This is not the first time that I have been embarrassed – no, ashamed – to be an American because of the US’s malign foreign policy, silently sinister or thunderously overt. Travelling around Europe in the summer of 1969 – Vietnam; living in Oxford during the onset of the Reagan presidency – Nicaragua and Chile; ministering in Swansea throughout the Bushwhacking years – Afghanistan and Iraq. But this – THIS – Gaza – the US’s steadfast support for Israel as it lays waste to a region, a people – the mealy-mouthed admonitions of restraint, the stonewalling at the UN, the steady supply of arms to the IDF – a neologism is needed, “ashamed” is too token, hackneyed, morally feeble (I guess it’s the decades of moral attrition). I feel like I am observing a political version of The Invasion of the Body Snatchers in which the leadership of a nation has had its collective conscience replaced by a cold, calculating, and cowardly heart, supported by junk-food journalism voraciously devoured by a popcorn populace, not to mention a Christian right that suffers from terminal TDD (Theological Deficit Disorder).
I get it that there is merit to the “Why single out Israel?” argument when it comes to nation-state horror shows; that the Arab nations have perversely pitched their tents in the moral lowlands and continue to pose a threat to the existence of Israel; that Hamas is a contemptible and corrupt organisation, and diplomatic poison for the Palestinian people. I also understand that for historical, religious, and cultural reasons, the US and Israel have a “special relationship”. But that is precisely why the US is in a position to tell its brother, “Enough is enough!”, and not just by mouth but with political and economic teeth.
Indeed, so indefensible, according to Just War criteria, is Israel’s depredations in Gaza – particularly, though not solely, the ius in bello criteria of proportionality and discrimination – and so visibly and viscerally repugnant (“Today I saw a picture of a weeping Palestinian man holding a plastic carrier bag of meat. It was his son” – Brian Eno), that if not for pity for the Palestinians, then for concern not only for Israel – this war will make it less, not more secure – but also for the Jewish diaspora, the US must radically repent. For the tragic-ironic fact is that Israel’s overkill is now generating an upsurge in European anti-Semitism – and I mean the real and loathsome kind of anti-Semitism, not the shut-down smear that is indiscriminately lobbed at critics of Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza (some of which – another tragic irony – are themselves no doubt racist). There is even a case for realpolitik: if it continues its unconditional support for Israel, the US will surely lose much of the global good will that it has been re-earning in the wake of its insane interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Not, I acknowledge, that most homeland Americans give a toss.
I am, of course, aware that this polemic will fall overwhelmingly on deaf ears at best, and raise a shitstorm in a teacup at worst. The thing is, if I’m now uberashamed to be an American, I’d be more so were I to be a quiet uberashamed American. To riff on Augustine, Sam is a pimp, but he’s my Uncle, and when I see him screwing people, I’ve got to tell him to stop.