I just started a new project today. It's going to be called "America's Good Side, America's Bad Side." I want to summarize my impressions in ten points on each side. On the good side, America (USA) has a constitution that protects freedom of religion, conscience, association, etc. On the bad side, America pays so little attention to the rest of the world that there's a vast ignorance here about the rest of the world and its people. The only bit of information I've heard about Canada since we've been here is that an American company was bought out by a company from Canada. And one day as we were going home from church, public radio was playing Gordon Lightfoot.
If you have anything to contribute to my project, I'd be glad to hear from you.
Yesterday, a bunch of us worked on that old house I've mentioned a few times. The owner fancies himself a bit of a writer and intellect, and as we shared the lunch his wife had made, he began to educate us on the ways of the world. Within a few minutes, we learned that a program called HAARP run by the USA is altering weather world-wide and using a new technology in the upper atmosphere in a sinister design to control the world. We also learned that Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, the last three US presidents and the president of France have met and divided the world up for future domination. And now I know that Great Britain is sinking at a rate of at least 1 foot per year, and some years as many as 20 feet. He said that the huge concrete barriers surrounding Great Britain had been abandoned because it has become impossible to control the sea's encroachment. I said I'd been to GB numerous times and had never noticed that. He asked me if I'd seen the barriers and I said that there was nothing like that on the coastlines I had seen. Then he asked me if I believed that mankind was contributing to global warming and I said, "Yes, I do," and at his request, explained why I believed this to be the case. He said that there were natural factors and I agreed and said that things don't always result from one cause alone, but that I believed that human activity was joining with other factors to cause the greenhouse effect. "Are you a scientist?" he asked. "No," I said, "but I have taught high school Science and I know a few basics.
That ended our discussion. I think another negative thing about America is that the lack of discusion about all but American affairs has made masses of its people extremely vulnerable to hoax, conspiracy theories and general gullibility. The same could be said of Canada to a lesser degree, but since we are a small fish in the big pond, we are not nearly as inward looking as I find many people here to be. To me, it's still amazing that the US got itself embroiled in a war in Iraq on the basis of such deplorable ignorance in the White House that the current debacle was not even considered a possiblity. I wrote at the beginning of this war that the aftermath of Saddam's overthrow would precipitate a civil war among the Sunnis, the Shia and possibly the Kurds, depending on the course of the war itself. If I could have sensed it at the time, how is it that this came as a surprise to the US president? I think it's all a package; if you are deprived of news from abroad and your education system virtually ignores world history, the nuances of life in other countries is bound to escape you.
And yet - on America's good side - there is a growing awareness of this weakness , and a resolve on the part of many to steer America back onto a right course. This can happen in a democracy like the US or Canada; if one regime does badly, the people can throw it out. And the development of the American system was won through great hardship and stress, in wars with England and Spain (even Canada) and civil conflict. Maybe with the history of this place, the nature of its democratic system was predetermined to be the only one that the diversity of its people could accept. In any case, Americans now know that Iraq was a colossal mistake, and they are saying so openly. An interviewer on TV the other day referred to the "Iraq fiasco," and the interviewee didn't challenge him.
It's a construction week for me. For the last two days, I've been working with others on the repair of old houses and tomorrow will be Habitat for Humanity day again. Patching gyproc into an old house is quite a challenge, especially when studs and ceiling joists are uneven and the corners far from square. But we soldier on. The pleasure we see in the eyes of the people who benefit from our volunteer work speaks volumes; the owning of a safe, comfortable house can only be taken for granted by the middle and upper classes. Most of the world, seems to me, subscribes to Better Shacks and Hovels. Fact is, the amount of one's possessions doesn't determine one's outlook on life. We all know this, but this experience is making it more clear to me how that works.
It's time for a constitutional walk along the river.