September 11, 2001 was horrific for all yanks living at home or abroad. However, living abroad did have its advantages. For the first time in our history, the “big apple” of U.S. culture and commerce became a military target. Borders shielded us as expatriates. How strange to feel safer away from our once safest home.
For the past 20 years I have lived in a nation without enemies among other nations. Almost guiltily, I am grateful that my adopted home is a benign and “neutral” republic. This past month was a paradox for me. September 9th was the beginning of Mexico’s celebration of Independence week. The week all Americans will never forget. A time when our nation was most violated
The celebration of Independence is a time that allows Mexicano’s to display their flag. In the U.S., we are accustomed to blatant flag waving. Hell, you can paste the stars and stripes on your rear if you so desire. The display of Mexico’s flag is restricted to the state, with the exception of September-independence month, and patriotic holidays. In September everyone can wave the flag and does. There was flag waving on both sides of the border this past month. One in patriotic glee, the other in sorrow and wounded pride.
At the risk of sounding unpatriotic: Since moving here in 1984, I have felt freer, more secure and comfortable in Mexico. Sharing a common sensation with other Americans living in Ensenada. Upon crossing the border, back into Mexico, our shoulders seem to involuntarily relax. Since the events of last month, we are even less desirous of venturing north.
Another expatriate advantage is to hear citizens of another country express observations about terrorism against the United States that are not tainted by patriotic jingoism. I know we can learn by listening to our southern neighbors. They know us better than we know them.
News reports about the United States and opinion maker observations have always constituted a large percentage of Mexicano news coverage. It has only been of late that U.S. media has paid any attention to Mexico. If we put the “home grown” americamedia pundit noise on hold, perhaps we will hear clearer and more objective voices from our neighbors.
Voices that are not self absorbed in obsessivecompulsive introspection. Voices that can help us re focus our attention away from trivia and mean spirited scandal. A view of the world, and us in it, that is not limited by short range national interests or pride.
The civilized world stood incredulous while the U. S. became dysfunctional because “bubba” did the nasty in the white house. U.S. popular news media have let us down. They no longer play the all important role as the fourth column of our governing process: Distracted by an entertainment news orientation that does not provide insight into issues that really affect us as a nation state.
We have not demanded dialogue or the clarification of major issues from our media. We have become enveloped in a mindless web of tabloid journalism and have accustomed ourselves to treating it as real news. Like a computer virus, news/entertainment has infected all the major channels of information.
Each month I travel to San Diego to attend the San Diego press club meetings. Without fail the topic of reporter dissatisfaction is repeated. That deadlines have grown inscreasingly shorter. They lament that once they could spend months researching a story. Now, days on one story is a rare luxury.
Typically a few hours, including the writing time, is all that can be devoted in this fast paced world of “new jack” journalism. “Breaking stories” are the focus. Without a helicopter you can “forget about it”. As a result, if other than crimes and catastrophes, you can also “forgetaboutit”
One virtue we must learn in this “less free”, more security bound society, is to be patient. Mexicanos view us as very impatient. They are curious as to how we will react to long lines at security checkpoints.
Patience is a Mexican virtue. Mexicanos are accustomed to standing in line, for a variety of services at federal, state and municipal agencies. Telephone, electricity and water bills must be paid in person amid long lines. Mexican banks are the worst. Mexicanos convert line waits into opportunities to practice the national pastime conversation. Mexicanos, unlike gringos, have not lost the art of conversation and will talk to anybody and everybody, at any time, about any subject .
How Americans look at the world has changed and will continue to change as we adjust to living in a terrorist war zone. Perhaps, as we queue up to be searched, a revival of talking to one another, like 1950’s small town America, will re-emerge. A new nation, committed to celebrating with one another, our Americanism.
Mexicanos find curious that Americanos isolate themselves, intent on speaking English in whatever country we are visiting or living in. That retired Americans in Mexico live in Gringo ghettos: The Baja Pacific coastline, subdivisions in San Felipe, Lake Chapala in Guadalajara, San Miguel de Allende in Guanajuato and Cuernavaca in Morelos. Retirees in Mexico exemplify our disinterest in what the rest of the world thinks, believes and values.
We have become miopic and self indulgent. Isolating our psyches into believing America is the center of the universe. We have been awakened to a new reality. A reality that was there all the time but which we chose to ignore. Smug in our sense of invincibility. Forgotten too quickly, and overshadowed by sex scandals, were the bombings of U.S. embassies, starting in 1983, the first World Trade Center bombing and the aircraft carrier Kohl.
Mexicanos view us as “metiches”. Constantly getting involved in other nation’s problems and taking sides. They view us as naive. Believing we could always keep those fights on somebody else’s turf. How could we have been so “blind sided and sucker punched”? How could we delude ourselves into the belief that international terrorists, obviously mad as hell, would not have the “cojones” to invade our hood?
Please lord, help us develop a new paradigm. In which we really practice what we preach in international relations. That we become a nation with a foreign policy that is consistent. A policy based on ethics and morality; that does not change with the expediency of the moment and or (forgive the pun) for the “almighty buck”. A policy that is written and subjected to the scrutiny, responsibility and accord of our citizens.
We have heard from politicians and news people that America is building a comprehensive terrorist defense strategy based on: diplomacy, economics and military might. What about the word of god. Let us not leave his word at the memorial service altar of last September the thirteenth.
That we do not seek vengeance, for it is the singular provence of our lord. Rather we initiate change, in his name. Convincing, cajoling and yes economicly and diplomaticly “squeezing”, the world’s nations to seek resolution to their grievances by his principals and not the avaricousness of man.
Should we be engaged in revenge or atonement? Who cast the first stone?
Why have we contained our spiritualism to churchy surroundings? What do we really stand for? If we define that we are ethically committed to righteousness-we shall, great god almighty, OVERCOME!
Let us call upon the spiritual leaders of all faiths to herald a new ecumenical conference based on building processes for achieving lasting peace and love between all men. In short, let us save ourselves and the planet from nationalism, racism and terrorism.