist aspirations of those who’ve made the unthinking repetition of the word popular.
Make no mistake; America has been an Imperialist Nation from its inception. Even if you don’t count the self-righteous Manifest Destiny-driven march from coast to coast in North America, surely the acquisitions of Hawaii, the Samoan Islands, Alaska, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands prove the imperialist nature of the U.S.
Only imperialist nations have colonies, and call them what you like, protectorates, District of Columbia or what have you, America lays claim to a whole lot of places that have taxation without representation.
The fact is you can’t have a homeland unless you are in control of other lands that aren’t your home. Otherwise, you just have a country. For years American politicians have steered clear of placing the word “imperialist” in the same sentence with “America” for fear of sounding like what we actually are.
And when you think of it, isn’t that one of the main differences between certain previous administrations and the current one? In the past, our politicians loved to talk about being “inclusive” all the while being every bit as discriminatory as this country has always been. Or being “tolerant” when they were only tolerant of the maintenance of the status quo. Or believing in equality, except of course for your darker peoples, women, gays, or people who spoke funny languages.
Where our current neocons (I like the less polite term “arrogant assholes” but that frankly doesn’t distinguish them sufficiently for use as a descriptive phrase) have no problem saying: ”No, I don’t think you’re equal” (particularly if you are not a hypocritical Bible-thumping, homophobic white male); and “Yes, we are imperialist empire-builders and we like it that way.”
Some may find that kind of directness comforting. I for one do not.
Imagine the hubris of a country that has simultaneously made war on a sovereign nation in the name of spreading democracy, when it doesn’t grant democracy to millions of its own subjects. And I say “subjects” and not “citizens” for a host of reasons. The principal one being that subjects can’t vote – citizens can.
The neocons have shown a propensity for depriving those with questionable demographics or philosophies (read: anybody who does not or may not, based on their race or geographic location, believe as they do) of the right to vote. Currently blinded by feelings of moral superiority and religious zeal, I expect that more folks will find that particular right one, like so many, that they used to have and never cherished.
Another difference between past administrations and the current one is that as duplicitous and hypocritical as many in government were, there were at least some who viewed the fundamental tenets of democracy: freedom, equality and opportunity, as worthwhile if lofty aspirations.
Instead we are retreating into the reality of the worst interpretations of our nation’s character. One person - one vote has never been a reality, and now our U.S. Supreme Court has announced that there is no federal right – that is, no Constitutional right – to vote in a presidential election. That’s left in the hands of the Electoral College. And they are not required to adhere to the popular vote -- obviously.
There is no right to be free from unwarranted searches, or indefinite detentions or even access to legal counsel – if your actions are deemed by the government to be antithetic to its interests – whatever that means.
There is no right to free speech if the government is offended by your speech.
There is no separation of church and state as long as that church is the fundamentalist, evangelical Christian church.
So at its heart, do we have a democracy? Do the principles we are so eager to spread around the world like lilies from a wicker basket have life in our own country?
Or do our attempts to extend the reach of our existing global dominance mean instead that if it looks like imperialism … it may as well act like imperialism?
Are we inflicting our will on other sovereign nations (because although Iraq and Afghanistan and may be the most recent they are neither the first nor will they be the last) for the worst of all possible reasons: because we can?
I think before we keep trying to export our cherished democracy we should first learn how to practice it. In the homeland.