It has finally dawned on me why, throughout my life, I have had dental problems that have resulted in me becoming—as Seinfeld’s Cosmo Kramer so eloquently shot into the zeitgeist of 1990s America—“a rabid antidentite.” Unfortunately, my dental epiphany did not occur until after all my teeth had been extracted.
I came to loathe dental professionals because of their abhorrent processes. Sitting in a dentist’s waiting room while suffering through excruciating pain is reason enough to detest the dentites’ activities: “Fill out this form—front and back. Do you have insurance? Have you been in pain long? When was your last checkup? Show me your papers [aka ID].” On and on it goes . . . seemingly unabated, until a decision is reached whether treatment shall be rendered.
All that must be navigated before one has a shot (or a snowball’s chance in hell) at being injected with psychologically stabilizing Novocain. But even when all that preamble bullshit has been successfully circumnavigated, more malarkey must be endured.
One must sit passively in a dentite’s treatment chair while a bib is placed around one’s neck before being laid back in a supine position, followed by having an adjustable glaring light situated overhead so that pinpoint illumination can be focused into one’s mouth. Then it’s time for another bib to be placed over one’s chest to (hopefully) keep the radiation particles at bay while X-rays are taken.
Only after all that is out of the way will the combination tormentor and pain alleviator appear, smiling broadly (just like everyone else one encounters en route to the treatment chair). While the diplomaed and state-certified dentite examines the X-rays (to ensure accuracy), the torture tools of the trade are brought forth: picks and probes and pliers and jaw spreaders, ad infinitum. And, of course, what one has been praying for throughout the entire process: a syringe and cartridges of heaven-sent Novocain.
But before the elusive liquid pain blocker is injected into the gums to numb the nasopalatine and greater palatine nerves so that the pain-signaling electrical-chemical neurotransmission chain reaction (which started in one neuron’s axon terminal before being passed off to a dendrite of an adjacent neuron via the synaptic cleft) can be obstructed (resulting in a patient finally being able to breathe normally again and quell his or her accumulating thoughts of committing mass auto-homeo genocide), the dentite will grab a pricking and probing tool and strategically—to ensure complete accuracy and maximum pain—place it on the offending tooth’s most vulnerable micro-spot, found by the dentite’s copious study of the aforementioned X-ray. And then the dentite prick (or dentite pricktress for the woke generation) will stab the pulsating tooth with the torture tool. Once one’s screaming and crying and begging has subsided, only then will the dentite say, “Yep, that tooth is causing you pain. Let me give you a shot of Novocain.”
And yet they, the dental professionals, still wonder why the overwhelming mass majority of Homo sapiens view dentists with complete contempt and earned disdain.
Antidentites will need a lot of HR-sanctioned—or court-ordered—sensitivity training and peripheral support groups (à la twelve-step structure) to have any hope of overcoming their prejudices against dentists. Step one: admit that we—antidentites—are powerless over our hatred of dentists and that we will avoid dentists until we are in withering pain.
My teeth have endured a lot of gnashing throughout my life. Each time I’ve heard phony Americans masquerading as political figures while being nothing more than pathetic charlatans, blind minions, bought-and-paid-for politicians proclaiming that America is a great nation, I would grit and grate and grind my teeth until lockjaw took hold, all so I wouldn’t scream at the top of my lungs: BULLSHIT!
Accomplishing great things is not synonymous with being great (as in Merriam-Webster.com’s sixth definition for great: “markedly superior in character or quality, especially: NOBLE // great of soul”). Any objective person who’s able to think critically can arrive at no other conclusion than that the Divided States of America have always missed, and continue to miss, the high-water mark of greatness as defined by the benchmark dictionary of Merriam-Webster.
And that’s a fact, Jack!
I was once told by a Dutch fisher (in 1989 Amsterdam) that most Americans pick and choose the location from which to view their history, and that chronological spot is always in flux, always moving, to conveniently fit whatever deceptive narrative is being spewed while consciously omitting any historical facts that do not fit into the fairy tale that America is a great nation. He, the old Dutch fisher, said to me while we were guzzling Heineken beer in one of Amsterdam’s lovely neighborhood bars, “America is so confused that she cannot differentiate between doing great things and being a great nation.”
That night, the night I spent with a grand old man of the seas, I felt as Job felt when God indicted him, and I, too, said, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay my hand upon my mouth . . . I will proceed no further.”
You see, I had made a critical error. After the Dutchman had told me how grateful he was that American paratroopers had descended from the skies, like steeled and armed angels hell-bent on liberating the Netherlands, singularly focused on freeing his beloved homeland from the Nazis’ strangling death hold, I made the colossal mistake of suggesting that America was a great nation.
After I regurgitated that ill-conceived and noncritical obligatory and near-religious chant—“America is the greatest nation on Earth”—which had been installed in me throughout my formative years, my nonpuritan, non–“one nation under God” education was about to begin. The Dutch fisher placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “Don’t confuse a nation doing great things with a nation being great.”
He then asked me if I knew what triggered America to finally enter World War II and fight the Germans. I was hard-pressed to provide an exact answer. I knew that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor and that that event had triggered President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to address a joint session of Congress. FDR said, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan . . . I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan . . . a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.”
That memory from my childhood made addressing the first part of my newly minted Dutch friend’s question easily answerable. But, I remembered, America had set her sights on defeating Germany before focusing her justified retribution and retaliation upon the Empire of Japan (although the dropping of nuclear bombs on Japanese civilian targets still makes me cringe and lends credence to this essay’s title).
After I partially answered the Dutchman’s probing question, I said, “I’m not sure what triggered America to fight the Germans first.”
Leave it to a non-American to educate an American boy-man on his own nation’s history, I thought to myself as I sipped beer while my Hollander friend told me about my own country’s history. “On December 11, 1941, Germany declared war upon America during a three-minute meeting between two diplomats: one American (Leland B. Morris) and one German (Joachim von Ribbentrop). Morris listened,” the Dutch fisher informed me, “while Ribbentrop declared that the German government discontinued diplomatic relations with the United States of America, declaring that Germany considers herself as being in a state of war with the United States of America.”
Hmm, I thought, before I said out loud to my Dutch drinking companion and friend, “So it was Germany that first declared war upon the United States and not vice versa.”
“Yes, that is true. It is a little-known, even omitted, fact in your nation that America did not declare war on Germany because of the Nazis’ conquest, but rather did so in response to having war declared upon her by the Germans,” the Dutchman confidently replied.
Hmm was a recurring humming in my mind that night, the night I was educated on my own nation’s history. That night triggered me to view my nation differently. To view it objectively. To view it from a true patriot’s perspective. To view it critically. To be a patriot as described by Edward Abbey: “A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”
My compatriots did a great thing in World War II. They helped to defeat the Nazis, helped to free Europe, and made goddamned good and sure that Japan would never again seek war upon any other nation. But my nation and its government did not display greatness in World War II. They fought tyranny to liberate oppressed people by using a segregated military wherein nonwhites were denied basic human rights in conflict with its own founding and defining document, the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Additionally, my nation and its government instructed my compatriots to drop nuclear bombs on two civilian targets (the cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima), which had been purposely protected from any military action so that the full and pristine effect of nuclear annihilation could be studied after its citizens had been massacred.
The creation of the atomic bomb—the splitting of the atom—was a great accomplishment. But its usage has been as far away from greatness as anything can get.
There is a nearly inexhaustible supply of examples wherein America did a great thing but was not great in doing the great thing. I will bullet chart a few examples from America’s defining accomplishments wherein she was not great. I will do so because I love my country more than life itself. I will do so because until and unless America acknowledges her trespasses and seeks to atone for them, she will never be great. I will do so because it is my patriotic duty to tell the empress—America—that she is buck naked!
- America’s founding fathers created the best republic known to humankind, at the time, with the best democratic protections—aka checks and balances on power—that the world had ever seen.
- They did so while holding humans as slaves and continued to hold slaves for nearly a hundred more years.
- America expanded west to encompass the lower forty-eight states.
- She did so through the genocide of her land’s indigenous people.
- America fought a civil war against herself to free enslaved people.
- Then she stood idly by for more than another hundred years while the technically free African Americans were marginalized, disenfranchised, denied a drink of water and a piece of bread—and even lynched in broad daylight by four Minneapolis, Minnesota, police officers who had sworn an oath to serve and to protect: Godspeed, George Floyd; your murder momentarily stopped the racist dominoes from falling and forced the dominoes to begin to fall in two distinctly different directions: Trump’s America (a return to her racist past) or President Biden’s and Vice-President Harris’s vision of acknowledging America’s atrocities and seeking to atone for all the things my nation’s governments’ administrations have allowed to inflict on both her citizens and the citizens of the world.
- America landed a man on the moon in 1969.
- She did so with an ivory-white workforce of NASA males, who were exclusively placed in the public eye while hiding away the African American female mathematicians who played a pivotal role in fulfilling President Kennedy’s lofty vision.
All the above were great things—but none of them suggests that America was great, as in being markedly superior in character, as in noble. America has always missed the mark, and continues to fall short, of being a great nation while doing great things.
The list of citable examples of America conflating great things with being great will self-perpetuate until elected officials put an end to such nonsense. I could list more—many, many more—because, as the Fixx said: “One thing leads to another.” But I shall not now list any more of them. Because if you are honest with yourself, you already know what they are.
In closing, I will quote the poet Dylan—not the Welsh writer Thomas but rather the Nobel laureate, America’s great patriot and native son, Bob: “And if my thought-dreams could be seen / They’d probably put my head in a guillotine.” So I won’t become hostile toward you, nor lay blame if you scream: “Off with John R. Hall’s head!” Because I stand with another great American patriot, Patrick Henry: “Give me liberty, or give me death!” And because the gnashing of my teeth has rendered me toothless and exhausted.
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