What do you call someone who speaks many languages? I knew this one. “Multilingual.”
OK. Not bad. Someone who speaks two? “Bilingual.” He smiled. “Now try this. Someone who speaks only one?” I paused a bit too long.
Over many decades of living and working abroad, this well-traveled joke confronted me, along with the gleeful expressions of my inquisitors. The only defense sounded like, “Two huge oceans isolate us Americans. Multiple language groups have surrounded us here for thousands of years.”
Unlike ancient populations in Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Africa and many others, white Europeans and Americans are only related by gene pool, religions and a culture of relative modernity. Now women and children who look like us are seen on television dying daily, and more will soon follow. The racial factor in the Ukrainian war confuses and captivates white Americans. We watch the nightly news while homes and bodies fall. They look and dress like us, and live in buildings like ours.
Victims of human rights abuse are victims of violence in Myanmar, Haiti and Sudan. Even Iran recently appealed to the Western world for help. But starving victims cannot eat American rockets, ammo, tanks and guns.
Not since World War II has the American caucasian psyche been savaged by the intimate truth that we are all capable of killing—ourselves. And by providing daily media images of “modern” countries bombing civilian targets, we psychologically prepare the way for our civil war right here on Main Street.
But that happened once before, didn’t it? 820,000-1,000,000 of our ancestors slaughtered each other.
Because of a recent virus, many of us have been treated like victims. We were asked to give up personal freedoms, isolate and protect society from ourselves. We got a brief taste with temporary “shelter in place” orders of what it might be like to be confined during wartime. Are we preparing for Stage I of our own Civil War, Act II?
Brent MacKinnon lives in San Anselmo.