I Don’t Recognize This Country Anymore

While perusing the Internet after organizing a rally opposing the horrific treatment of immigrant children and their families, it finally dawned on me that I no longer recognize the country in which I live. A Facebook photo of a protester holding a sign brought it all home in a way that words alone often cannot: The sign was written in plain, bold black letters and read: “What Country Is This?”

After an entire adult life of protest and being in the streets, the inescapable reality or conclusion must be that this is now some other country.  Even during the height of the antiwar movement during the Vietnam War, when I cut my teeth in protest as a war resister, I thought that the society could always be improved; that even small gains were possible; and that it would work out for the better in the future.

Indeed, even in the face of Ronald Reagan’s “noble cause” propaganda about the Vietnam War, and George H.W. Bush’s desire to end the “Vietnam Syndrome” as the first war in the Persian Gulf approached, the gains protest had accomplished during the decade of the 1980’s were real. We, as a movement, had brought the idea of a nuclear holocaust to the level of national discourse through the Nuclear Freeze Movement. Those of us who remained antiwar made the issue of the wars the U.S. supported in Central America the subject of  a national debate. Although not much that was lasting remained later in the face of a global economy and violent madness on a global scale, the U.S. role in arming the Contras in Nicaragua, and its support of death squads in El Salvador, became part of the national consciousness.

I think that the terror attacks of September 2001 had their intended effect, turning the U.S. into a permanent war economy and a nation that would support endless wars as long as only a small minority was asked to fight those wars. Osama bin Laden got what he wanted… Did he realize how far-reaching his nefarious plans of destruction would go?

Trying to mobilize against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq was an uphill battle. In regard to the former, an old friend who had been a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War said to me during a conversation in 2001 that “There aren’t going to be many who agree with you.” But we were still out on the streets and the permanent war machine was in question although it would ultimately be successful in convincing most that endless wars were a good thing, as long as they didn’t have to do the fighting.

And then the great national disaster that is Trump came along. At this point, with immigrant children crying out for their parents in grotesque U.S. detention centers, the hope for any kind of improved future is probably a crapshoot at best. At some point reality has to be faced, and audio recordings of young children crying for their families while government workers joke about there needing to be a “conductor” to manage the horrific wailing is too much to bear.

The massacre of children and school staff at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, and the death of one of my community college students by gun violence took their toll.

A few days ago, standing at a rally in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, in support of immigrant children and their families, the camaraderie among those in attendance was palpable and the support of those passing on the streets was heartening. Only one person driving by on a motorcycle gave those at the rally the middle finger.

Standing at the rally the words of the antiwar hero Philip Berrigan came to mind: he spoke about the need for resistance to augment protest and that has been generally missing from the equation of protest for a very long time. There has been resistance, but there also has been official and violent suppression of that resistance, The words of the poet Kenneth Rexroth come to mind from his poem “Fish Peddler and Cobbler”:

Nineteen twenty two, the years
Of revolutionary
Hope came to an end as
The iron fist began to close.
No one electrocuted me.
Nothing happened. Time passed.

Something invisible was gone (Selected Poems, 1940).

“Something invisible” vanished so long ago and a stupid man sits in the White House and he and his administration and fellow travelers have finally succeeded in turning the country where I have lived my entire life, and sought to make a better society along with many, many others, a place that I no longer recognize. I am the stranger in a strange land. The government is being run by war profiteers, racists, misogynists, warmongers, child abusers and worse!


More articles by:

Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

January 16, 2019
Patrick Bond
Jim Yong Kim’s Mixed Messages to the World Bank and the World
John Grant
Joe Biden, Crime Fighter from Hell
Alvaro Huerta
Brief History Notes on Mexican Immigration to the U.S.
Kenneth Surin
A Great Speaker of the UK’s House of Commons
Elizabeth Henderson
Why Sustainable Agriculture Should Support a Green New Deal
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, Bolton and the Syrian Confusion
Jeff Mackler
Trump’s Syria Exit Tweet Provokes Washington Panic
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Long Can Nepal Blame Others for Its Woes?
Cesar Chelala
Violence Against Women: A Pandemic No Longer Hidden
Kim C. Domenico
To Make a Vineyard of the Curse: Fate, Fatalism and Freedom
Dave Lindorff
Criminalizing BDS Trashes Free Speech & Association
Thomas Knapp
Now More Than Ever, It’s Clear the FBI Must Go
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: The Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Edward Curtin
A Gentrified Little Town Goes to Pot
January 15, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
Refugees Are in the English Channel Because of Western Interventions in the Middle East
Howard Lisnoff
The Faux Political System by the Numbers
Lawrence Davidson
Amos Oz and the Real Israel
John W. Whitehead
Beware the Emergency State
John Laforge
Loudmouths against Nuclear Lawlessness
Myles Hoenig
Labor in the Age of Trump
Jeff Cohen
Mainstream Media Bias on 2020 Democratic Race Already in High Gear
Dean Baker
Will Paying for Kidneys Reduce the Transplant Wait List?
George Ochenski
Trump’s Wall and the Montana Senate’s Theater of the Absurd
Binoy Kampmark
Dances of Disinformation: the Partisan Politics of the Integrity Initiative
Glenn Sacks
On the Picket Lines: Los Angeles Teachers Go On Strike for First Time in 30 Years
Jonah Raskin
Love in a Cold War Climate
Andrew Stewart
The Green New Deal Must be Centered on African American and Indigenous Workers to Differentiate Itself From the Democratic Party
January 14, 2019
Kenn Orphan
The Tears of Justin Trudeau
Julia Stein
California Needs a 10-Year Green New Deal
Dean Baker
Declining Birth Rates: Is the US in Danger of Running Out of People?
Robert Fisk
The US Media has Lost One of Its Sanest Voices on Military Matters
Vijay Prashad
5.5 Million Women Build Their Wall
Nicky Reid
Lessons From Rojava
Ted Rall
Here is the Progressive Agenda
Robert Koehler
A Green Future is One Without War
Gary Leupp
The Chickens Come Home to Roost….in Northern Syria
Glenn Sacks
LA Teachers’ Strike: “The Country Is Watching”
Sam Gordon
Who Are Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionists?
Weekend Edition
January 11, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Richard Moser
Neoliberalism: Free Market Fundamentalism or Corporate Power?
Paul Street
Bordering on Fascism: Scholars Reflect on Dangerous Times
Joseph Majerle III – Matthew Stevenson
Who or What Brought Down Dag Hammarskjöld?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
How Tre Arrow Became America’s Most Wanted Environmental “Terrorist”
Andrew Levine
Dealbreakers: The Democrats, Trump and His Wall
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Que Syria, Syria
Dave Lindorff
A Potentially Tectonic Event Shakes up the Mumia Abu-Jamal Case