Perhaps some of this blog’s readers (and yes, it’s getting hard to read this blog…I am afraid the system will collapse before I get this post entered…) saw the piece I did on how local media supports and "normalizes" the death of US GIs in Iraq. See my essay "Normalizing Evil on the Local News," at www.zmag.org/content/print_article.cfm?itemID=9276§ionID=21. This article elicited some interesting reflections from self-described "Christrians" who accused me of "dishonoring" a recently killed (in Fallujah) Marine (Andy Patten of Byron, Illinois) mentioned in that article. Some of those who wrote to me constructed some rather unfortunate arguments in defense of the war and the criminal White House that took their friend’s life. I penned a response to their hurt but nonetheless still ruggedly rightist reflections in my "Letter to the Friends of a Lost Soldier," available at: www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=72&ItemID=9301. Here’s the oddest letter yet, just sent to me by a self-described descendant of Norwegian immigrants to the U.S.: "Mr. Street:" "I suppose that you would consider World War II an illegitimate war and all of the soldiers killed there a waste. Maybe you would enjoy living under Nazi rule. Maybe we should have just allowed Sadaam Hussein to maim and torture more people beyond the Kurds. What would you consider to be normal and necessary death overseas? Why should we even care about anyone else other than ourselves anyway? We fund all kinds of domestic programs and yet are we ahead in terms of people becoming better citizens or contributing more to our society because of what we have given them off the public dole? What is your statistic to back up that most of the American populace is against the war? I would imagine that if Clinton was at war in Iraq and everything was the same as it is now, you would have no hue and outcry. If America is as bad as you say it is, why are people still desiring to come here from other countries and make a life for themselves? My inlaws came here from Norway in the 1950′s for all that America has to offer. Why are so many students here from other countries such as at NIU? Why would they want to go to school in America if they can go somewhere else? As a woman myself, do you have anything to say about how women are treated in Iraq and other middle eastern countries? Would you rather leave that alone because you don’t care about the woman who were maimed and killed by Sadaam and his cronies? Are we so concerned with our image as a nation that we have to appease the whole world with whatever we do? Lets just all be one happy little nation and mind our little p’s and q’s and we’ll live happily ever after. Maybe the pilgrims with their imperialist ambitions should never have come over here and we should all be living under British rule. Then we wouldn’t have rocked the boat. " "You seem like you would be a good candidate to live in Norway. It is a ‘wonderful’ socialist country. All of your healthcare would be paid for. Just hope you don’t come down with cancer or another serious illness. Several of my husband’s relatives were given a clean bill of health in Norway and then came here for a vacation and within days of coming here were taken to the hospital. Two of them were diagnosed with terminal cancer and the other with advanced heart disease. One died here before he could get back to Norway and the others died soon after they got back to Norway. Other relatives have come over for treatment because their ‘lovely little’ socialist medical system has no incentive for innovative care and therefore offers no hope for serious diseases or doesn’t even diagnose them." Ok, that’s the note. Now it’s me talking again. What’s the worst thing in this terrible letter? Hard to say. Maybe its the writer’s preposterous analogy between Saddam and Hitler, made without much other than superficial basis. The fascist Axis was a true and profound threat to world peace and democracy. I would have been the first person to the recruiting station to fight Hitler. An uncle of mine died fighting the Nazi army in North Africa. Maybe its the writer’s ignorance of Uncle Sam’s role in funding, equipping and generally protecting Saddam as he butchered not only Kurds but Iranian soliders and many others. She is unaware of the US-led economic sanctions that maimed and tortured Iraq to the tune of at least 1 million deaths (not counting the huge civilian death count from the first US war on Iraq) and which simultaneously deepened Saddam’s power in Iraq. Maybe its her ignorance of how the situation of Iraqi women has worsened thanks to the U.S. invasion, which is empowering reactionary Muslim elements who repress females. Or maybe its her gullible acceptance of the Cheney-Bush administration’s Orwellian rhetoric whereby the massive US assault on Iraqi civilians, society, and infrastructure (in 2004 a conservative British medical journal estimated more than 100,000 premature Iraqi deaths because of Bush’s monumentally illegal war of aggression and choice) is an expression of America’s liberating and Christian love…. for…. well, the Iraqis (you know…tough love). Maybe its her lack of understanding that the U.S. has by the far the weakest welfare state in the industrialized world. What does she mean "ahead in terms of people becoming better citizens?" That term would require a bit more elaboration it seems to me. Apparently she means people moving off "the dole." I guess that would leave out people like Bush and Cheney, whose chickenhawk lives have been defined by the aristicratic cradle to grave dole called elite class privilege. Both of them have received no small amount of corporate welfare over the decades. Maybe its her ignorance of readily available polling data showing that 62 percent of the U.S. populace disagrees with Bush’s Iraq policy. Or maybe its her ignorance that leftists like me harshly opposed and criticized Clinton, including his Iraq policy: it’s endlessly amusing to see how the right likes to think that regressive/neoliberal Bill Clinton was "left" and that the left liked him. Maybe it’s my critic’s false claim that I said America was a bad place. Or her dangerous confusion between America/Americanism and the Bush administration. Or her authoritarian suggestion that someone who disagrees with her vile president’s morally unjust and idiotic (even from a conservative perspective) war should LEAVE THE COUNTRY— there we go again (http://blog.zmag.org/index.php/weblog/entry/why_dont_you_leave_the_country/) — and go to, well, curiously enough, her ancestral land Norway. So much for America as the land of free expression: "what, you dare disagree with the current administration? Deport thyself, infidel!" No, the worst thing I think is the way she beats up on not-so poor (see below) little Norway, a country to which she claims ethno-historical connection! I love America, but I also have some reasons to love Norway too. Check out the UN’s 2005 Human Development Report numbers at http://hdr.undp.org/statistics/data/ http://cfapp2.undp.org/hdr/statistics/data/rc_report.cfm Norway is, well, NUMBER ONE on the most sophisticated system of national quality-of-life ranking yet devised by social researchers. The U.S. is number 10, which is pretty good, but it ain’t Norway. Here are some comparisons that ought to interest my Norwegian-American critic: PERCENTAGE OF POPULATION LIVING BENEATH 50% OF MEDIAN NATIONAL INCOME: Norway: 6.4% US: 17% HEALTH EXPENDITURES PER CAPITA* Norway: $3,409 US: $5,724 * My critic probably thinks socialized health insurance means higher costs. Not true: the American corporate system, ruled by the capitalist profit imperative, is remarkably expensive because of high drug costs, huge doctor and administrative salaries, and massive bureaucratic bloat in the the medical industrial complex. LIFE EXPECTANCY* Norway: 79 US: 77 * I’m very sorry about my critic’s husband’s relatives, but people live longer on the whole in Norway, with its supposedly awful publicly funded health care system. INFANT MORTALITY* Norway: 3 per 1,000 live births US: 7 per 1,000 live births * More than twice as high in supposedly "free market" America, where more than 44 million lack health insurance GDP PER CAPITA* Norway: $48,412 (highest in world) US: 37,648 * So do Americans need to start working harder than those lazy Norwegians, who have been made so lethargic by social democratic programs? SHARE OF NATIONAL CONSUMPTION BYTHE POOREST 10 PERCENT OF POPULATION Norway: 4% U.S.: 2 % SHARE OF NATIONAL CONSUMPTION BY THE RICHEST 20 PERCENT Norway: 37.2% US: 45.8% RATIO OF THE 10 PERCENT’S INCOME TO THE BOTTOM 10 PERCENT’S INCOME: Norway: 6.1 (times higher) US: 16 (times higher) GINI COEFFFICIENT (Measure of total inequality) Norway: 25.8 US: 41 UNEMPLOYMENT RATE (2004): Norway: 4.5 US: 6 Now that Bush’s war on Iraq has proven so successful perhaps the president should be preparing for a new messianic assault on evil Marxist Scandinavia, including first and foremost the nation ranked at the very top of the planet in terms of human development. But of course the UN’s Human Development Report is just part of the international liberal socialist secular humanist commie terrorist intellectual east coast academic conspiracy that evangelical authorities so rightly condemn, right? Right. Jesus spins in his grave when America’s "Christian" right starts thinking. Forgive them for they haven’t got a clue. Maybe some day my critic will learn about the radical Jesus that Gerrard Winstanely knew about, the wonderful egalitarian anti-authoritarian leveller of men — the great enemy of hierarchy who finds his vision more closely fulfilled in relatively secular Norway than in avowedly "Christian" America.