NO ONE BEHIND THE CURTAIN

So I'm still figuring out where everything is here in my new hometown, and as a rat owner it can sometimes be challenging to find a pet store with the appropriate food. After being informed that the local branch of a chain pet store (PetLand) had the kind of food we need, I proceeded to have an experience which cost me some of whatever remaining faith in humanity I have.

Without going into all of the details, I had a significant problem with the way some of the animals were being treated in the store. I got a little riled up. Both Liz and, later, other people to whom I described the incident reminded me that yelling at the clerk in the pet store isn't productive. It's some stiff making $6.50/hr who probably hates her job. And of course the only response one can get out of such people is "It's not my problem / It's store policy." Going up the chain of non-command produces similar results; no one ever has the power to fix things, no one is responsible, no one has control.

Isn't that the real problem with this country? Now that we're one enormous, identical-looking strip mall from coast to coast, we feel absolutely no obligation toward one another's interests. If I was shopping in Jim's Pet Store I could probably talk to Jim, and since Jim and I are already neighbors he might actually care when I told him that I objected to his practices. But shopping in PetLand, Inc., which probably has a corporate office in some bland building in Kalamazoo? They don't particularly give a shit what you or I have to say. Nothing the chain does is accountable to a person; to the extent that they are accountable to anything it is an abstraction like "the market" or "the stockholders." It's yet another example of how efficient the market is as an arbiter of our relationships with one another.

Liz worked in a restaurant before we left Bloomington, and she remarked constantly about how children no longer say "please" or "thank you" to service industry employees. It felt a little Andy Rooney, but it's a valid point. Forget about kids – does anyone say please and thank you in the faceless monstronsity that is the American retail sector v.2009? Try an experiment. Go into a Wal-Mart or a Burger King and try your hardest to give a flying fuck about anyone or anything in the establishment. It's virtually impossible, like trying to feel sympathy for a cockroach. It's nothing but shoppers who don't know one another making identical purchases (but no eye contact) and interacting only with the interchangeable employees paid squat to listlessly ring up our purchases. Then we wander back to our cars among the giant asphalt seas of nothingness which surround the commercially-zoned stucco monstrosities on the outskirts of town and drive home, transaction completed in total anonymity. Whether it's a block from home or clear across the country, every Home Depot (and the drones who staff them) look exactly the same, thus we treat them exactly the same: as strangers.

Yes, I know the advantages, the endless choices and low prices made possible by the strip-mallification of the country and the standardization of the American retail experience. I am equally well aware of the downside: try to get someone to interact with you as one human being to another and you quickly discover that the whole thing is a big illusion. You're not in your neighborhood and you're not dealing with people. You're in an abstract world in which the things that look like people can't think for themselves and what appears to be a store near your home is really a corporate boardroom a thousand miles away bending to the whims of a master that exists only in the minds of the Investor Class.

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33 Responses to “NO ONE BEHIND THE CURTAIN”

  1. Prudence Says:

    Hmm, I suppose I'm a bit Andy Rooney too, because I find it *appalling* that many people don't teach their children to treat staff (waiters or otherwise) nicely. My parents would have taken a stick to me if I'd been rude to a shop assistant, for the simple reason that being anything less than kind and polite to someone who is just trying to do their jobs, and who are not in a position to tell you to go fuck yourself, makes one a poorly brought-up, low-class git.

    Having said that, I find it a bit irksome that when I say "thank you", I almost always get an "uh-huh" in response. It's a small thing, because, as you say, they are toiling in terribly exploitative, soul-destroying jobs and being fucked over by their employers and customers.

  2. Robert Says:

    This is one of the reasons why I shop (mostly) in locally owned businesses. Fortunately, here in Oakland CA, most of the necessities of daily life are, in fact, available from such businesses. I joke with the proprietor of our neighborhood independent bookstore that I look books up on Amazon and then order them from _her_ – she appreciates that, and tells me I'm not the only customer of hers who does that. My two sons are consistently drilled to say 'please' and 'thank you', especially in restaurants. My husband, who works as a pastry chef, tells them 'it's always a good idea to be polite to people who handle your food behind closed doors'.

    Home training – it's all about home training. We (husband and I) had to take a ten week course to qualify as adoptive parents – would but that ALL prospective parents had to do likewise.

  3. Chris Says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PpPSIF8zIHo&feature=related

    This clip from The Grapes of Wrath reminds me of this post.

  4. laura Says:

    petland sucks. they buy puppy mill puppies. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/27822309/ so it's not surprising they aren't taking proper care of animals. it's their corporate policy not to give a crap. i'm sure athens has an independent pet shop that stocks what you need.

  5. Misterben Says:

    You're absolutely right. The American corporate sector has "opted out" of the old social contract, and one of the ways that manifests itself is that not only do their employees not have to care about you or your shopping needs, company policy prevents them from caring. Employees of large chains are driven mercilessly through every minute of their day, with no chance of reward for good performance – all they can hope for is to keep the jobs that don't pay them a living wage in the first place.

    That's actually kind of an interesting aspect of this whole thing: one of the supposedly great virtues of the "free market" is the freedom to improve one's lot, but corporations run exclusively for the benefit of the shareholders are not interested in offering raises or bonuses to the toilers in the trenches. (Obviously all corporations are run primarily for the benefit of the shareholders, but I would argue that the modern American corporation is run exclusively for that purpose – anything else to which they claim dedication is just public relations.) If your employer tells you in no uncertain terms that no matter how hard you work, there's no chance of a raise, just how motivated are you going to be?

  6. doug Says:

    corporate america has NEVER had a social contract, other than to its stockholders. That is not what they do….

  7. Emily Says:

    As a longtime retail employee for a locally-owned record shop, I can tell you that most people are rude as hell 99.9% of the time, whether checking out at the register or asking for help on the sales floor. The deadness you see in the eyes of the person behind the counter is from having countless customers not even bother to respond to the pleasantries that are supposed to lubricate social interaction. I mean, sure, there's a tacit agreement between strangers that when one asks the other "how are you?," a real answer is not expected, or even acceptable, but when even "okay" is lost as a response, it fosters a certain amount of rage within the asker. Towards the end of my tenure there, I simply stopped saying anything other than "That's $14.83" if there was no response to "Hi, how are you?"

    Did I ever tell you how glad I am that I'm out of retail? And, yes, I always say "please" and "thank you" to shop clerks, waitstaff, and to whomever else it is appropriate.

  8. Patti Says:

    Petland's corporate offices are in Chillicothe, Ohio, hometown of Frederick Law Olmstead and First Lady Lucy "Lemonade" Hayes. Point in your favor – these are not corporate owned stores, but franchised, so somewhere there is a franchisee in North Georgia who could gang up with other franchisees and put pressure on corporate that way – say, get 30 or so protesters in front of a store every Saturday – you may get some action. Personally, I'd write a letter to the franchisee, cc'd to the local newspaper (posted here for our enjoyment), and escalate as necessary.

    You don't seem to be the only one with complaints about Petland's policies. Even Petland's corporate news release feed seems to be overly active in a battle against the Humane Society.
    http://www.petland.com/PetlandNews/PetlandNews.htm
    You may want to let the HSUS know what you found, and let them go after the bastards in Ohio's First Capital.

  9. Drew Says:

    In all honesty, I get thrilled when I can get my autistic son to TALK to service persons!

    Seriously, I tend to try and build relationships with servers in restaurants whenever possible. It was not drilled into me by my parents, just something I watched my father do. He got to know the waitstaff at places he went to frequently. Also, I worked at McDonald's for a while, so I appreciate what they do. If I go into a sub shop, local or chain, for example, I always thank the preparer. I actually catch the Quiznos people off-guard when i thank the people at the start of the line as they put my sub in the toaster.

    I also try to make eye contact, smile, and return whatever greeting is offered. When I use a drive-through, I may order through a speaker, but I do what I can to acknowledge the person at the window. I cannot say I always do that. I have off days, days when I just want to get something and go, but I try to make such habits of gratitude and greeting more the rule than the exception.

    I think in my case it was not only my upbringing. It is reinforced by my theology. These people are performing a sacred duty: the preparation of food. Why should I not be grateful? While corporate America may not like it, I have entered into relationship with them whether they or I like it or not. It goes beyond mere transaction. So while I am not always going to keep in touch, I still find myself in the position of honoring those who are of service to me, as I will be of service to others in the future.

  10. JohnR Says:

    You know, I'm not a very socially 'dept' person, but I've made it a practice for many years to chat with anybody who might make my life or my job easier. It's like simple politeness – it costs me nothing, and it makes my life significantly better. Whether it's getting a good deal on something, a little extra of something, or an 'unofficial' offer to help with a problem, it has paid off over and over ever since I discovered how useful such interactions could be way back on Boy Scout summer camp staff. I mean, I'm far more likely to be nice to someone who's nice to me, and the person who honked me this morning for taking more than a miilisecond to move when the light changed had to suffer behind me for 3 blocks at 10 mph less than the speed limit. It's childish, but hard to resist.
    I think you're generally wrong about the "impersonalization" of big-box places – the people I deal with seem so pleased to have a human conversation that they'll go out of their ways to be human back. That, of course, leaves out the sullen teenagers, but then they're going to be difficult to anyone just on principle. That principle being "I hate my life, I hate my parents, I hate my boss, I hate the world, and I especially hate _you_".
    All this aside, your situation is not likely to fall under that sort of thing. Pet stores are justly notorious, because most of the people who work there do so for pay rather than love of animals. I doubt very much that you're going to get any result from either the clek level or the corporate level. I suspect that your only chance to see any improvement is to work at the 'store manager' level. That's where I would work – and that's where the principle that people are more likely to make an effort for their friends than for their enemies may help.

  11. Desargues Says:

    no one ever has the power to fix things, no one is responsible, no one has control.… This strongly reminds me of Eastern Europe in the late Eighties, a few years before the downfall. And it rings quite true of large parts of America today; the likely cause is alienation, as you suggest. But I think there is a sense in which the American case is more disturbing, or at least more hopeless. In the crumbling world of late socialism, the people had become alienated form their government, who had stopped even pretending to care about them any longer; yet there was a (theoretical, at least) hope of healing that wound by rising up and overthrowing the system, which is what happened in 1989. However, in late-capitalist America, alienation is primarily from one another. Isolation in suburbia, long hours commuting alone, trapped in one's car, frequent moving around the country, being at the mercy of ever-expanding corporate behemoths, seeing the prospect of a middle-class dwindle leaves one impotent and lonely. I don't quite know how one fixes that.

  12. Costa Says:

    I never could believe that I was the only one who felt exactly as you described. Well said.

  13. Oblio Says:

    Bravo! Well said… and very relevant. I am egalitarian in that I make it a point to say PLEASE and THANK YOU to anyone and everyone whom I come into contact with, whether a janitor at the mall food lot or an executive VP trying to figure out how to work his car's navi system.

    Sadly, my THANK YOU is often met with a surprised smile and lifted eyebrows… is it really that rare an expression? Mebbe, but I'll be damned if I ever stop using these simple expressions of appreciation. I use them with my co-workers daily, who never get it from the biz owners.

    On another tack, since when did NO PROBLEM supplant YOU'RE WELCOME in daily communications? I already know it's no problem… it's their job, but why is it so hard for people to respond with YOU'RE WELCOME? Jeez… we really are turning into automatons.

  14. Jex Says:

    In college I used to make cookies on Admin Assistants' day and go around to all the secretaries that I ever came in contact with and offer them. They were fairly universally shocked that anyone would even attempt to thank them, for anything. Somehow payroll and purchase orders for my department always processed remarkably quickly…

    I think "No problem" is taking over because "You're welcome" doesn't mean anything. I'm welcome to what? The thing you just did? I know in several other languages the response is often a version of "no problem," so I'd imagine it's bled over from that.

  15. Skepticat Says:

    Let's hope you're over-generalizing. I've found that generally the people in Home Depot around here (north of Boston) are pleasant and helpful, as are the checkout people in grocery chains. In the case of Home Depot, they're often very knowledgeable—probably because they used to own the hardware stores that HD put out of business.
    Of course I'm determinedly friendly and probably overly chatty, as I live alone with only the cats as conversationalists. It is annoying and discouraging, though, when one gets either rudeness or the dead eye.

    What do rats eat?

  16. Heqit Says:

    Try an experiment. Go into a Wal-Mart or a Burger King and try your hardest to give a flying fuck about anyone or anything in the establishment. It’s virtually impossible, like trying to feel sympathy for a cockroach.

    No, it's not impossible, and it needn't be rare either. I've had good experiences — actual conversations and a few laughs — with fellow customers and employees at both chain grocery stores and fast food restaurants within the past two weeks. As a few others in this thread have mentioned, it seems like most people are happy to respond a smile, eye contact, the usual small talk…and a willingness to be chill if something goes wrong. Not to be harsh, but if you consistently have bad or alienating experiences in these stores and you respond (even justifiably, in the case of animal abuse) to frustrations by "yelling at…some stiff making $6.50/hr who probably hates her job," then maybe the problem is you.

  17. waldo Says:

    It’s virtually impossible, like trying to feel sympathy for a cockroach. When a friend told me that cockies are actually quite clean creatures (they wash their little faces when handled by humans) I couldn't help but fell some empathy. 'Everything is beautiful in its own way' …. (even rats!:)

    As for the dehumanisation element of the retail experience 'work, consume, die' has long been an inherent truth of modern society for us hippies. And I read how proud New Yorkers were of their rudeness and ambivalence to strangers welfare a long time ago, so I'm not surprised that attitude is spreading.

    But the most obvious reason for American's uncivility is the gun culture. The oft promoted meme 'an armed society is a polite society' is patently disavowed by the cultural atmosphere you describe. When everyone is a potential target, people retreat behind a carapace of null character in order to reduce their profile. Couple that with the hostility fostered by corrosive politics, hate-media and the inevitable sociopathic elements of society and you have a repetitive cycle of 'no obligation toward one another’s interests."

    The good news is the coming beneficial social effects of government healthcare. When everyone has access to physical care, their attitude will change. Physical well-being promotes a more positive attitude and the feeling that 'we're all in it together' fosters a more egalitarian outlook.

  18. Nick Says:

    Waldo: what do you base this blame for the "gun culture" on? In the time that we and Andy Rooney are discussing, where people where polite and kids said "please" and small businesses were the rule and not the exception, guns were seen as a regular part of everyday life. The first weekend of hunting season was a school holiday around here for a long time. Even today, some of the most polite people I've met are gun nuts. There's a couple reasons for this I think–one is that people who carry guns don't seek confrontation for the same reason that large men usually don't start bar fights–they know what they're capable of so the don't have to prove anything. Secondly, the upside of conservatives' often irritating nostalgia for "the good old days" is an appreciation of the manners of that time.

  19. waldo Says:

    Nick, what's a gun for? There's only one answer: to kill. America is now estimated to have between 238 million and 276 million privately owned firearms. Nobody knows for sure the exact number. And God knows how many the police, national guard, private security and army have. There are illegal arms like machine guns and grenade launchers being smuggled in undetected and there is no federal gun registry for the legally owned firearms either.
    According to the Annual Bill To The Nation costs of gun violence in the US have been estimated at between $100 billion and $126 billion.

    More than 700 police officers have died in the line of duty since 1985. This is reflected in the brutality that police unleash on anybody that doesn't comply with their directives, including moms driving their kids home.

    If we sit down to talk and I produce a gun, obviously you have very good reason to be worried. Am I just a threatening poseur like the turds bringing guns to a health care debate? Or am I a bitter neurotic looking for an excuse?

    I could smother you in statisitics demonstrating that America is the most violent 'civilised' nation in the world. Look at the major wars over the last fifty years. Who was the aggressor? America expended 15 million tons of armament on Vietnam Laos and Cambodia. Those nations combined wealth would be a fraction of California's. Most of the population were peasants living in grass huts. They were no more threat to America than a child in arms, yet America, thoroughly desensitised to armed violence, wreaked absolute havoc on them.

    Suffice to say the gun/power/death fetish has reached chronic syndrome stage and influences all aspects of US society, including casual monetary transactions. An armed society isn't a polite society, it's a scared, angry, hateful, anti-social society.

  20. Nick Says:

    First, while a gun is designed to kill, context is pretty important. Shooting someone who breaks into your home in the middle of the night with the intent of raping/murdering the occupants is a lot different from shooting a random person just for shits. Guns may be designed for killing, but killing and murder aren't always the same thing. According to a study done by the Bureau of Justice Statistic in 1994 (keep in mind, the Clinton administration was not particularly gun-friendly), guns are used for self-defense by private citizens approximately 1.5 million times every year. 92% of these don't involve a single shot fired–producing the gun is enough to scare off the intruder. Of the remaining 8%, very few result in death.

    Not sure how the army (or the wars in Southeast Asia) are relevant to the debate. The Soviet Union started quite a few aggressive wars, and their police force wasn't exactly known for fair treatment and leniency. But they had gun control, and no "gun culture" in the way that we do.

    As to your point about illegal weapons, doesn't that invalidate the entire idea of gun control? If these weapons are already illegal, and criminals are getting them anyway, why exactly would changing the legal status of other weapons, or requiring them to be registered as the handful of legally owned machine guns and grenade launchers are, make the slightest bit of difference?

    I don't really agree with the guys taking guns to healthcare protests. I get the arguments–demonstrating the legality of open carry, showing that people who have guns aren't inherently dangerous, etc.–but I think it's a poor choice of forum, considering the topic. Nonetheless, it is their right to do so; I just think that they're going about it poorly from a PR standpoint.

    Your major fault, I think, is blaming the aggression of America and American society on an inanimate object. Every standing army in the world has guns. The Swiss actually require every household to have a fully-automatic assault rifle and two boxes of ammunition on hand at all times. So why the (IMO, exaggerated if not entirely inaccurate) faults in American society and not others?

  21. waldo Says:

    "So why the (IMO, exaggerated if not entirely inaccurate) faults in American society and not others?"

    Nick, the article was on the attitude of the average American. It's my contention that the gun violence in the US colours every aspect of American life. Why do you think people refer to the 2nd Amendment when debating health care?

    "Not sure how the army (or the wars in Southeast Asia) are relevant to the debate.

    The horrendous crimes perpetrated on Vietnam Laos and Cambodia and similar crimes being committed as we speak in Iraq and Afghanistan (by supposedly the leading democracy and proponent of human rights) is a direct result of the desensitivation to gun violence at home. If you have no problems wreaking violence in your own community why would you hesitate for an instant on doing it to someone else?

    There's no doubt that the vast disparity of wealth in the US is a major factor in the surliness of your average working stiff but it's the gun culture that reduces US society to an uncaring, brutal, cynical and selfish level.

    Oh and Nick ~ a turd is an an 'inanimate object' as well but you wouldn't put one on the dinner table.

  22. Nick Says:

    You didn't answer my question. If guns are responsible for all of these terrible parts of the American psyche, why don't those issues manifest in Switzerland? And why do they manifest in countries like Russia?

    Wow. So, Vietnam and our various "incursions" in Southeast Asia weren't a result of anti-Communist paranoia or various US government interests, they were a result of the fact that Americans just really love to see people get shot in the face. Just…wow.

    And how is a turd relevant, besides being a rather apt metaphor for your argument here?

    Also, to connect this back to the main topic–a family-owned local gun store is just one of the locally owned businesses I try to support. I've never seen Mr. Cabela at the monstrously sized sporting goods outlet south of Salt Lake, but I have spoken with Mr. Gallenson on several occasions at the shop that bears his name. Even here in a fairly conservative state, most things can be obtained from small neighborhood stores if you're really dedicated. Salt Lake has a well-supported "Buy Local First" campaign and business directory; I'd be surprised if most cities didn't have something similar. It's just a question of getting people to use it.

  23. Jason Harx Says:

    "I am equally well aware of the downside: try to get someone to interact with you as one human being to another and you quickly discover that the whole thing is a big illusion."

    I disagree. There are plenty of zombies out there that won't care no matter what you do, but the vast majority are just so used to being a minimum wage drone that they don't know how to act personably.

    I always try to smile and say something pleasant (you know, like what you do when you meet an actual person) before asking where the soap is, or placing an order, or asking for extra napkins. Nine times out of ten it works.

  24. waldo Says:

    There's no argument Nick. The US is one bullet away from chaos. The US is the most violent 'civilised' nation on earth. There's numerous areas even in the nations capital that strangers dare not walk into, armed or not.The US has perpetrated more war crimes in the last fifty years than Russia and that place evolved from a dictatorship into a police state. The US arms trains and motivates armies around the world, and many of those are criminal.
    And all of these problems stem from guns and the insistence of the populace that they be allowed to carry on like the butcherous cowboys who started this insane mindset 300 years ago.
    Yeah, my shitty point of view is irrelevent. Enjoy the carnage pal.

  25. waldo Says:

    But don't take my word for it….

    'Republicans are now taking steps to assure that someone ends up dead. Hopefully it will be your president…. by saturating public events with guns and emotionalistic violent rhetoric, counting on the eventual lone crazy to pull the trigger for them. It is also no accident that Banister and Shirly are saturating their political base with images of Obama as Hitler, while Rupert Murdoch finances and promotes the film "Valkyrie" on the German patriotic assassination of Hitler. Ironically, the Republicans are actually historically tied to Hitler's Nazi movement, so it is not suprising they would choose this very image to project onto others. It is typical "advertising strategy" in the corporate world.'

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Dl3GqWniCs

  26. Nick Says:

    "One bullet away from chaos"? Presidents have been assassinated before, as have all manner of political leaders, and it's never resulted in "chaos." As for the violence of US cities, that's far more complex than "they have guns!", despite what you and Sarah Brady would like to believe. Probably the single biggest factor among many is the drug trade–I'm not sure how I feel about legalizing all drugs (though I'm definitely in favor of legalizing weed and mushrooms at least), but if the United States were to get rid of the current laws on drugs, and allow them to be sold by licensed dealers to any adult, you'd take away the main raison d'etre of gangs, which are the main source of violent crime, and you'd cut the national homicide rate by probably 2/3 immediately. It would also be effective to create better incentives for education (including trade schools) and job opportunities in poor areas. Unfortunately, these solutions will never be discussed so long as politicians insist on grandstanding on the gun issue and claiming that all of America's problems would be solved if we'd just ban handguns (never mind that DC banned possession of handguns in 1974 until the recent DC v. Heller decision, and Anacostia remained one of the most violent places in the county; also, it's illegal for convicted felons, who commit most homicides, to possess any firearm anywhere in the US).

    The US has committed more war crimes than Russia? Jesus, man. I'm not the jingoistic super-nationalist type, but you're really going to say that the SOVIET FUCKING UNION was nicer to its citizens and neighboring countries than the US? Yeah, the US has done some pretty fucked-up shit, but even at our worst we were no worse than the current Russian Federation, much less the USSR. I'm not sure whether you're willfully ignorant, or just stupid.

    As for Keith Olbermann, I agree with him at times but he's being an idiot there. For one, the whole reason people are bringing guns to the protests (which I still disagree with, but only because of PR reasons) is to show that a) open carry is legal in most places and b) that just because someone has a gun, even an "assault rifle," doesn't mean that they're inherently dangerous. Regarding the right-wingers comparing Obama to Hitler–yeah, it's pretty fucking dumb. But it was just as dumb when liberals brought signs to protests that had a Republican elephant, an equals sign, and then a swastika (and yes, I saw this sign at a protest I attended, and it made me facepalm pretty hard). It's just as dumb when liberals–still–call Republicans "reich-wingers," as a couple regular commenters on the Salt Lake Tribune's website do. Idiotic hyperbole and retarded comparisons are rife on both sides of the aisle, and it pisses me off when people like Olbermann or O'Reilly are only "outraged" when it happens to someone they agree with.

  27. waldo Says:

    …but you’re really going to say that the SOVIET FUCKING UNION was nicer to its citizens and neighboring countries than the US?

    'The US has perpetrated more war crimes in the last fifty years than Russia and that place evolved from a dictatorship into a police state.'

    Don't misinterpret and read up.

    http://academic.evergreen.edu/g/grossmaz/interventions.html

    http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/index.html

  28. Nick Says:

    Oh good, a couple of sites that were clearly built with Dreamweaver and feature off-center .gif's and George Orwell quotes. The first one is delightfully vague about anything that actually was an interventionist action of the United States, and includes things like the USS Cole bombing (because apparently, "intervention" is synonymous with "getting blown up"). The second one, I'll admit I didn't read much because it hurt my eyes. As far as reading up, try taking a look at what the Soviets did to Finland, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Afghanistan, Chechnya, etc. Again, I'm not claiming that the US has always been perfect or has always done the right thing, but to claim that the USSR or even the Russian Federation has a better human rights or intervention or aggression record than the US makes you sound like a 14-year-old who just discovered punk rock.

    Oh, and since you're clearly such a fan of Orwell, given that second page you linked me to, here's my favorite Orwell quote:

    "That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer's cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there."

  29. waldo Says:

    Nice strategy ~ take a ten thousand pages of information and reduce it to the tool used to construct it and featured quotes by one author.

    Great logic ~ we're not as bad war criminals as those guys, even though they're a brutal police state and we're a freedom-loving democracy.

    "Not sure how the army (or the wars in Southeast Asia) are relevant to the debate."

    Let's be straight here. There was nothing anonymous about 'the wars in SouthEast Asia'. America waged war on Vietnam Laos and Cambodia and the reason for that was America is armed to to teeth and believes She has the right to use them whenever She deems fit. This is reflected on a local level by the loons who wear arms to a health care debate and the misguided who believe being armed is equivalent to a polite society.

    I’m not claiming that the US has always been perfect or has always done the right thing… ~ Oh, good.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0854678/

    http://deoxy.org/wc/warcrime.htm

    http://www.apfn.org/apfn/iraq_crime.htm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Ghraib_torture_and_prisoner_abuse

    http://www.nydailynews.com/news/us_world/2009/08/06/2009-08-06_roadside_bomb_.html

    http://cursor.org/stories/civilian_deaths.htm

    Oh but wait, I’ll admit I didn’t read much because it hurt my eyes.

    It doesn't hurt your eyes when you read the brutal facts Nick, it hurts your soul. But you don't have to worry. Quick, grab your gun and console yourself that if you're ever really challenged you've got the answer right in your hands.

  30. Nick Says:

    It wasn't the information that hurt my eyes, it was the bright fucking blue background. If you want to convince people of your side, you're going to have to make sure that your website is legible. And yes, I know about Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo, and My Lai, and extraordinary rendition, and the rest–probably more than you do. But my acceptance of the fact that the US has done some fucked up shit doesn't lead me, unlike you, to believe that everyone else in the world is just awesome and that nobody could possibly be worse than the big, bad United States.

    But hey, keep linking IMDB instead of actually responding to my arguments or doing any research for yourself. Let me know how that goes for you.

  31. waldo Says:

    "keep linking IMDB"

    Oh, so sorry Nick, that source is also not to your liking ? Here, just so you don't have to avoid the truth, don't go anywhere:

    Dilawar (c.1979–December 10, 2002) was an Afghan prisoner at the Bagram Collection Point military detention center in Afghanistan. He arrived at the prison on December 5, 2002, and was declared dead on December 10, 2002. He was a 22-year-old taxi driver and farmer who weighed 122 pounds and was 5 ft 9 in tall. He is survived by his daughter, Bibi Rashida. Leaked internal United States Army documentation ruled that his death was due to a direct result of assaults and attacks he sustained at the hands of interrogators of the 519th Battalion of the US army during his stay at Bagram. It would be many months before Army investigators learned that most of the interrogators had in fact believed Mr. Dilawar to be an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.
    In February, an American military official disclosed that the Afghan guerrilla commander whose men had arrested Mr. Dilawar and his passengers had himself been detained. The commander, Jan Baz Khan, was suspected of attacking Camp Salerno himself and then turning over innocent "suspects" to the Americans in a ploy to win their trust, the military official said.

    And if your widdle eyes can take it ~

    http://www.veteransagainsttorture.com/
    http://www.historiansagainstwar.org/resources/torture/luce.html
    http://www.newwest.net/index.php/main/article/9930/%20-tpmcafe.talkingpointsmemo.com/…/cia-torture-the-spillover-from.php%20-
    http://www.soaw.org/
    http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/12/26/1040511135568.html
    mindprod.com/politics/iraqtortures.html –
    http://www.serendipity.li/cia/operation_phoenix.htm

    And let's not forget Nick, my contention is all of this stems from the 'I'm superior' mindset of gun madness.

    "And yes, I know about Abu Ghraib….. and the rest–probably more than you do."

    So you too actively served during the Vietnam war and have been fighting the sadistic, inhuman, corrupt stupidity of war ever since ?

  32. Nick Says:

    You seem to be misunderstanding, willfully or otherwise, what I'm actually arguing about. I'm not arguing about the fact that prisoner abuse and various war crimes have been committed by the United States. In fact, I've gone out of my way on several occasions to state that here (reading comprehension is clearly not your strong suit). I'm arguing two things: First, that the fact that the United States has committed some unjustifiable actions does not make a dictatorship which murdered millions of its own citizens and actively suppressed any free thought morally superior; secondly, that to ignore every single actual cause of war–everything from public fears of communism to the military-industrial complex to political realities–in favor of the theory that Americans like guns and therefore we start wars just cause it's fun is pretty much ridiculous.

    If you served in Vietnam then I respect the sacrifices that you made. However, having served honorably in the military does not mean that you're not oversimplifying the causes of war to a ridiculous degree. Furthermore, I know plenty of liberal gun owners, myself included. I was actively opposed to the invasion of Iraq, despite what you would claim is my inherent prediliction for violence as a result of owning guns.

    And you still haven't explained how the Swiss, who have more powerful weaponry in most homes than the majority of Americans, manage to stay neutral.

  33. filmy Says:

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