Books In Conversation
Melissa Rossi with K.M. Ferebee
Recently, the Rail caught up with Melissa Rossi, via email, on the subjects of false prophets, the lone Swiss Bush supporter, why you shouldn’t pay your taxes, and other issues raised by her most recent book, What Every American Should Know About the Rest of the World (Plume, December 2005).
BROOKLYN RAIL: I wondered how much you knew, before beginning your research, about these people, institutions, and organizations controlling the future, and how much came as a complete shock to you as you discovered it?
MELISSA ROSSI: It was in fact a big shock. I had no idea we are being duped to the extent that we are. And I don’t think I started out terribly naive. This is the tip of the iceberg, too.
Rail: When you say the “tip of the iceberg,” what are you thinking lies beneath the surface? And do you think it can or will be brought to light?
Rossi: For instance, I did not realize that the “neocons”—e.g., Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Michael Ledeen, Lewis Libby—had been such major players during the Reagan administration, when their ludicrous, paranoid fantasies helped to boost arms acquisitions to some $1 trillion. I did not know that the Iran-Contra players were such a cabal—and that the same players would be back BIG, with John Negroponte now heading ALL intelligence. I sure as heck didn’t know that most processed food in the USA contained genetically modified food and that it’s never been tested on humans, making us the guinea pigs. I didn’t know there was such a “revolving door” between major corporations such as Bechtel and Monsanto and the government: that high-fallutin’ corporate types would go into government, make policies that behoove that company, and then go back to the corporation.
Look, if the citizens of the U.S. decide to REMEMBER and to demand accountability—and if our media, who sure as heck seemed to have been taking a nap for four years decide that they are awake, then yes—this all could be brought to light—and incorporated into our recent history. Which will explain a lot of where our country has gone awry.
I travel around quite a lot, mostly in Europe. I have talked to thousands of people, and I do mean thousands of people, since Bush was elected. The reaction is always the same—how could the American people tolerate this; this administration is dangerous to the whole world. A lot of Europeans and other international types think that if the U.S. has so much power they should be able to vote on our president, too! I was in Europe when Clinton was president—people loved us then! People loved Colin Powell, too; they couldn’t believe when he got the heave-ho—I mean, he was forced to resign. I have not met one, NOT ONE, person overseas who has a kind thing to say about the Bush administration; although I did hear of a Bush supporter in Switzerland: he hates Arabs, and supports Bush apparently because he believes Bush does too! I find it all terribly alarming!
Rail: The isolation that seems characteristic of the U.S. now, in terms of public opinion, is very worrying. Do you think the solution is to go larger, in terms of forming stronger global communities—for instance, taking into account the opinions of foreign nationals about the U.S. government on the grounds that decisions made by the U.S. affect the world? Or is the solution to go to a smaller, more locally-based approach?
Rossi: I think first we need to turn inward and deal with our embarrassing problems—i.e., the Bush administration which has yet to be fully taken to task for their gross deceptions. We are falling apart as a country. We need some non-partisan groups, non-partisan agreements and groups—Accountability Now, Get Real Now, groups that don’t yet exist—to say to this administration and the corporations that control us: Hold on! What are you doing? We don’t approve and we are sick of your deceit! We need to go back to September 11 and find out what REALLY happened—and I am looking in the direction of one Dick Cheney when I say that. We need to unite as a country, and get over some of our petty differences. It is an outrage what is going on—the disinformation, the propaganda, the lies, the torture, the unwarranted wars, the stripping of our rights. And if enough people—say, a quarter of the population, said, “Geez, we’d love to pay our taxes. But we’re not going to until you tell us the truth, and until you shut down the torture centers and pull out of Iraq”—or whatever the agreed-upon demands are, I think we could make progress.
Rail: Let me put an issue out there that’s closer to home: the power of the Christian Right in this country. What do you think of the recent decision of voters in Dover, PA to oust members of the local school board who supported the teaching of intelligent design?
Rossi: U.S. citizens laugh off the power of the Christian right. Most refuse to see there is a move to put a theocracy in place—they think this is just a conspiracy theory. It’s not. Look at the Ten Commandments issue, taken before the Supreme Court! Look at the move to prominently place “In God We Trust” in government buildings! The Christian ultra-right has been overtaking school boards since the 1990s, they have had stealth candidates and not-so-stealth candidates—Tom DeLay and Bill Frist are but a powerful couple of super-mighty Congressmen (also currently running into problems) among the many that have been gaining power for quite some time who are pushing a Christian agenda. I have no problem with Christians, but the ultra-right Christians are trying to pull a major power play—and the Council on National Policy (which some believe controls the Republican Party) as well as those fiction horror stories of Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series (which sold over 60 million copies) are but two shows of the sneaky moves of the ultra-right Christians. Somebody must be waking up to what is happening to have booted the Dover, PA school board. I loved how Pat Robertson warned them not to call on God if they had a problem since they had kicked him out. These are the false prophets, I believe, headed by one Tim LaHaye: And Bush’s faith-based programs—wherein religion is being funded by government and taking over social programs—is positively scary. These are the same techniques—have religious/political groups provide social services—that are used by Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East. Is nobody making this connection? Like I said, I have no problem with Christians or even the Christian right: my big concern is when they—and the Bush administration—blur the line between church and state. I sure as hell don’t want the Ten Commandments installed as replacement to the U.S. Constitution—and people have got to wake up and realize there is a big push to do exactly that.
Rail: What do you think should be done to prevent America from falling into the theocracy trap? How should Americans negotiate the line between being devout and believing that devotion ought to have a role in government?
Rossi: First of all, people have to recognize that the move to install the Ten Commandments in government buidings as well as installing sculptures and plaques saying “In God We Trust” is about trying to hook the government to religion, and say our government was based on the Bible. Many people don’t understand this connection: in surveys most people say they don’t mind the Ten Commandments in federal buildings at all. But it’s more than that: if you ask the same people if they wanted the Ten Commandments as the law of the land – which some very powerful parties are trying to push into place – I don’t think a majority would be for it. So first we have to recognize what is really behind the Ten Commandments issue.
I personally believe that religious beliefs and politics don’t go well together: The Founding Fathers knew this; religious persecution had brought quite a few of their relatives and ancestors here. Europe went through its religious upheavals, most of them several centuries ago. Europeans are in shock that this is happening now in the U.S. I think this move towards a theocracy comes out of fear—but I think this administration has cultivated that fear.
Look, I don’t care if people vote Republican or Democrat (I personally like Republican John McCain and Democrat Wesley Clark and wish both would run for president). I don’t care what people’s religious beliefs are, if they are conservative or progressive, or how much money they make. But people need to be very aware of what is going down—weaponization of space, a push towards theocracy, a move to wipe out our regulatory agencies, the revolving door between corporations and government, a cabal that has been dictating our course for decades. But we have to understand that as it stands, we are being lied to, duped, and hoodwinked by numerous entities, including our government, and that secret agendas are being snuck into our lives by players who are acting very stealthful. That’s what I’m trying to do—point a finger at where to look. What people do with this information is up to them. But I hope they stand up and yell. This ain’t no democracy anymore: the U.S. is heading towards a totalitarian state. I personally think democracy and liberty are ideas worth screaming about and doing everything we can to preserve.
We are the most powerful people on the planet. We have got to talk with each other. We have to demand accountability. We have to organize and unite on some key issues. We have to become a global player. The rest of the world is waiting.
About the author: K.M. Ferebee is a writer based in Bronxville, NY.
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