As America, the world's loudest democracy disgraces itself with gridlock and obstructionism, it's ironic we must look to the Middle East to recall the promise of real democracy.
It may well take years before it flourishes in the rocky soils of Tunisia and Egypt, but it makes for more interesting viewing than the bizarre showcasing of constitutional texts on American television recently.
Fox and NFL put on a pastiche of propaganda for the Super Bowl last week, with scenes of flowing flags and heroic statues of the founding fathers, surely causing violent nausea here, north of the border, and beyond.
The smooth, hovering cameras cruised over patriotic figures like dogma-laden drones, when General Colin Powell and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell began their eulogy to the United States of America.
And what an ode!
"It was in Philadelphia in 1776 when our founding fathers declared independence," beamed the former Secretary of State.
Authorities in China, North Korea and Iran must have looked on in envy at the thought of this massive, captive audience. Millions of Americans sat wide-eyed in front of their screens, force-fed a TV dinner of indoctrination.
Now Goodell is looking earnestly into the camera. "Freedom is common sense," he tells us with a straight face. "It is our constant, steadfast message to the world... In America, our home, we are free, equal."
No, America, you're not. If we're to wake, just for a moment, from this drug-induced day-dream to glance at the facts, you must surely know that you are the most unequal industrialized society in the world, next to Singapore.
The hymn to 'freedom' is every bit as hollow. The US imprisons more than 2 million people -- more than any other nation on earth -- including China.
The suits, soldiers, athletes and children now forced to stare into the camera while reciting this weird, archaic script, reminded me first of Soviet Russia.
But then it called to mind a psychology text book, where two overlapping circles depict one's mental health. One circle represents how you see yourself, the other is how the world sees you. The more they overlap - the bigger the football-shaped area in the middle - the closer your sense of self is aligned with the personality you present to the world.
The further they are apart, the more skewed your sense of self is, and the more likely that is to cause problems to the people around you. If the American psyche could be mapped in this way, we would find the spheres so far apart as to constitute a blueprint for collective psychosis.
In few other countries can one imagine being force-fed a series of monologues proclaiming the nation's greatness over warbling trombones and trumpets, as though cobbled together by a Hollywood intern and a retired Soviet apparatchik.
Everything is fine -- They told us so
But there's more to it than hypocrisy or unfulfilled ambition. As long as you're convinced you live in the "land of the free", you're not going to rally in the streets to demand real change, are you? You don't see the need for it. For decades, Mubarak received American-made weaponry, but he should have asked for tutorials with US indoctrinators as part of the deal.
Standing in front of fluttering flags doesn't make America free or democratic. It's by building and using the institutions that once aimed to protect you from tyranny. It's by trying suspects in courts of law rather than letting them languish in prison -- uncharged -- for years. In short, it's by doing the things that most civilized countries do -- without making a song and dance about it.
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