some U.S. observations and notes

From: Amara Graps (
Date: Thu Dec 13 2001 - 17:43:02 MST

Dear Extropes,

I returned to Heidelberg 1.5 days ago from my business/personal trip
to the U.S., and since this was my first trip back 'home' to the
U.S. since September 11, I am compelled to note my observations of
how the U.S. appears to me these days.

First, for those of you women who have upcoming travels: it seems
that women traveling alone are a red flag for U.S. airport security
(not so much in Europe). I didn't succeed in escaping the 'random
security checks' in the four U.S. airports I passed through
(Washington D.C., New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Francisco). I was
_always_ pulled aside and questioned, and sometimes me or my
hand-luggage searched.

Other observations:

An American flag phenomenon, everywhere. It used to be that one saw
only the American flag on government buildings, schools and on
politician's cars as they campaigned, but not only these anymore.
They are on people's houses, on some ~20% (or more) of the cars. If
not the American flag, then stickers of the Amercan flag, or
clothing pins of the American flag, which can be bought near the
cash register of almost every store (gas stations, etc.) Sometimes I
got the sense that houses in neighborhoods were competing with each
other for the biggest flag, or the most flags. Or sometimes I got
the impression that the flags were more like a fashionable trend.

Along with the flags were equal numbers of stickers on cars, in
windows of stores and houses with the words: "United We Stand" or
"God Bless America".

>From my 37 years living in the U.S., I find this phenomena odd. The
U.S. is a mix of an incredible number of many things and people that
never was, and never will 'united'. Besides, I'm rather partial to
the Earth, the Solar System, and the Milky Way, and I generally
abhor boundaries (one of the reasons I moved to live outside of the
U.S.). I would rather those flags and stickers show pictures of the
Solar System ("Sol we Shine") or the Milky Way ("Universe Bless the
Milky Way").

The media (newspaper, TV news) has created a deluge of
War-in-Afghanistan news with at least 1/2 of the "A" news section
devoted to this topic every day, and at least 1/2 of the TV news
every day. Often the news is generated via a media circus. No wonder
so many of my family and friends are saturated with the news, and no
wonder the 'War' is in front of so many people's minds every day. If
I was living there, I would find it very difficult to think of
alternative peaceful solutions to the 'War' with the media hammering
away as it is.

The means to generate funds to benefit those close to the September 11
victims appears to be taken to new levels I've not seen before: product
labels carrying elements of the September 11 events, and some number
of products for sale state that proceeds go towards the victims. The
latter would be fine to me, but I thought that the commercialization was
too... slick. Like selling cars. I would rather grieve about the
September 11, losses without the commercialization.

Finally, I observed a transformation in America, that frankly scared
me. It's there now, and is trickling outside. Fear, suspicions,
sometimes paranoia. Boundaries and borders are being heavily
fortified, civil rights are being trampled right and left, and for
the most part, I didn't hear people complaining about that (the one
exception was the the ~1000 people who are held in jails with no due
process for 'suspicious terrorist activity'). In human history's
most wretched times, people were labeled and then burned,
quartered, persecuted, and I see this kind of fear-based labelling
on people appearing again. I couldn't escape the feeling that the
place where I was born and lived for most of my life (the U.S.) has
gone a little bit insane.

Before I moved out of the U.S. ~4 years ago, I was, in a small way, a
pacifist, believing that one doesn't answer violence with yet again
more violence. I also believe that any group's rampant unhappiness
or disrest has an element of truth embedded, and it must be
addressed in a civil way, or the violent cycle will continue. The
events since September 11, and my U.S. observations the last weeks,
have polarized me (unexpectedly) much more as a pacifist, and I know
now that the U.S. is not a good fit as an environment for me to live
(or to raise a kid).

I don't know if my observations are useful to anyone in the U.S. and
I won't entertain arguments or debates, since they are mostly my
observations. I'll only state that I'm very worried with the
direction that the U.S. humans (and others) on this planet are


Amara Graps, PhD email:
Computational Physics vita:
Multiplex Answers URL:
"Sometimes I think I understand everything. Then I regain
consciousness." --Ashleigh Brilliant

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