The following has been adapted from Corey Taylor's new book America 51: A Probe into the Realities That Are Hiding Inside "The Greatest Country in the World," out August 8 on Da Capo Press. You can purchase it here.
I have long been a fan of history—not a student, but a fan. I've read so many books that I might have carcinogens from library dust. I've watched documentaries until my eyes have turned Technicolor. I have dragged my family to so many battlefields and historic "points of interest" that they now check around potential vacation spots to make sure I can't take them anywhere that is—and this is quoting my niece, by the way—"boring as whale shit and smells like an old church." So yes, I am a fan of history because I am a fan of stories in general, and what is history really except the stories from the past, ready and willing to help us shape our future? I mean ye gads (I never get to say that), it's in the damn name itself! HI-STORY! Where are we without it?
What do we do without it? What happens when we forget the lessons it has tried to show us? Even as a fan of history, I have always tried to temper my enthusiasm for our past with a respect for the tragedies it has beheld as well, realizing that death and loss have always gone hand-in-hand with life and victory. They say, "to the victor, the spoils." I say, "to the savvy, the subtleties."
So you'll understand the conflict within me when, many moons ago, I found myself walking slowly and reverentially through the quiet of the monuments and the museum at Dachau, just outside Munich, a fairly intense experience whether or not you know its full history. The sprawl covers lots of ground. Most of the structures have been razed to the ground, but pictorials and video show how it was laid out, including a re-creation of one of the "bunkhouses," which was really just a glorified trailer where, sadly, they kept too many people in such a space. Out of respect for the dead I won't go into too much detail. But I will tell you that it was a haunting and enlightening moment for me. The only thing that kept me from truly crumbling under the sheer emotional weight of it all was that in our way, America helped stop the human evil responsible for this historical trauma. I don't normally get all patriotic or "Lee Greenwood" or any of that corny shit, but knowing that my country helped stop an overwhelming wave of fascism made me proud, if even for a second. The meaning of this place was clear: NEVER FORGET THE PAST, OR YOU WILL BE DOOMED TO RELIVE IT. DON'T IGNORE HISTORY, OR YOU WILL BE DOOMED TO REPEAT IT. What happened to the Jewish people in this place and others like it is one of the most vile atrocities to happen in the history of humanity. Even with the mistakes we've made in the United States, we've managed to stand for something while also standing against that type of barbaric hate.
If only we'd held on to that righteous feeling . . .
This country has a crazy up-and-down love affair with taking massive shits in other people's backyards. The fucked-up thing is that we were never supposed to be this way. We were the global isolationists, really only joining conflicts at the very last minute and only then really because our own country was being threatened or attacked. We would stay away and stay away, holding on until we just couldn't hold back anymore. We just loved to mind our own business. Now, however, we can't really keep our snouts out of the trough. We strapped ourselves to a fucking Roman candle and tried to become the latest in a long line of that candle's namesake's conquerors. Under the guise of being the "world police" or the "sheriffs of Earth," we instead fell headfirst down a rabbit hole full of oil, money, and nefarious self-interest. Invasion became the name of the game, all while stuffing fistfuls of bullshit into the propaganda meat grinder: "fighting communism," "fighting drug trafficking," "fighting guerrilla fighters," "fighting terrorism," "fighting zealots"...the infinite loop closes behind us as we find ourselves devoted to an ideal that isn't true, which does wonders for our international appeal, to be honest.
Now, before I go any further, let's get something straight: this is not about our military. I am not making this point because I have anything against our current servicemen and -women, nor do I have anything against former veterans. As a matter of fact, members of my family have served our military going back before my grandfather, who served in Korea. I support every man and woman who has fought and died or stood with our military, no matter where they are. No, what I'm going to talk about is policy. These people join our various armed forces to be a part of something that has honor and takes courage. They can't help what these chicken-shit politicians stir up, nor can they help what they are forced to defend from time to time. Soldiers care about country and family—two things the government lets get lost in the shuffle all too often because of ego or conflict of interest. So when I talk about the certain invasions and subsequent evasions that have happened and inevitably will happen again, I'm not talking about my family and friends following orders and their hearts—I'm talking about the dicks behind the desks who, with one loss of temper, can flare up, rise up, and fuck up everyone's holidays, leading to loss of perspective and, more importantly, life.
This country has a crazy up-and-down love affair with taking massive shits in other people's backyards.
Maybe it's because we caught empire fever. That could be the reason we hold our hands over our hearts for the pledge of allegiance and "The Star-Spangled Banner": because that's what the Romans did as well when they did their salute. That could be why we've tried to hold onto all these US territories like Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands: because that's what our "ex-benefactors," the British, did right up until the end of World War II. That could be a subconscious reason we were so against the Germans and why we still have issues with the Russians: because we've bullshitted ourselves into thinking that because we're "good" and "righteous" and "fight for freedom," we're the only ones allowed to pursue international land holdings (aka, to just bully in and declare some random place is "American-held land"). That last example is what we've done with our "word of mouth," and we'll talk about that a little more later. I'll be honest: that word of mouth hasn't held well. That only works now inside our own country. The rest of the world is on to us—as the movies love to say, "The jig is up, Sharky!" We can't play that conquest-disguised-as-liberation card anymore. We used to be the journeymen. Now we're the bogeymen.
Is that our legacy, our lot in this life? Were we doomed to become the very thing we claimed to be fighting against? Sometimes I wonder if the United States from the 1900s had a better idea of what needed to be done. Even Woodrow Wilson couldn't keep us out of the Great War, but at least at first we were adamant about staying out of foreign conflict. Isolationism doesn't solve all the problems. We are, in fact, a large part of a huge global community, and we do need to have a presence in it. People look to us for answers, so getting involved is only natural. We can't stay out of everything. However, we do need to pay a little more attention to what's on our side of the fence. By doing that, I do not mean "building a fucking wall" or deporting immigrants from countries that present no threat whatsoever. I mean setting up programs specifically designed to decelerate drug use and unemployment in lower-income cities, counties, and states. I mean using funds for good, not bad. I can already hear the conservatives out there bitching that "tax money can't go to pay for that."
Well, guess what, bitches: Would you rather your tax money go to help our fellow Americans or to build a pointless wall that isn't going to keep anyone out? Not one fucking person is going to be kept out of the United States of America because of that fucking wall. If you're dumb enough to believe that border is the only way to get into this country, you may want to look at a fucking map. We have oceans on both sides—are you going to build a wall all the way down the coasts? We also have a giant country above us—are you going to build some shit up there? All of that "build a wall" horseshit is fine and dandy when you're getting morons and racists worked up to vote for you, but when it comes to practical application, that shit just isn't fucking cricket. It's a lot like that show Finding Bigfoot: they haven't found shit. It should be called Looking for Bigfoot, but no one wants to watch someone who's just looking for that critter. The trick is in the promise, not the delivery.
Sorry if I pissed anyone off with that little blast at the end there. I'm probably one of the few people in this country who enjoys being able to go abroad. It's a little too tense (two tents) for my comfort anymore, but I honestly don't have a choice—I have to tour to make money. I also really fucking like playing for people all over the world. So I have to balance the coolness of the show with the obvious high levels of snark that accompany my arrival anywhere outside the shows. After all these years I'm used to it—it just means I don't go out as much when I'm on the road.
It's fine. It saves me from being judged all the damn time for some shit I'm so clearly against. But it's also one of the reasons why, unless you need to show your passport, the aforementioned "Canadian camouflage" works so well to defuse any animosity or disdain that may fly your way once they pin the vanilla accent. I'm sure my northern brothers and sisters will find that either funny or offensive, but hell, how do you think I feel? If I have to say "aboot" and "eh" a couple of times to keep my food from getting soaked in foreign spit, that's what I'm going to talk aboot, eh? I won't be sorry for doing whatever is necessary to keep myself from contracting international Hepatitis A, B, and C. That's one fucking test I never want to ace, ever.
When I talk foreign policy, I do always forget about our northern and southern neighbors, but I can't really do that anymore these days, with the Cheeto threatening anyone slightly or completely brown with annihilation or, worse yet, throwing veiled shade their way so his shitty base takes the hint and does the threatening for him. Cunty moves like that make me really fucking stabby. In fact, I can hardly wait until I'm done writing this so I can keep from driving myself crazy with all the nightmare scenarios he's thrust upon us because of his ego and cluelessness. People gave him great marks for his first address to Congress just because he didn't say anything too inflammatory. You've got to be fucking kidding me. Adults would have laughed this fucking mook out into the goddamn hallway years ago. But because the Right is so ravenous and the Left is so flaky and lame, we're stuck with a man who thinks we can outmuscle foreign opposition by piling up nuclear weapons like he's sending dick picks to employees, with the clear insinuation that if he doesn't get what he wants, all his penises are going to shoot at once. Death by cock envy—god, isn't it a great time to be alive...
But it also showed me that no matter the outrage, no matter the fallout, and no matter the level of controversy, these politicians walked.
Anyway, thank God, there's people like Trudeau keeping watch on the crazy downstairs neighbor. Sometimes all you need to do to keep dumb shit in check is have a dude who looks like he could rip your fucking head off in a fight. It doesn't hurt that Trudeau's easy on the eyes, too. I figure if he comes to a gig and I happen to have my Canadian Teen Beat with him on the cover, he'll sign it. I might even have a shot, you know? I'd climb that man like a water tower in a city on fire. I feel like the more I write here, the more you're all getting uncomfortable with the thought of me actually daydreaming about the prime minister of Canada. That's not my fault; that's your fault. I'm comfortable enough to imagine myself riding on the back of a jet ski with Justin Trudeau, smiling and happy, water cascading all around us, both slightly oily from the Coppertone we generously applied to each other's...OK, maybe I am putting a little too much thought into this whole "I Heart Trudeau" scenario, but it's only because he hasn't replied to me on Twitter. As soon as he replies to me on Twitter, I'll be able to move on. I mean, I knit him a sweater and fucking everything! What does a guy have to do to get noticed by the head of a major country's government these days? Pose nude? Well, I'm not doing that...again...
Sorry, where was I?
The first time I can remember hearing about "combative foreign policy" was when I was 13 or 14, and the big news was the Iran-Contra affair, a sort of paramilitary shell game that became the albatross around the necks of the entire Reagan administration. Even though we weren't technically pushing into a foreign territory, we were trying to obfuscate from obeying the laws and regulations set up by Congress against (1) selling arms to Iran, and (2) continuing to fund the rebels known as the Contras in Nicaragua. Ostensibly under the guise of freeing hostages held by Hezbollah in Lebanon, a triad of payments and favors was devised behind the government's back, largely put together by those inside Reagan's inner circle. It's still not really clear how much ol' Dutch really knew about the complexities of the operation itself, but he and Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North both fell on the sword, so to speak, accepting the lion's share of the blame. I can remember several news stories and a million different songs written by everyone from Don Henley to Dave Mustaine talking about the whole scandal in detail. I was confused, then intrigued, and then finally started studying politics and all the implications that come from that sort of behind-the-scenes shenanigans. Far from the back-channel diplomacy of years gone by, it was a scary time and another knock to the shiny apple used in our American pies.
But it also showed me that no matter the outrage, no matter the fallout, and no matter the level of controversy, these politicians walked. The last high-level motherfucker to really ever feel the sting of the law was Nixon, and even he was allowed to resign and split, later to be pardoned by Gerald Ford. This would apparently set the precedent: from Clinton and his blowjobs to the Cheeto and whatever the hell is going on with the Russian connection, the threat of prosecution rarely goes any further than just that—threats. Maybe that's why Trump's not worried about anything actually happening. So he can piss on foreign relations all the livelong day and never break a sweat while he waves his egomaniacal cluster of nuclear cocks at the entire world. You know...because 'Murica. I apologize to anyone masturbating at this moment while screaming 'Murica, by the way.
Our hypocritical handle on the global arena is summed up, like I said, by the fact that we outwardly abhor that type of empirical attitude and yet we have territories that are subject to our laws but get none of our benefits as a capitalist-pig nation. Take, for example, Puerto Rico. It is technically an "unincorporated territory," which implies that it is on its way to statehood, and yet nothing has been done for 114 years to change its status, largely because the territorial laws and policies have never been defined, allowing the territory to be taken advantage of and leaving millions of potential US citizens to be marginalized and exploited, along with Puerto Rico itself. The laws here in America do not apply to citizens in places like Puerto Rico, so it's a lot like the Wild West. Imagine being a native of Puerto Rico, having to abide by US law to an extent, but then having to deal with a bunch of naturalized cocksuckers who just want to get away with murder or at least date rape between barhops. You know why? Because Americans tend to become evil bastards when they cross our outer borders. I won't get off on that crazy asshole rant.
In the last 20 years we've decided that our main priority is to clear all the shit from the sandbox, so to speak, so most of our foreign conflicts have taken place in the oldest parts of civilization on Planet Earth. I'd acquiesce to the fact that it's important for us to try to stop ISIS from not only killing thousands of people but also halt their unbelievable destruction of some of the holiest and most ancient structures, monuments, and buildings history has ever seen. The obscenity of their disdain for everything around them is truly disgusting. However—and you might not like this—if we hadn't been fucking around in that region in the first place, we wouldn't fucking be in this situation. We were working with the Taliban—YES, THE FUCKING TALIBAN—in the 80s when we were trying to help them repel the Russians from Afghanistan and other areas. Plus, while working with Saddam Hussein—YES, SADDAM FUCKING HUSSEIN—to control some of the more violent and religious movements, we helped him secure his secular government and, thereby, his stranglehold on Iraq. Then we got wrapped up in the region, the Taliban became our enemy, we attacked Hussein because "oil," and all of a sudden the United States was officially the Big, Bad Oppressor all over Africa, not just to Khomeini and Gaddafi but to every tribal or government leader around. Yay! We did it!
Lots of times our very presence in another country or our association with their government makes them a target.
I don't want people to think I'm insinuating that we deserved the terrorist attacks that have happened to us. I also don't want to make it sound like there weren't threats that needed to be dealt with. Some of those extremists, bin Laden included, would have done terrible things to other places even if they hadn't come after us. However, my point is simple: There were other ways for us to help those people, but maybe certain heads of our government balanced the effects of meddling in the region with the benefits and access to all the petroleum, and they threw almost all caution to the wind. So you'd think that some political bites to the national ass would get us to realign our priorities and straighten out the bottom line. Yeah, not really: we're just casting about looking for other places to set up our fucking lethal erector sets. Hell, Trump's even indicated that he will ostracize or reward those countries that won't play ball with him and "The Trump Brand": like those hotels, golf courses, bacon bowls (maybe not), piano ties (also can't back that up), and whatever the fuck Ivanka shills for Macy's, or Target, or wherever the fuck she shills whatever the fuck she shills. Get the picture? Good, at least someone does. I'm totally lost . . .
An interesting side effect of this world-trampling warmongering is the paranoia that happens stateside. All through the Cheeto's campaign he kept assuring Americans that we were in danger from international terrorists and illegal immigrant criminals. While the former has its truth in smaller doses, neither of them are nearly the threat he would lead us to fucking believe. In fact, since 9/11 more people in this country have been killed by domestic Caucasian terrorists than by international threats—a statistic that glares in the face of everything these hateful cunts want to push on us. But to them, a fucking immigration ban (read: "anyone not really white" ban) makes total sense when they're slinging around this shitty rhetoric. Fear is the stick shift on the Ferrari of control: the higher the gear, the higher the revs and the bigger the boost out of the gate. So of course the Trump administration is going to use "fake news" sites like Breitbart to ramp up and justify policies that make Americans feel safe. But what's going to happen when other countries start banning Americans from coming into their worlds with our hateful entitlement? They don't have to let us in either. We just assume, because we're the great white global sheriffs, that other countries are happy to see us and welcome us in with open arms. My experience is quite the opposite: lots of times our very presence in another country or our association with their government makes them a target. So why the hell would anyone want to hang out with or invite over the kid in school who always makes a scene and breaks shit at the party? We're America; we're fucking assholes. If I were the head of a foreign government, I'd probably keep my fucking distance. Thus, I think sooner rather than later, while this shithead administration is busy banning other countries (read: colors) from coming into our own, more and more countries are going to do the same thing to us. The shitty part is that we'll deserve it.
Look, I know most Americans don't want the United States nosing around in other countries' affairs, instead yearning for a time when we look more to our own bullshit than raking up stink in barns that don't belong to us. No, I didn't hear that anywhere. I came up with that saying on my own. I feel like it's pretty fitting: we do need to stop fucking around in other people's yards and pay a little more attention to what's up in our own house. The problem with that is we the people have very little to do with when, how, and why that happens in the first place. Between the lobbyists and the politicians who ultimately get us into this shit, no one really asks us what we think. They give us just enough info to get our blood up by showing us front-loaded news stories to control our bias, then they slip into conflicts around the world based on whatever their interests are at the time. We as Americans, if hard pressed, are largely in favor of letting the world get on with its own shit while we do our own thing. There's nothing wrong with that, by the way. It's actually healthier for the world when other countries figure out their own troubles. If we're solicited, I think it's cool if we, as a collective, help as a part of NATO. But unfortunately, our global reputation precedes us now. We can make or break a second chance for a third-world country. We can take or leave the best shot for a better future in the hands of people not really dedicated to something as positive as bolstering a foreign market or helping with things such as water supplies or medical facilities. Yes, there are independent organizations that handle that, but depending on the relations our government has with certain countries can also mean putting your life at risk for tribal violence or kidnapping. That's not me being a paranoid ass; that shit happens, and it shouldn't happen to good people who give up their lives to help others.
There are some people like myself who feel that in order to improve our place in the world at large, we must slowly extricate ourselves from other countries' affairs in a manner that doesn't leave them in chaos. But there are others who believe we need to keep pushing into foreign territory, whether under the guise of "preserving international democracy" or "keeping the fascists and commies at bay with our very presence in an area." The dynamics don't really make sense when you figure that our global fingerprints are on a lot of shitty backfires and depressions. We label ourselves liberators, but in a lot of ways we only like the best bits of the action movies, so that's all we do: come in, start some shit, "free the people," and then split before the credits, unwilling to do the heavy labor because Americans only want stories about victories, not budgets and homework. To a lot of people the important part was the war or the fighting. That's not true: indigenous peoples always fight harder than liberators because there's more at fucking stake for them. They will gladly fight for themselves when the time comes. What they really need from us is the stability that comes with being a superpower (by the way, we gave ourselves that name, nobody else did). We should be there to help pick up the pieces, not blowing the shit out of everything in the first damn place. There's more good and a lot more karma in helping someone to their feet instead of pushing them down. The world has enough aggressors. What it truly needs are teachers, doctors, healers, and help.
Internationally, we're basically a Benny Hill skit, for fuck's sake.
I've had a philosophy in my life that has kept me on the straight and narrow for the last few years. Sure, it took me a few years and a whole lot of egotistical bullshit to figure it out, but once I did, I never forgot it: It only takes a few extra seconds to be nice to someone as opposed to being a screaming cock right out of the gate. You're not losing anything, and in the right situation, you're also making someone's life by being nice. That person will spread that energy as long as it lasts, and the people they spread it to do the same, and so on and so forth, until your catalyst of goodness has tapped the pressure valves on real life and given people a temporary respite from the permanent pain in the ass that can be Life In Progress. To me there's no better reason to be that way than that right there. Some people get up in the morning, their experience is shit wall-to-wall, and then they go to bed with the taste of turds on their breath, no matter how many times they brush their teeth. The absolute bastard of it all is that they'll have to run that shit-stained gamut again when they wake up in the morning. So why not give them a break or make their day with some kindness, some coolness, a few extra seconds for a photo and some conversation? It's a good way to be—it doesn't always pay off, but it's not always about us, is it? Either way, the motivation is coming from a good place, and the afterglow can shine on crazy diamonds for a very long time if you do it right.
I feel like if America had that same mindset, we wouldn't be the Big, Bad Global Bully to a lot of nations. No nation is perfect, of course, but when you're the country who purports to have the most freedom and the most happiness, then you go setting fires and kicking over cans in other people's countries, that's what we call in the Taylor household a "dick move, Banner." There are a lot of nations who have us completely dialed and never ask us for a fucking thing because they know the tit-for-tat comes with a heavy bill, plus gratuity, plus interest, plus, plus, plus. We're the savages, the Vikings, the Huns, and the hoard on its way to Ford Theater. We are not so much the heroes of every story, but we're not the villain in each story either. It's complicated to say the least. It's like tiptoeing through minefields where even if you step on a landmine, they don't all kill you, some just pelt you with candy. But you don't know that, and you genuinely don't know which one is which. So proceed with caution, and glory comes with a nice "hallelujah" when you don't blow the shit out of yourself.
Internationally, we're basically a Benny Hill skit, for fuck's sake. We're in a red-white-and-blue bikini, chasing all the other girls around because when we go down, we're taking everyone with us.
When I was walking the paths at Dachau, none of that was on my mind. I wasn't thinking about American mistakes or how the West was won. I was paying my respects to those who died for fascist, racist, hateful, horrible reasons. I was listening to the silence left behind in the wake of such an atrocity. I was letting that lesson sink in before feeling something as out of place as pride that the armed forces of the United States of America had something to do with liberating the survivors of this catastrophe. There was a fleeting thought about it, but I pushed it aside—it wouldn't have been right to feel that in that moment. I waited until I'd left to try to comprehend the dichotomy between the America that was, the America that is, and, worse yet, the America that certain leaders would have if given the opportunity. Today that thought process comes floating back across the stormy waters of my mind as I write this book, looking for the right wave, the perfect break, the point at which I should paddle out and surrender to the sea and all its metaphors for chaos theory. If you've ever wanted a more beautiful sense of poetry for what's happening in America today, look no further than our oceans. Yes, swirling below the surface is a world also made up of systems and routines, of life and all the things that come with life. Even if you find your place among it all, you could still be eaten alive in the blink of an eye.
When the curtain is pulled on this country, I don't want its legacy to be that of a roving predator in the deep blue sea. I want it to be more like the blue whale, making its way through the darkness, coming out to grab a breath every once in a while, but mainly doing its own thing, because anything and everything else is none of its business. It merely wants to live. Hopefully it breeds and passes life on to its children, but there's no guarantee of anything else. We must find a way to be that whale: concentrating more on our own place in the world and less on what others have gotten themselves into. Sometimes you have to let everyone else fail. But when you do, there's a very good chance that those same people will in fact win from losing. You have to come up off the mat sometimes to secure that knockout punch. Babies don't walk because we want them to, and they generally don't walk if we keep helping them all the time. They have to crawl, then stagger, then fall and cry, and then eventually climb to their feet under the strength of their own legs and take those first few faltering steps that will inevitably lead to walking, then running, then standing on their own. We must allow the world to do that. We can't afford the resentment that comes with holding their hands all the time and not allowing others to figure it out for themselves. Until we do that, we will not truly be a superpower or even a global leader. We'll simply become that asshole neighbor no one likes, who never minds their own business, constantly meddles in affairs that aren't their own, and by the end of the sitcom has been replaced with a less-aggravating actor or actress.
Follow Corey Taylor on Twitter.