Are Americans Brainwashed?


What does it mean to be brainwashed?  When I was growing up in the days of the Cold War and the specter of nuclear disaster, the term brainwashed was associated with Communism.  We all knew that anyone who believed in Communism had been “brainwashed” by Stalin and his minions.  Brainwashed people could not think for themselves.  To be brainwashed, meant to be a mindless zombie.  People who are brainwashed have undying fealty to an impossible dream. Communists want a system where everyone shares equally in the production of society.  Communists will fight and die for this dream.

“Communism, my friend, is more than Marxism, just as Catholicism is more than the Roman Curia. There is a mystique as well as a politick. Catholics and Communists have committed great crimes, but at least they have not stood aside, like an established society, and been indifferent. I would rather have blood on my hands than water like Pilate.” – Graham Greene

brainwashingAs Americans, we pride ourselves on being the exact opposite of Communists.  In America, we have a democracy.  To live in a democracy, means that you are “free” to think for yourself.  No one living in a democracy can possibly be brainwashed.  In America, “the land of the free and the home of the brave” you will only find people who believe in the truth.  The truth is that democracy is the holy grail of political systems.  It supports everything that is good about life.  In a democracy, all men and women are created equal.  In a democracy, everyone can succeed if they only have the right desire.  Americans will fight and die for this dream.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  –  The Declaration of Independence 

It never occurred to me that Americans could be brainwashed until I started teaching MBA students both at St. Thomas College and Metro State University in Minnesota.  Enrollment in MBA programs soared during the nineties as more and more students gravitated to business occupations and away from such occupations as teaching and social work.  Many of my students had obtained non-business undergraduate degrees and become tired of the lack of money associated with such career fields.  With an MBA degree, you could easily make three or four times per year what you could with a Masters degree in Education.

I really enjoyed teaching in the business field because my students were smart, motivated and challenging.  Most of them had been working for several years and brought considerable life experience to their classes.  Very few of my students had simply finished an undergraduate program right out of high school and then gone on to get an MBA degree.

Since I had spent many years as a management consultant, I brought industry experience to my classes.  I had learned along the way that critical thinking and the ability to question the status quo were essential to continuous improvement and systems change.  I tried to incorporate these insights into my curriculum and classroom instruction.  I soon found that this task was easier said then done.

An eye opener for me was when I tried to use the documentary film called: “The Corporation (2003)” in some of my business ethics classes.  The Corporation is a Canadian documentary film critical of the modern-day corporation.  It was directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott and written by Joel Bakan.  The film has numerous examples of corporate behavior that walk a fine line between criminal and immoral behavior.  The film shows that many of the behaviors of modern corporations are immoral although not illegal.  However, there are numerous examples in the paper every day wherein executives and corporate leaders have crossed the line.

“Again and again we have the problem that whether you obey the law or not is a matter of whether it’s cost effective. If the chance of getting caught and the penalties are less than it costs to comply, people think of it as just a business decision.” – Robert Monks.

Much to my surprise, many of my students did not see anything wrong with such immoral behavior.  Their standards were set on what was expedient and legal rather than what was moral and ethical.  Repeatedly, I found that modern business students believe in an amoral system of ethics rather than a moral system.  In an amoral system, right and wrong is defined by what works and what does not work.  If you are within the law, you may conduct your business with little concern for the residual effects on either society or citizens.  The first law of business trumps all other concerns.  That law is to make a profit.

No amount of persuasion or argument could sway my students from their steadfast believe in the value of capitalism and its sanctity as an economic system.  Students were not persuaded by the iniquities in the system, by the inherent racism in the system, by the inherent sexism in the system or by the unequal distribution of wealth in a system that has become increasingly dysfunctional.

What we should admit to begin with, if we can, is that good socialism is better than bad capitalism. The logic of the statement is really inescapable. It is only when capitalism fails that people and nations resort to alternative forms of political economy.”  – Jude Wanniski

How can anyone as bright and experienced as these MBA students not see the obvious flaws in America’s belief system?  An excellent book (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) by Thomas Kuhn talks about the nature of scientific and paradigmatic change.  Kuhn found that even scientists could not see the truth behind a new theory because their old paradigms blinded them to the new reality.

In the same way, it has been gospel for many years now that America is an “exceptional” nation.  Americans are smarter, tougher, harder workers, more courageous, more creative and more ambitious then workers from any other country in the world.  Since it is believed that America is built on Capitalism and Democracy, these two ideologies have become sacred tenets of American life.  To cast doubt or aspersions on the value and efficacy of these systems is to suggest that America and hence Americans are not exceptional.  Trying to talk students into seeing the flaws in either of these systems is about as effective as asking them to describe a Martian.  If you have no foundation for seeing a new reality, you can only describe familiar objects in your current reality.


Business students today are not critical thinkers nor or they creative thinkers when it comes to politics or economics.  Most of them have been brainwashed.  When I use this term, I mean it to signify someone who cannot think out of a box of concepts that has become their dominant world view.  Just as I suppose a die hard Communist would find compelling reasons to defend communism, die hard Americans can always find compelling reasons to defend America.  A brainwashed person cannot see another reality or even begin to envision what might be wrong with their weltanschauung.

“This is what economics now does. It tells the young and susceptible (and also the old and vulnerable) that economic life has no content of power and politics because the firm is safely subordinate to the market and the state and for this reason it is safely at the command of the consumer and citizen. Such an economics is not neutral. It is the influential and invaluable ally of those whose exercise of power depends on an acquiescent public.”  John K. Galbraith, (Power and the Useful Economist, 1973)

american flag of exceptionalisn

So, what am I getting at?  What is my point?  To find it, we need to return to the thesis of this article:  Are Americans brainwashed?  If we define what it means to be brainwashed as: “One who persists in the belief of something despite apparent evidence and facts to the contrary,” then I would suggest that the evidence points beyond a doubt to the fact that Americans are some of the most brainwashed people on the face of the earth.  It has little to do with experience in business, innate intelligence or amount of degrees accumulated.

malcomxron paul

A red herring in our acceptance of my conclusion is the common belief that brainwashing is forced.  Too often, we have the picture of an individual strapped to a chair being made to listen to propaganda or watch propaganda films.  The fact of the matter is that brainwashing can be covert and subdued.  I suggest another picture for brainwashing that is just as effective as “forced” brainwashing.  Picture the average American watching four or five hours or television every day.

Television Statistics.  According to the A.C. Nielsen Co., the average American watches more than 4 hours of TV each day (or 28 hours/week, or 2 months of nonstop TV-watching per year). In a 65-year life, that person will have spent 9 years glued to the tube.

During the average day, an American will have seen or heard between 300-700 marketing messages per day, including messages from the Internet and video gaming. – (Source: Phil Barden, “Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy”, 2013).  Much of the research on the role that advertising plays in consumer purchases suggests that it is mostly informative rather than persuasive.  In other words, it appears that consumers use the information to choose between products but are not necessarily persuaded by the advertising to buy any particular product.


As a business instructor and former retail store manager, I am skeptical of the consumer research.  My firsthand experience in regard to the power of these marketing messages does not agree with the research findings.  Students and customers will repeatedly deny that advertising messages play any overt role in their purchasing decisions.  However, any observation of the buying habits of Americans will easily demonstrate a disconnect between what people spend their money on and rational economic sense.

Furthermore, when we look for the messages that “brainwash” many Americans we must look beyond Madison Avenue.  We have a cornucopia of messages bombarding Americans every day that serve to instill mythical beliefs in American exceptionalism, American patriotism, American heroism and American capitalism.  Let us look briefly at some of the beliefs that I noted earlier.

Americans are the hardest working people in the world:

The U.S. ranks 17 out of 38 countries in terms of average hours worked each year, according to the OECD, while Mexico, where labor laws cap the work week at 48 hours, ranks no. 1.  Workers in Costa Rica and South Korea work the second and third longest hours, respectively – Sept 2, 2016

Americans are the most creative and innovative people in the world:

In this area Americans do rank exceptionally high.  The Martin Prosperity Institute ranks 82 countries on a scale for creativity based on technology, talent and tolerance for new ideas.   Overall, America ranks second behind Sweden.  Note however that we are not number one in any category.

  1. Theodore-Roosevelt-PatriotismUNITED STATES

Technology Rank: 3

Talent Rank: 8

Tolerance Rank: 8

Global Creativity Index: 0.902

Americans are the toughest people in the world:

This is a very ambiguous category and an allegation that is difficult to attack or defend.  How do we define tough?  Is our military the most powerful in the world?  The answer would be yes.  Are our athletes the best in the world?  An all-time medal table for all Olympic Games from 1896 to 2016, including Summer Olympic GamesWinter Olympic Games, and a combined total of both shows that America has clearly dominated the Olympic games.  The top three countries in medal totals are:

America:  Total Medals:  2,804

Russia:  Total Medals – 1,204

Great Britain:  Total Medals – 875


But if we define tough as a measure of resilience to strife and turmoil, we find that Americans are not in first place.  The FM Global Resilience Index ranks and scores countries across nine factors, illuminating their supply chain resilience and resilience in general.  Across political risk, exposure to natural hazards, and infrastructure quality, the index quantifies a nation’s ability to withstand a disruption and bounce back, so products can get to where they need to go.

“The latest version of the ranking, which comes from a Rhode Island-based insurance company, has Switzerland in first place, followed by Norway, with Ireland, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the central United States, Canada, Australia, and Denmark counting out the top 10 places.” – Fast Company 


If Americans belief in the above ideas is false but we continue as a nation to keep repeating them ad nausea, does that mean we are brainwashed?  Or are we simply delusional?  I submit that the causality behind these beliefs is less important than the arrogance and hubris that they demonstrate to the rest of the world.  How can we expect to be respected and admired when we waltz around treating the rest of the world as though they are second class citizens?

“This unchallenged faith in American exceptionalism makes it harder for Americans to understand why others are less enthusiastic about U.S. dominance, often alarmed by U.S. policies, and frequently irritated by what they see as U.S. hypocrisy, whether the subject is possession of nuclear weapons, conformity with international law, or America’s tendency to condemn the conduct of others while ignoring its own failings. Ironically, U.S. foreign policy would probably be more effective if Americans were less convinced of their own unique virtues and less eager to proclaim them.” – Foreign Affairs: The Myth of American Exceptionalism, Stephen M. Walt, 2011

Time for Questions:

Do you think many Americans are brainwashed?  Why or why not?  Do you think there are many beliefs that we as Americans hold that are false?  If so, where do you think they come from?  What do we need to do to see the truth?  How do we overcome mythologies that are constantly reinforced by special interest groups?

Life is just beginning.

The conservative version of American exceptionalism has become a password of sorts for candidates who want to prove their credentials to a right-wing America.” – Russ Feingold


Autobiographies from the Dead – Joe Six-Pack the Republican/Tea Party Stalwart

Well, this is the last of my autobiography series.  I have channeled the voices of seven people so far and I have come to the end of my time for this work.  My last autobiography will speak for a large section of the American polis.   It has been claimed by both Donald Trump and Sarah Palin that he is the center of the Republican Party or as they would say in Germany, he represents the “politische mitte.” 

This week, he will tell you in his own words about his life, loves, dreams and political aspirations.  Of course, he is deceased now, so he is talking from the great beyond where perhaps he has gone to meet his maker.

Joe Six-Pack the Republican/Tea Party Stalwart

Hello-Joe-Sixpack-450x299My name is Joe Six-Pack.  I am looking down at my body now. I can’t understand why this has happened to me.  I am only forty years old.  One minute I was healthy, happy and full of life and now this – dead.  Who would have thought that the old bag would have carried a 10mm Glock in her purse?  I only wanted to scare her.  I did not really mean her any harm.  That’s the problem with this country, too many old bags driving when they should be in a nursing home.

Here is what happened to me.  I was driving down the street minding my own business, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw this 2011 Buick Regal coming down a driveway.  I sped up to get by her before she could pull out but she was just a little faster than I was and turned in front of me.  I had to break hard to avoid the old bag.  This pissed me off.  She then turned right and did not even seem to notice my car.  I decided I would scare her a little bit.  I got as close as I could on her bumper and followed her for a few blocks when she suddenly stopped.  For the second time, I almost hit her.  Now I was really mad.  I jumped out of my car and took my Buck folding knife out of my pocket.  I wanted to give the old bag a little fright.

woman with gunShe was sitting in the car as I walked toward it with my blade out.  I could not believe what occurred next.  She opened the car door, stepped out and stared right at me and my knife.  In her hand, she held a Glock automatic.  Before I could say anything, she had fired three shots at me and then three more.  The first three were enough since I was dead before the second three hit me.  I crashed to the ground as horns started blaring, brakes were screeching, people were screaming and sirens were going off everywhere.  It sounded like a New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square.  And there I lie, right in the middle of it, stone cold dead.

The NRA say that when “Guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”   Where did this old bat get her gun license?  I would never have believed that she had a concealed carry permit.  My biggest mistake was to not heed that old admonishment about “not taking a knife to a gun fight.”  Who would have thought, that I would be killed by a 70 something year old “senile” citizen.  Me, a card carrying member of the NRA shot down by an old grandmother simply for jumping out of my car.  What is this country coming to?

joe sixpackI remember just the other day, as I sat at the bar with a bunch of other Joe Six-packs and we were watching the big game.  This was right after we had watched the NASCAR 500.  We were talking about how this country was in decline.  That “black” president was ruining America.  It used to be a good place to live and now you cannot get a job, everything is being made in China and the minorities are running everything.  In addition, the country is being taken over by illegal immigrants and Islamic terrorists.  And that is not all that is wrong with this county!

Women can now get abortion on demand.  Gays are getting married and hugging and kissing in the streets.  Lesbians are holding hands as they walk through the malls.  Soccer moms are trying to destroy our national sport of football and the price of guns and ammunition is skyrocketing.

American FamilyMy parents were once strong union members and I think they may have even voted Democrat once or twice.  Today, my friends and I are Tea Party members and we support Donald Trump.  He is the only politician that can be trusted because he is not really a politician.  Donald knows how to make money the old fashioned way by buying and selling and not by robbing the citizens through excess taxes to pay exorbitant salaries.  The Democrats should all be arrested.  They are all a bunch of socialist, faggot intellectuals who only want to take money away from the rich and give it to the useless people who don’t want to work or who want to come to this country and get a free ride.

i-save-the-american-dreamIt is time to take back our country.  We need to get back to the values that made America great.  The Second Amendment is the backbone of this country.  Women belong in the kitchen; gays need to see a psychiatrist like Michelle Bachman’s husband and minorities need to go back to their own countries.  I bought a concealed carry permit because every true red blooded American needs to have a weapon to protect our country.  My only mistake was in not having the right weapon on me when I ran into “Grandma Moses.”

Well, no more NASCAR races.  No more football games.  No more golf games.  No more basketball games.  No more baseball games.  No more hockey games.  I grew up loving sports.  I will really miss them now.  What I shame that I could not play any.  Busted my knee playing football in high school and could not run after that.  They said that if I had not busted my knee, I might have made All-State and gone to college on a football scholarship.  I wanted to go into the Army after high school but with my bad knee they would not take me.

american dream 3When I was young, I dreamed of going places and seeing the world.  My parents did not travel at all except to visit relatives.  I thought I would go to many of the places that we talked about in my high school geography class.  I was not much of a book reader but I was always interested in new ideas and new ways of doing things.  I was a quick learner and could pick up mechanical things very easily.  I went to a work for a company where they taught me preventive maintenance and mechanical skills.   I always hoped that someday I would have my own company and be able to leave my kids some type of a business that they could take over.  My father had worked for the post office and made a decent living but did not have much to leave anyone except the shirt on his back.

I quit the manufacturing company after a few years and ended up getting a maintenance job at my old high school.  It was a union job and it paid good wages and had good benefits.  I married about a year later to a girl I met shooting pool at our local bar and grill.  She was someone I had known from high school but had never paid much attention to there. We had two kids, a boy and a girl.

I was a good father and a good husband.  Never hit my wife or kids like a lot of guys I knew.  I wanted the best for my kids and I made sure that they paid attention at school and listened to what the teachers said.  We took the kids to church every Sunday and enrolled them in bible school when they were old enough.  I took them camping and took my son hunting and fishing.  We liked to do things together as a family.  My children adored me and I adored them.

american dream harder to acheiveI never broke any laws.  I never cheated anyone or lied on my income tax reports.  I worked hard and believed in the value of hard work.  I liked what Thomas Jefferson said about “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”  I believed in God and I supported my church with tithes and donations.  I was always willing to help anyone in need.  My wife and I often helped with the maintenance and repair of homes for needy people in our community.  I believed that it was important to contribute to our country and society.  I believed in the value of education, God and the Constitution of the United States of America.  I believed that the USA was still the only place on earth that I would want to live.

Why did I jump out of the car?  What was I so angry about?  I can still feel the anger coursing through my dead veins.  Nothing seemed like it should be anymore.  What is happening to our country?  My dreams for the future seemed to be getting further and further away.  It was all I could do to pay my bills and afford a car and health insurance.  All my friends said the same thing “The American dream is evaporating.”  “America is in decline.”  The lazy, crooked and deviants are taking over our country.  Is this why I am so mad?

new american dreamThe old lady really set me off.  Just another person who thinks they can do what they want and walk all over you.  People don’t have respect for anyone anymore.  There is no civility in our country any more.  I have tried to teach my children to respect and honor other people.  I truly believe that we need a world where all people love and have compassion for other human beings.

I just wanted to scare her.  I wanted to teach her to look where she was going and to have some respect for other people.  I wonder what she thought when she shot me.

My wife and kids will miss me.  I will miss them.  I hope they will remember me for the good things I tried to do for them and others.

I most go now.  I don’t belong here anymore.  I believe that there is a heaven and I will go and find it.  I never hurt anyone so I know they will let me in.  I want to talk to God.  I want to ask him why?  Why is America no longer the place it used to be?  Why do people no longer have respect for others?

Time for Questions:

Do you think the USA is in decline?  What do you think made this country great in the first place?  Do you still think we follow the values of our Founding Fathers? Why or why not?  What do you think we need to change in the USA?  Do you think we still have the respect of other nations?  Why or why not?

Life is just beginning.

“Show me that age and country where the rights and liberties of the people were placed on the sole chance of their rulers being good men, without a consequent loss of liberty?”   ― Patrick Henry

“America will never be destroyed from the outside.  If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”  — Abraham Lincoln

Autobiographies from the Dead – Ed the Soldier

For the next several weeks, my blogs are going to consist of “autobiographies” written by some very special people.  They have one thing in common.  They are all dead.  Some have a burial place and some were simply discarded like pieces of trash.  Their stories will be told by the deceased themselves.  They cry out from the fields, rivers and graveyards to speak.  I have heard their cries.  They want me to tell their stories to you.  They want you to know what their living and dying was for.  This week, Ed will tell you the story of his life and death.

Ed the Soldier

My soldier squadI was brave and loyal.  I gave my all for the corp.  I was taught to respect and obey authority.  Right or wrong, it was my job to follow orders.  I never questioned my assignments.  I never questioned my Sargent or my Captain.  As was said in the famous poem, “mine was to do or die and not to question why.”   I am looking now at my body and those of my nine squad members.  We had one medic, three guys with M-16’s, one guy with an MGL-140, one guy with a Barrett .338 Lapua Magnum, one guy with an MPIM/SRAW rocket, one radio guy or in this case a radio gal, Sarge our Squad Leader and of course me also carrying a good old US issue M-16 along with a bunch of grenades.

Iran_Iraq_War_Dead_SoldiersIt looks like my arms and chest have been shot full of holes.  However, I think it was the two bullets that caught me in my brain which finished me off.  My head looks like it was stuck in a meat grinder.  Most of my squad does not look much better.  There are a few guys minus heads, some missing legs and others missing body parts.  A good jig saw puzzler could not put us all back together again.  I can’t believe the number of bullets that hit us.  One minute we were joking around and the next minute it sounded like a Fourth of July celebration.  The difference being that we were the targets and the bullets and rockets were lighting us up instead of the sky.  What happened to our vaunted Intel?

recruitingI enlisted right out of high school.  I did not want to go to college and I could not think of anything else to do.  I went down to my Army recruiting office and was scheduled immediately with an appointment.  I did not have to wait long.  About thirty minutes later, a well-dressed very sharp looking soldier came out of an office to greet me.  “Son” he said, “You have come to the right place. We will fix you up so that you can serve your country and really make a difference in the world.  Do you want your parents and friends to look up to you?  Do you want to be get laid more than you could ever dream possible?  Do you want to be a real hero and not some phony cardboard actor hero, then just sign right here.”

“My boy, you have just saved the free world.  Welcome to the US Army.” 

After basic training, they said I had been selected for a tour in Iraq.  They said it would be easy soldiers with chidren 2duty.  It would just be some mopping up operations and nothing really tough.  The really tough stuff had been done months before.  And besides that, the “ragheads” could not shoot straight so we had nothing to worry about.  Each day we went out on patrol to a different village or a different part of the same village.  They all looked alike.  Some of the Soldiers with childrenlocals seemed friendly, but most just ignored us.  Kids would come over and ask us for candy or cigarettes when they would see us walking.  We were taught to trust no one but after a while you got to know certain kids and you would give them candy or sometimes some money.

The women really kept to themselves.  You hardly ever saw any on the street and if you did they were always covered from head to toe.  We were not allowed to have any alcohol as it is illegal in Muslim countries.  There wasn’t much to do all day long soldiers on reconexcept when we were on patrol.  Most of the fun we had was out in the villages.  We loved to play pranks on each other.  On one patrol, one of the guys had hid behind a wall and as we started to walk by, he threw a dummy grenade at us.  We scattered like rabbits and waited for it to go off.  After a few seconds, we could hear laughter coming from behind the wall.  We soon realized that it was one of our guys.  He was laughing so hard, it gave him cramps.  It took us weeks but we figured out how to get even with him.  I guess we were always really wound up when out on patrol, so it was not hard to find something to break up the tension.  Often it would involve shooting at anything that seemed sinister or menacing.

The Soldiers of Company F

The Soldiers of Company F “Blues Platoon,” 3rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, move forward, almost shoulder to shoulder, with live ammo while practicing team movement drills at an Advanced Close Quarters Marksmanship course at Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, May 13. The ACQM course is meant to sharpen the Soldiers skills before moving north to support Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The day we got it was like any other day, nothing unusual about it.  It was bright, sunny and warm.  We had an assignment to check out a village that had been quiet for some time.  We were on foot patrol.  Ten of us joking and clowning around.  Some kids had just run by and yelled “Go home Americans” at us.  We threw some candy at them and laughed as they scrambled to pick it up.  As we turned the corner of a street, we saw some quick movement in a doorway and some guys running across the roof tops.  We raised our rifles to fire but it was too late.  The grenades and RPG’s burst all around us and then the AK 47 fire started.  We never had a chance.  There must have been about fifty of them.  We never thought that there were that many bad guys left.  One by one we went down.  I never even got off a round.

I can see them now.  They are picking over our bodies.  They are taking cash, weapons, armor and anything else of value.  The little kids are there too.  They are kicking us in the heads or what is left of our heads.  I even saw one kid who I thought was my friend (I gave him many snicker bars) come running up and kick me in my head.   He then took out his wiener and pissed on me.   It seems like a holiday for them.  They are all so happy.  Like one big celebration.  They are laughing and patting each other on the back.  I can hear one guy in English saying:  “I guess these fucking Americans will go home now.”  Another one replied:  “Yeah, home or Jahannam.”

I know I was supposed to be a hero.  I thought I was making the world safe for democracy.  Where did it all go wrong?  Looking down at our bodies now, it does not seem like we really accomplished much.  It looks like they would have been happier if we had never come.  I guess I might be a hero when my body comes back to Ohio.  I never got laid either.

soldiers in casketsI can’t hang around here much longer.   I can’t bear the sadness.  It is time to leave.  I was brought up as a good Christian.   I am sure that there must be a reason for all this.  My pastor said “God’s ways are unknowable.”   I am going to go find God.  I am sure he can tell me what this was all for.

Time for Questions:

Do we fight for the right reasons?  Do we simply fight the wars that our leaders tell us we should?  Do we question whether we should fight or negotiate?  Are we fighting wars for gold or for justice?  Can we be proud that we are the “land of the free and the home of the brave?”  Are we fighting for the rights of humanity or for our own National pride?  Do you question authority or do you simply go along?

Life is just beginning.

The following excerpt is from “War is a Racket” by Major General Smedley Butler.  General Butler was one of the most highly decorated soldiers in WWI.  He won two Medal of Honor and at the time of his death was the most decorated Marine in United States history. 

WAR is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small “inside” group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?

Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few — the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

And what is this bill?

This bill renders a horrible accounting. Newly placed gravestones. Mangled bodies. Shattered minds. Broken hearts and homes. Economic instability. Depression and all its attendant miseries. Back-breaking taxation for generations and generations.



The Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave?

Repeat the words in the title anywhere in the world and they are immediately recognizable as referring to the United States of America.  As Michael Medved loudly proclaims on each of his shows:  “And another great day in this, the greatest country on God’s green earth.”  It is my guess that you have never thought about where the phrase “land of the free and home of the brave” comes from.  Of course, it comes from our national anthem but where did the words originally come from?  Were they from some patriot during the Revolutionary War or from the War of 1812?  Actually they came from a lawyer and amateur poet, Francis Scott Key.  He penned them as part of a poem he wrote in 1814 which was originally titled:  “Defense of Fort McHenry.” 

The poem was set to the tune of a popular British song written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men’s social club in London. “The Anacreontic Song” (or “To Anacreon in Heaven“), with various lyrics, was already popular in the United States. Set to Key’s poem and renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner”, it would soon become a well-known American patriotic song.”  —

Today, we naturally assume that the words refer to our penchant for American independence and heroism.  Our unique ability to save the world from itself and to right injustices wherever they are found.  Our vaunted American exceptionalism that gives us the moral right and categorical imperative to influence and insert ourselves in events and places the world over.  No one dares to question (or at least few in this country) the right of America to influence politics throughout the world.  No one questions the assumption that we are only in it for the greater good of humanity.  How could anyone from the “land of the free and the home of the brave” do otherwise?  Where our boots tread, soon follows democracy and prosperity, right?

But what if the “land of the free and the home of the brave” was not the reality anymore?  What if it was more accurate to say that today America has become the “land of the guarded and the home of the fearful.”  Since 911, Americans have seemed to retreat behind a cloak of ongoing surveillance and security measures that could become the greatest detriment to freedom, this country has ever faced.  As Benjamin Franklin so wisely noted; “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”. 

So I have decided to do some first-hand research and go visit a few “average” Americans.  I took a little road trip across Wisconsin to find some true patriots and to see what they think about our country.  Are we really scared and fearful?  Are we willing to give up our freedom for security?  Have we become more xenophobic?  To answer these questions, I stopped at diners, coffee shops, rest areas, truck stops, libraries and Denny’s Restaurants to visit with real Americans.  Not the 1 percent who make their money from stocks and bonds, but the hardworking “Joes and Janes” who make their money the old fashioned way, by the sweat of their brows.  I will briefly post a few excerpts here from some of my interviews.

Roxanne:  The Full-Time-Part-Time Worker:

I met 36 year old Roxanne in a booth in Mc Donald’s where we talked over a Big Mac, fries and a shake.  Roxanne is a divorced mother of two school aged children whom she is raising with the help of some grandparents.   She works both a part-time day job at Benny’s Cleaners and a part-time night job at Wal-Marts.

John:  Let’s cut to the chase Roxanne. What do you think about America today?

Roxanne:  Well, John, its dam hard to make a living, I can tell you that. Without my grandparents helping me, I don’t know how I would get by.

John:  Do you think we have too much security and not enough freedom?

Roxanne:  I don’t know, seems like there is never a cop around when you need one.  I had a fight with my boyfriend the other day and called the cops, but it took them over 30 minutes to get to my place.

John:  What do you think about the Russians, Iraqis, Mexican Cartels and Obama?

Roxanne:  I think they should all go back to the countries they came from and leave us alone.

John:  Did you vote in the last elections?

Roxanne:  Who was running?

John:  Thanks Roxanne – got to go now.

Patriot: the person who can holler the loudest without knowing what he is hollering about.”  — Mark Twain

 Pete:  The Carpenter

I met Pete while stopping to fill up my gas at a Pilot Station.  I noticed the painted sign on his pick-up truck which read “Carpenters keep it up longer: Call Pete for a good job.”  I offered to buy him a coffee if he would answer a few questions.  Pete was 54 years old, married with four kids. One daughter was still living home with him.  She had been married and was now divorced.  Pete’s wife worked part-time as a church secretary.

John:  So Pete, what do your kids do?

Pete:  Well, one boy works with me when I need extra help. One daughter is married and lives out of state.  One daughter lives with us and the other son works nearby at a local manufacturing plant as a night supervisor.

John:  Do you think this country has provided enough opportunity for them?

Pete:  Yeah, I guess so

John:  What do you think about the economy Pete?

Pete:   Sucks.

John:  I guess a lot of people would agree with you there.  What are your biggest worries for the future?

Pete:  Paying my mortgage and taxes.

John:  Are you worried about freedom and security.

Pete:  Nope, got a concealed carry permit and a good stockpile of ammunition.

John: What do you think we should do about immigration?

Pete:  Send them all home.

John:  Well, thanks for your time Pete.

True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else.” — Clarence Darrow

 Bob:  The Tea Party Member

Bob is a 47 year old accountant. He is married with wife and no kids.  I met Bob at a local café that I had stopped at on my journeys.  He was wearing a t-shirt that read: TEA: Taxed Enough Already.   I sat down at the counter next to Bob and struck up a conversation.

John:  So you belong to the Tea Party?

Bob:  Yeah, joined about five years ago.  I am fed up with big government, taxes and the present no ethics politicians running this country.

John:  So how is the Tea Party going to change things?

Bob:  Well, for a start we are going to only elect politicians that support our views and are not going to compromise away what we stand for.

John:  So what do you stand for?  I know you hate taxes but is that all?

Bob:  Well, here look at this card.  It says it all.

John:  The card Bob gave me read as follows:

Our Core Principles

Tea Party Patriots stands for every American, and is home to millions who have come together to pursue the American Dream and to keep that Dream alive for their children and grandchildren.

What unites the Tea Party movement is the same set of core principles that brought America together at its founding, that kindled the American Dream in the hearts of those who struggled to build our nation, and made the United States of America the greatest, most successful country in world history.

At its root the American Dream is about freedom. Freedom to work hard and the freedom to keep the fruits of your labor to use as you see fit without harming others and without hindering their freedom. Very simply, three guiding principles give rise to the freedom necessary to pursue and live the American Dream:

John:  That sounds very good Bob, but I don’t see a lot of progressive thinking coming from the Tea Party.  Seems like you guys are more against things then for things?

Bob:  That’s because we want to go back to the way this country used to be run before the bureaucrats, illegal aliens, liberals and socialists took over this country.

John:  What about health care and education and social services for the needy?

Bob:  This country is full of free loaders who sponge off the hard working Americans who work for a living.

John:  So you don’t believe that there are truly needy people out there in this country?  What about new immigrants?

Bob:  No one gave me anything or my grandparents.  They came over to this country with just the shirts on their backs.  People used to believe in hard work and honesty.

John:  What about education?  It is barely affordable anymore.

Bob:  That’s because we give all of these free scholarships to students from other countries and the high salaries that those lazy professors make.  Do you realize most of them work less than ten hours a week?

John:  Well, thanks for the opinions Bob.  Time to go!  You have a great day.

 “Let us take a patriot, where we can meet him; and, that we may not flatter ourselves by false appearances, distinguish those marks which are certain, from those which may deceive; for a man may have the external appearance of a patriot, without the constituent qualities; as false coins have often lustre, though they want weight.”  — Samuel Johnson

Cassie Jean:  The NRA Member

Cassie Jean is a 33 year old single woman who works as an Assistant Manager in a small bakery.  I talked to Cassie Jean while she was on a break over coffee and a cigarette.  I had stopped for donuts and a rest break.  Cassie Jean rides a 2002 Honda Shadow 600 motorcycle.  She is an avid hunter and a card carrying member of the National Rifle Association.

John:  So Cassie, what was the last thing you killed?

Cassie Jean:  Well, got me a good sized buck this past fall and a nice turkey this spring.

John:  How long have you been shooting?

Cassie Jean:  Ever since I was a little girl.

John:  Why do you belong to the NRA?

Cassie Jean:  They protect our rights.  You know the Second Amendment.

John:  Isn’t that about militias?

Cassie Jean:  People have the right to arm themselves.   If we let them take our guns away, we will have no protection.

John:  Protection from what.

Cassie Jean:  The wackos and socialists.

John:  What about our army, National Guard and the police department.  Isn’t their job to protect us?

Cassie Jean:  They work for the liberal socialists that are destroying this country.  The only thing that stands between them and us is our guns.

John:  But what about all the gun violence in this country?

Cassie Jean:  If more people were armed, there would be less violence.

John:  How do you figure?

Cassie Jean:  Well, would you screw with someone who had a gun?

John:  But what if no one had a gun?

Cassie Jean:  Over my dead body.

John:  Well, you sure make good donuts.  Take care and happy hunting.

Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear – kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor – with the cry of grave national emergency.”  — General Douglas MacArthur

 Dick:  The Mechanic

Dick is a retired Ford mechanic who worked for a small Ford garage in upstate Wisconsin for over 30 years.  A bad back and a desire to enjoy more of life convinced Dick to retire early.  Dick is a strange sort of man as he does not like hunting or sports but enjoys literature and particularly good poetry.  He is a connoisseur of fine wines and good music and never misses an opportunity to travel with his wife Paula to see new places.  Dick belongs to a group of retired men who hang out at a local library where they can get free coffee and an occasional donut.  Despite his lack of a formal education, Dick is knowledgeable and well versed on many subjects.  His views would surprise many.

John:  What’s new Dick?

Dick:  I am going to Russia!

John:  For real?

Dick:  Yep, I like the way Putin is running things.  No BS in that country.

John:  What about freedom of speech and freedom of religion?

Dick:  Religion is a farce, just a bunch of know nothing do-gooders trying to live off the backs of hardworking people.

John:  What about freedom of speech?

Dick:  No one listens to you here anyway unless you are a billionaire.

John:  I don’t think Putin would tolerate unions and I thought you were a union man?

Dick:  Unions used to help people now most of them are just parasites as well.

John:  You sound like a libertarian.

Dick:  I don’t belong to any party.  They are all useless.

John:  When are you leaving for Russia?

Dick:  Soon

John:  How soon?

Dick:  Not soon enough.

John:  Well, I imagine many of your friends would hate to see you leave.

Dick:  Yeah, well I can send them a postcard.

John:  Do you think the libraries in Russia would have a men’s group and free coffee?

Dick:  I don’t know.  I will talk to Putin about it when I get there.

John:  Well, if I don’t see you before you leave Dick, have a good flight.


I arrived back to my starting point in Frederic Wisconsin after several days on the road.  Truly, I cannot say I had any great insights into the subject of freedom and liberty.  My “random” sample of “average” Americans would not satisfy even a lazy graduate student much less a hard core researcher.  Nevertheless, my total observations have literally been based on hundreds of such conversations over the past ten years.  My interviewees are a composite of dozens of people whom I have met and talked to from the shores of Coon Lake in Wisconsin to the rocky Casa Grande Mountains in Arizona.

Numerous books attest to major changes taking place in our country.  Are we going backwards, forwards or perhaps sideways?  Are things getting better or worse?  Are we still the place that everyone wants to immigrate to?  If not, what has changed?  We are surrounded by apocalyptic visions.  The USA will be overrun by illegal immigrants.  Socialists will take over the country.  Fascism will become the norm.  The end days are near and the Messiah will return to judge the good and the evil.  The poor will rise up and destroy America.   The country will become one vast prison with drug addicts and drug dealers on every corner.  No one will be able to afford health care or education.  Terrorists will infiltrate and bomb our most prized establishments.  The country will give in to Sharia Law.

With such gloomy visions of the future, is it any wonder that many people are fearful and ready to sacrifice their freedom for security.  More and more Americans live behind walls either in a prison or in a gated community.   Neither prison walls nor community walls seem to protect us from our worst enemies which may be ourselves.

Beck – It’s All In Your Mind, music video         (Love this Song, click on here to listen)

Time for Questions:

Have you felt things are getting better or worse in this country?  Do you think we need more or less patriots?  Do you think most people professing patriotism are really patriots?  What do you think makes a good patriot?  What do you think makes a “bad” patriot?  Where do you stand on patriotism?

Life is just beginning.







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