I am an American or Shrouding things with Words

Why I am even writing rather than trying to sleep is beyond me.  Especially since the alternative is to sit and try to tell you with words how tired I am of words.  I am tired of words, I am tired, I am not up to the tasks before me. 

I don't trust words anymore.  I guess that is what you get for changing cultures and beliefs the way that I have in the last ten years.  Maybe this is what you get with bipolar.  Maybe this is what happens when a person who is only trying to be honest with herself takes as much of a look at reality as she can bear.  I don't know why, but I am sick of words and ill at ease with all of them.  Words enslave us, and make us incapable of love.  Here are some words I am particularly sick about: unholy, American, Christian, doctor, good, bad, fair, Jesus, God.  They do not mean what they used to mean to me. 

I wish you could see it with my eyes.  I wish you could unwrap from your mind the assumptions you have about the rightness of your cause, your country, your religion, your views.  Please don't unwrap it as far as I have unwrapped mine, because frankly I have gone too far for comfort, although not so far that I think my views are invalid.  But it would be hard to say what my views are, actually, my brain seems to have made a decision without consulting me to shut down words for a while.  This makes it quite difficult to think things through, but it is actually a relief.  Here I agree with my brain.

I mean, you guys, in Washington I was the biggest cheerleader of liberal capitalism ever, and I thought I was super internationally minded, with my Foreign Sovereign Immunitiy Act and my nerdy habit of joyfully reading the Economist cover to cover on Friday nights.  I thought with the Embassy parties and the Beaujolais Nouveau parties that I really was a citizen of the Earth.  And I was so completely wrong.  In the last ten years, I have discovered a powerful strain of American exceptionalism within me, one that only after ten years am I fully understanding.  It makes me ill at ease with my country.  I remember some British person saying to me around '07 that there wasn't much of a difference between Obama and McCain.  I was completely shocked at their ignorance of American politics.  There were life-changing differences between them, of course!.  In retrospect, I see these differences as really small.  Goldman Sachs and military contractors really had nothing to fear from either one.  For on the biggest systemic issues of war, corporate favoritism and the monetizing of democracy, the candidates were pretty much aligned.   As was our government and our courts.  And that alignment continues even more closely between Romney and Gingrich yet all of America is entranced by their differences.  I see that as pure misdirection.  I don't think anyone is orchestrating the misdirection, I just think we have not been policing our democracy while we have been busy getting and spending and now this has happened: 

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum - even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.” —Noam Chomsky

The presuppositions of our system are that elections are decided by money, wars must go on, and environmental concerns are not pressing.  Those are three that I think most people in the United States actually disagree with, but no one is talking about those issues in the GOP primary.  The Republicans are shaking their heads over the Dukakkis situation they have going on, with no great candidate and much disorder among the ranks.  The Democrats are getting worried and sending money to Obama.  And those are your two choices.  You get two.  That, in itself, is pretty bipolar.  Everyone in the US is damned to this binary thinking, and the left who would be Greens or a third party are told to stifle themselves and fall in line with the Democrats otherwise Ann Coulter will be president.  It's an incredibly effective threat.    Meanwhile, from the distance where I am, the United States is like China, running Guatanamo Bay and Homeland Security and the militarization of airports.  You get hassled by soldiers when you come to my country.  It makes people quite nervous.  The United States put Bernard Manning in prison and really, the deprivation of Manning's civil rights gets as much press as Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's.  But somehow the good people of the United States don't see it.    

Anyway, as of Tuesday I will have been resident in the United Kingdom for ten years.  I have noticed that old people are happier and are comforted by national health care, which doesn't seem to work worse than private insurance and in many cases, works a whole lot better.  I have noticed that people having more time to spend with their families because of the relatively greater job security they enjoy, and that seems a good thing.  They may write the best plays.  But oh, their laws are form over substance, as are their manners, and oh, the whole country looks back, worships the past and fosters their regional differences.  And where I am, it is around 1958 and men (not, I hasten to say, my husband) are quite used to telling women what to do and that whole scene does not work for me.   The whole scene revolves around words about the past, but I am trying to get a feeling for the future.  And for that, I need and miss my United States.  I need the hope.  The hope sort of gives you courage to look into yourself and question the big things that need to be questioned.  I miss the honesty and forthrightness of Americans.  They don't waste time shrouding things in words.  They do here,  they shroud every meaning that they can, and read obituaries closely and they love to eulogize so much more than they love to act, to plan, to envision a future.

What I love and miss is something that cannot be put into words.  It is a feeling.  Being American and interacting with Americans feels good:  there is a confidence and a hope and there is a presupposition that we can change the world.  I love it.  I love being around Americans. It's easier than interacting with British people with the fewer shrouds and the pay-off is higher (because of the honesty and forthrightness).  Also Americans accept that they have an interior life of feelings.  When I moved here in '87 I found it such a relief to talk about ideas with my new British friends and have a break from the relentless Midwestern Christian School coffee shop discussions about how things made us feel.  Really.  But actually, there comes a time and place to talk about feelings, and the skills we developed in those coffee houses actually made us, on the whole, happier than many British people who lack these skills.  Talking to someone who is putting their feelings into words is cleaner and more refreshing than talking to someone who doesn't understand or is ignoring their feelings.  And I think the manners thing actually cuts in favor of the Americans too.  Not all the time, but I find that some British people use manners as a sword, to judge someone who does not match theirs. The manners thing is sometimes genuine courtesy that is appreciated but it is also sometimes a pretension that serves only to distance people, a sort of misdirection.

In the past couple years, I have made some really solid British friends who I really love, and nothing is meant to detract from them.  I even have a couple who agree with me that they are sick of words. 


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