Eight years ago, in a busy domestic terminal of the LA airport, a pretty girl who befriended me with a gift of a book asked me if I was proud of my country. I said something to the effect of – “I am, of the country, but not of what it does.”
She’d walked up to me in the busy terminal and handed me a book on leadership she gathered at a local business conference. I suppose I looked the part, attired formally because I was traveling internationally on business, and perhaps looked a bit lost and in need…it was late 2007, the year my life had unraveled. I agreed to accept her kind gift, to a stranger, if she allowed me to buy her a drink.
Melissa and I talked for more than an hour, and it was during this very pleasant diversion that my journalist companion – she was the managing editor of a small newspaper in the northeast of the country – queried me about my love for America. We were talking about events in Afghanistan and Iraq; that I was Indian must also have had a part in arousing her curiosity about my feelings. I’ve thought often about my first response to her; it was no doubt sincere, but what exactly did I mean?
I saw “Kill the Messenger” this past week. A diligent journalist said to be driven to suicide by a smear campaign, because he’d uncovered the Central Intelligence Agency supporting and funding Nicaraguan Contras (rebels fighting a government unfriendly to America then) with arms and money generated through drugs imported into and sold in America. This Hollywood depiction troubled me enough to investigate further, and I found a CSPAN Journalist Roundtable interviewing Gary Webb below. Both are well worth the time.
CSPAN Journalist Roundtable with Gary Webb (YouTube)
With very powerful sections of the government arrayed against him, and with similarly influential segments of the journalist community attacking him, Gary Webb found that his life not only unraveled, but it became, to him, unbearable. A diligent investigator, who wished only that he could bring the truth out into public view, and be recognized for it, found a juggernaut of a state, that did admit to the veracity of his findings, rolling right over him.
A man of integrity, a husband and a loving father of three (a clip of Gary and his kids is shown at the end of the movie), one who awakened his country’s consciousness to the actions of its government, was lost to the world in late 2004. His death, said to be caused by two (yes, two, the infamous double-tap) .38 gunshot wounds to the head, was ruled a suicide. A father, devoted to his children, abandoning them in their tender ages because his reputation lay in ruins?
The outrage of the American people – primarily black – at such actions as infecting their communities with deadly drugs, by covert agencies of government, was evident then. But it isn’t just covert agencies, working toward international regime change, that exploit ordinary Americans, particularly those disadvantaged by race and history. Such lack of empathy and compassion appears institutionalized today. Outrage may well build up again, but will likely be drowned by political campaigns, fueled by billions of dollars, for the upcoming 2016 election.
So, Melissa, my dear friend, what am I, an ordinary citizen, to think about America and what she does?