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Issue Date:  May 20, 2005

Can immigrants save us from the neocons?

Imperialism goes ignored even as the U.S. embarks upon it


I have been hearing a lot about the neocons or the neoconservatives, so I went to Google to see what’s said about them. The first reference is from The Christian Science Monitor. The Web site describes the “neocons” as those who “believe that the United States should not be ashamed to use its unrivaled power -- forcefully if necessary -- to promote its values around the world. Some even speak of the need to cultivate a U.S. empire.”

The idea of imposing Western supremacy over the entire world is not new. Winston Churchill had a similar ideology. He said in 1937 while addressing the Palestine Royal Commission, “I do not admit … that a great wrong has been done to the red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia … by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race … has come in and taken its place.” British imperialism is a glorified example, Britain having ruled Palestine, Zimbabwe, the Indian subcontinent and Iraq, to name a few. Ultimately, British imperialism came to an end, not because the colonizers developed a conscience, apologized and left, but because the indigenous people refused to be subjugated any longer.

Those nations are still suffering the consequences of colonialism: abject poverty, war, debt, disease, despair, chaos. Incidentally, I have read that Churchill’s bust now adorns the Oval Office desk of our president.

Coming from India, I dread to think of another “raj” enslaving and exploiting other nations again. Even after having lived here for almost 30 years, my memory of the Third World’s destitution and deficiency is still fresh. We blame these on overpopulation, illiteracy, chaos, corruption, inertia and so on, not on Western imperialism or the West’s sympathetic interference via the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, economic sanctions, and so on.

But I have hopes for the United States of America. A country’s best and most important asset is not its weapons, wealth or power but the conscience of its people. The conscience of new immigrants, mostly from the Third World, their collective memories of poverty, starvation, hopelessness, endless struggle are still alive. The disparity of the have and have-nots globally and within this nation shocks them as they witness this nation’s great opulence. Most of these immigrants have a relative or friend somewhere in the world who is destitute. It’s a known fact that the gap between the rich and the poor nations and the rich and poor within a nation is growing fast. Right now the United States has 50 percent of the world’s wealth. We want to accumulate even more. That troubles the conscience of some.

For these new immigrants, it would not be enough to have wonderful lives only for themselves. They would want wonderful lives for others too, based on justice and equality. Their conscience will want them to share their country’s wealth with others because they realize this wealth is the result of the exploitation of the Third World. These new immigrants believe in respecting the rights, the ideologies, the cultures of other nations. They would not want us to be acting as a “benevolent global hegemon,” a phrase The Christian Science Monitor uses that describes one of the neoconservatives’ goals.

And, of course, there are the African-Americans whose memory of 200 years of slavery is still alive too. Will they want the people of other nations to be enslaved and subjugated? This does not mean that the general population of America does not have the same notions of justice and equality. The problem is that they are really not aware of the legacy of colonialism and imperialism -- what it does to nations and their citizens.

Even now, when many consider the war on terrorism an effort to further American imperialism around the world, there is no dialogue on the history of imperialism and colonialism in the newspapers, schools and colleges. To form a good conscience, an unbiased study of history is imperative, but it is greatly lacking in our country.

The British never believed their empire would ever cease to exist. Now it seems as if the empire never existed. The neocons or any other group might have similar ideas, but as long as there are people with conscience, this country will be saved from becoming a “hegemon.”

Farrukh Hasan is a former college teacher, a university librarian and a freelance writer. She lives in Shawnee, Kan.

National Catholic Reporter, May 20, 2005

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