Hearing sour notes at the start of my N. America lecture tour

On one of my infrequent trips to the US, I can’t help but be impressed by the anti-terror measures in place to make sure that unsavory characters (like me) can’t pose a credible threat to all of you out there. I was singled out to have my hands swiped for explosives residue in Newark, and like everyone else, I had everything X-rayed everywhere. The security checks here seem more intrusive than the ones back in Israel, which is still the most attractive target for terrorists in the world–regardless of what this author convincingly calls “America’s terrorism fear factory.” Thanks to Bob Reid for pointing it out.

I’m about to embark on the next stage of my lecture tour. I have a breakfast talk here in Baltimore on lecture flyer-page0001 (1)Sunday, an evening lecture at Michigan State on Tuesday, Kalamazoo College on Wednesday, a whole string of events in Fort Wayne, Indiana (my home town) on Thursday, and then off to the West Coast. I will tell anyone who listens why my profession, journalism, is missing the major stories and developments in the Mideast.

I grew up in this country at a time when someone could write a book about parents and kids called, “Where did you go? ‘Out.’ What did you do? ‘Nothing.'” Back then we just went out and played with our friends, and we came home at the time set in advance by our parents. Now kids have cell phones to call if there’s any kind of trouble, yet they have to schedule “play dates” days or weeks in advance, supervised, of course. Bizarre. What are people afraid of?

I’ve encountered fear and loathing of practically everything here, especially “liberals.” I’ve heard the term that described Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy and other outstanding American leaders spit out with disgust that makes it sound like “pedophile.” I’ve heard Obama called the “worst President America has ever had,” though his predecessor pursued two useless but costly and deadly wars that destroyed whatever credibility and clout the US had in my home region, the Mideast.

I read about attempts to roll back or stop the extension of Medicaid benefits to America’s poorest citizens, and I wonder, isn’t the health care system already so bloody awful that it needs to be made better, not worse? What’s going on here? Where is all this hate coming from?

I have said that the ISIS threat needs to be handled with intelligence–military intelligence and the type between the ears–not by airstrikes and American soldiers. Yet I hear a senior senator complaining loudly that Obama needs to send in more troops and crush ISIS, otherwise the US will be crawling with terrorists. And I have yet to hear an administration official stand up and say, “That’s total bullshit. We’re not going to make the same mistake again and again.” And why don’t I hear that? I’m told they’re afraid of the political backlash. Afraid to be right. Pathetic.

I’ve been here less than a week. This my first trip to the US in seven years. I am not drawing conclusions, or trying not to, and I’m not commenting on domestic American issues, even when I’m asked. I have two weeks to go, many interesting and intelligent people to see. I hope the essay I write then won’t look anything like this one.


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