Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Numbers Don’t Lie

By Wendy Brinker

Many boast that America is the best country in the world. Indeed there are a few superlative qualities unique to America that go unchallenged. One area where we absolutely reign supreme is in our insatiable consumer practices. Americans only constitute four percent of the world population, but manage to annually gobble up one fourth of the world’s resources. That’s pretty impressive, considering there’s no ecosystem in existence that can mathematically sustain that type of predation for very long. We are superbly practiced in the art of compartmentalization, so the impact of our voracious appetites on the planet never really enters the equation.

Because we are so superior in theory and practice to the average world citizen, it’s difficult for us to extend equal human value past the Canadian border and ever since that “Freedom Fries” thing it’s even more difficult. So what if we’re considered terrorists by the international community? The world is our oyster and we’ve got all the Texas hot sauce you can handle. We're some gun toting, democracy loving, bible pounding marauders and if you’re not with us, you’re an evildoer so who needs you anyhow?

But this is no recent development in American attitudes. The notion of our special brand of U.S. grade-A white dominion stepped onto the shores with our ancestors and has remained a basic staple in our philosophical diet ever since. They brought with them a Western European notion created at the dawn of the sciences of archaeology and anthropology that asserts Caucasians possess a brain capacity superior to all others. Our indoctrination into the world using this model that puts us at the top of the human food chain has forever tainted our country's history, our self-perception and our relationship to the world. It is the subconscious brick on the gas pedal for white America when we characterize a people or country as barbaric or primitive or to whom we assign and extend “civility.”

This is how we lovingly forgive ourselves and even romanticize the genocide of the native people who lived on this continent thousands of years before we arrived. They were simple, hostile savages and besides, it was destiny – divine providence. God wanted us to live here. This is also the very quality that allowed us to kidnap and hold Africans in captivity for centuries for the express purpose of providing free labor. We just couldn’t find it in ourselves to assign any intellectual prowess or spiritual worth upon those who are so obviously inferior. And this is precisely how we live with the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. Why start extending any benefit of humanity to people who are so obviously different from us now?

The news media refuses to show us the reality of carnage in Iraq, so unless you’re some kind of tree-hugging, bourgeois liberal, you probably don’t seek out this sort of morbid imagery. But our modern theatres and sporting arenas, the places you learn community/family-sanctioned hatred for people wearing another color or sporting another logo, provide a perfect measure. The toll of American deaths has recently exceeded 3,500. This grim assembly would fill up the four orchestra floor sections and the first and second balcony at the Township Auditorium with 300 waiting on Taylor Street to get in. The number of troops bloodied and wounded in Iraq (25,830 as of June 6, 2007) would constitute a capacity crowd of 18,000 at the Colonial Center and the overflow would nearly fill the Carolina Coliseum with its capacity to accommodate 12,000.

A Johns Hopkins University study released last October put the number of violent Iraqi civilian deaths since the invasion in 2003 at 600,000. The Bush administration puts the toll at 30,000. That’s quite a discrepancy. Since the White House refuses to account for innocent Iraqi lives lost, it is nearly impossible to know for sure. Let’s consider a figure of 200,000. This would fill Williams Brice Stadium (capacity of 80,000) two and a half times over. Many of the excess deaths are a result of aerial bombardments, with women and children being frequent victims. In fact, you would have to reserve in excess of 30,000 seats if you wanted to make a special kid’s section for all the Iraqi children who’ve died for democracy.

Our elected officials lied to us about their motivations for invading Iraq. Our innocent American children are forced to march on through hostile bloody sands bearing the gift of our superior way of life. So what if we have to kill them to teach them a better way to live? They’ll thank us for it in the end.

Besides, good Americans probably shouldn’t think about it too much.

Wendy Brinker is an artist and filmmaker in Columbia, S.C.