A Brief History of the United States
by Fred Reed
by Fred Reed: Why
We Need an Asteroid Strike
1492 Columbus rediscovered America, and the settlers, destructively
exploiting its vast resources, achieved a success which they attributed
to their own near-miraculous virtues, some of which they actually
had: courage, rude vigor, industry, and an independent spirit. Shortly
after, they emerged from WWII unscathed due to the military genius
embodied in two oceans while competitors Europe, Russia, China,
and Japan lay prostrate. Americas intact military and
an economy up and running allowed the establishment of a fairly
benign empire and an astonishing commercial dominance, both being
attributed to near-miraculous virtues and regarded as permanent.
see it coming.
and began producing something it called a Toyota while Detroit,
sure of its market, manufactured lousy cars that arrived falling
apart, final assembly by owner. Germany revived. Communism still
protected America from China, and no one foresaw that this would
change. Airbus Industries appeared, but no one believed that it
could compete with American know-how and engineering. It did. One
by one American manufacturers of airliners took shelter in the military
market until only Boeing was left, more or less equal to Airbus.
But Americans knew that Europe was socialist and had no work ethic.
Japan had completely devoured the market for consumer electronics,
cameras, and suchlike. Shipbuilding went, except for builders catering
to the captive military market. The steel industry left for foreign
shores. Few noticed. Americans knew that their prosperity sprang
from their near-miraculous virtues, which foreigners could never
China gave up on communism and became 1.3 billion smart, hardworking
people who saw nothing wrong with the idea of becoming the worlds
dominant power. Brazil began making airliners and American airlines
began buying them. Even India showed signs of life. Americans didnt
worry because they knew that these funny countries couldnt
compete with Americas democratic values.
jobs began flowing to Asia, first a trickle and then a torrent.
Americans didnt pay attention, not knowing exactly where Asia
was. Anyway, those foreigners were comic little people with squinty
eyes and ate with sticks. Who could take them seriously? Then design
work and programming began emigrating eastward. American had invented
the Internet and now would pay the price. Intellectual capital had
broken free from physical capital. Oops.
largely ceased to exist, or at least ceased to be American. The
big companies became free-floating international entities, adventitiously
putting down roots wherever taxes were low and labor cheap, which
wasnt America. An HP laptop now consisted of a CPU from Intel
but made perhaps in Ireland, the motherboard, hard drive, power
supply and case made in Taiwan, RAM and screen from Samsung, assembled
in Taiwan or China, but the label said HP, so it was American.
The trade balance
went sour, and then very sour. The country had long since become
captive to consumerism both national and individual, He who
dies with the most toys wins being a bumper-sticker anthem.
At every level America began living on credit, but Americas
credit was good, which Americans attributed to near-miraculous
virtues which they no longer had, if they had ever had them.
As the economy
invisibly declined, the militarys budget grew and grew. The
country could no longer afford it, but the Pentagon was so deeply
embedded in the economy and Congress that the country couldnt
stop affording it. The five-sided money hole spent on, an aging
kept woman with no obvious purpose since, with the fall of the Soviet
Union, America had no military enemies.
sometimes arrive tardily. After WWII, Zionists had conquered Palestine
and begun mistreating its people in the manner of white South Africans
at their worst. Moslems, of whom it later turned out there were
quite a few, came to hate Zionists and, by extension, all Jews.
Since America supplied the bombs that Israel used to kill Moslems,
these came to hate the US. Thus 9/11. This was used as a pretext
for war by hawkish wimps, now called Neocons. The conflicts were
embraced by the Pentagon, which needed a raison detre in the
face of the lack of enemies. The ensuing wars were enthusiastically
supported by evangelicals, more Zionists, confused patriots, imperialists,
military industry, and those who just wanted to kill some Arabs,
any Arabs. President W. Bush with his eternal martial priapism and
yokel grasp was just the man. The military budget now was about
a trillion a year in a country that owed more money than it could
had changed since the arrival of Columbus and smallpox. Americans
still imagined themselves as Marlboro Man, rugged individualists,
though many had never actually seen a live horse. In fact the country
had become a society of mass conformist consumerism with its tastes
designed at corporate. America was still a land of opportunity,
if you were an Ivy techy with an IQ in excess of 180, but everybody
else was pretty much screwed. Most people lived in velvet serfdom,
afraid of the boss and imprisoned by the retirement system. Few
young males could any longer meet the physical requirements for
induction. The Army softened training so they could appear to get
through. So much for Davy Crockett.
become the Frightened People, afraid of terror, of Moslems, of an
outside world they couldnt find or, in many cases, spell.
The government used this bounty from heaven to justify rapid elimination
of civil liberties, telling the public that it was to protect them.
They still prided themselves on their democracy, without any longer
having one, and on being a light to the world, which hated them.
The whole world hates us. What is wrong with the whole world?
they asked, deeply puzzled.
came. In the past there had been an element of noblesse oblige,
of concern for the nation, a sense among the upper classes that
they ought to pay some slight attention to keeping the country alive
while picking its bones. This changed. The country was now ruled
by the tightly interlocking directorates of Wall Street, Congress,
the upper reaches of the executive branch, and the big corporations,
none of whose members had ever worked a night shift at Wal-Mart
while living in a rented trailer. The worst and brightest went to
Harvard and then into i-banking. Thus the sub-prime adventure. This
catastrophe was regarded as a cyclical correction instead of as
the first notes of the knell.
By this time
the country was acquiring the attributes of the Third World. Impunity:
financiers did not go to jail for financial crimes, nor generals
for war crimes, nor congressmen for anything. National incapacity:
The government handled natural disasters with the adroitness one
might expect of Burundi. Intractable slums festered in the cores
of its great cities. Over its age America had achieved greatly,
done much that was admirable and much that wasnt, and now,
overreaching, still convinced of its miraculous virtues, was perilously
close to falling on its face.
is author of Nekkid
in Austin: Drop Your Inner Child Down a Well and A
Brass Pole in Bangkok: A Thing I Aspire to Be. His latest
book is Curmudgeing
Through Paradise: Reports from a Fractal Dung Beetle. Visit
© 2011 Fred Reed
Best of Fred Reed