By all standards, I am a privileged person accorded privileges I didn’t earn. Simply by being born white, male and middle class, the world is open to me in ways that it is not to others. I feel safer, I feel all the doors I care to enter are open, I feel confident that the world is my oyster (even though I don’t like oysters). And all of this is magnified through another accident of birth, being born in the United States of America. Because of stealing land from Native Americans, getting rich off the labor of slaves and later, the labor of poorly-paid workers, because of a value system that uses power to make money and uses money to get power, because of a ridiculously over-armed and over-funded military, I get to inherit the privilege of being “Number 1.”
Of course, I’m not the least bit proud of it and in fact, feel just enough shame to work harder to equalize the playing field. And when it comes to the things I care about, the United States is falling to the bottom of the list when it comes to health care, education, representative democracy that can’t be bought off with money, care for the land and care for culture. And rising to the top of the most murders by handguns, the most number of random killing sprees, the most corrupt government.
Why am I talking about this? For the silliest reason possible. I’m filling out an India Online Visa Form and some 15 times in this long labyrinth of bureaucracy, I have to name the United States in an address. And the only way to do that is to scroll down each time the long list of countries. You can’t cut and paste, you can’t go in reverse direction, just push that downward arrow and wait the 10 seconds for it to get toward the bottom. Maddening!
So out of some 200 countries, there are only 8 countries further down the line than the United States are: Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe. (In case you’re feeling embarrassed that you never heard of Vanuatu, I didn’t either. It’s in the South Pacific and is comprised of some 80 islands).
So I got a taste of what it feels like to always be at the back of the line. All my other privileges as an American citizen counted for nothing when it came to the India Visa Form. It made me want to move to Afghanistan.