Shame and Pride in Being “an American”

April 1990By John C. Cort

There have been few times in my entire life — 76 years — when I have been more ashamed of being an American than when our military forces played rock music at full vol­ume night and day outside the Vatican Nunci­ature in Panama. This went on for several days with no rebuke or apology from Presi­dent Bush that I am aware of.

This reminded my wife of that scene in the Jimmy Cagney movie, One, Two, Three, where the East German police try to extract a confession from a suspect by forcing him to listen to the repeated playing of “Itsy-Bitsy, Teeny-Weeny, Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini.”

This whole Panama invasion has been a shaming experience, no matter how many of our fellow citizens, including one of my own sons, think it was great and are ready to ac­claim George Bush as no wimp, but a macho man worthy to succeed that other great macho man, Ronald Reagan, conqueror of mighty Grenada and death-defying bomber of Libyan women and children.

I agree with President Alan Garcia of Peru that “the invasion of Panama has set relations between the United States and Latin America back 30 years.” Well, perhaps 30 years is ex­aggerated because it implies that relations had advanced far enough to be set back that far. What is the record now — after 10 U.S. inva­sions of Latin American countries, not includ­ing the U.S. invasion of Nicaragua via the Contra route? It was an appropriate footnote to the Panama caper that our brave soldiers also invaded the Nicaraguan Embassy and ransacked it. Even Bush had to admit that this was “a screw-up,” a good macho word. Perhaps he remembered the U.S. was once out­raged by an Iranian invasion of our embassy in Teheran, a screw-up that may have cost President Carter re-election. But who cares about international law at any other time than when it serves our interests to express a little (hypocritical) concern?

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