USA – First Impressions — Occupied Territories
USA – First Impressions — Occupied Territories
The following story is from the book, Transcendental Journeys – A Visionary Quest for Freedom by Omananda
Ruppert, Christopher, and I landed in Chicago, but sadly, my luggage did not. Apparently, all the items I had purchased were nowhere to be found, so in that moment, I only had my money belt. That felt a bit like the time I crossed the border from East to West Germany, and it was the same direction! United — the airline we flew with — told me they would send my luggage, if and when they found it, but my luggage never arrived during the entire week we spent in Chicago. This meant I had to repurchase everything that I needed for our camping trip across the United States.
This was not Christopher’s first trip to the USA. He knew a couple that lived in the suburbs of Chicago that we planned on visiting. Betty and Dave invited us to stay with them at their house for the entire time we were in town. They were an odd-looking couple. Betty was a plump nurse and Dave was thin like a matchstick, but they had a well proportioned daughter who was super smart and pretty. I practiced the little English I had learned for the first time by speaking to them at their dinner table and it worked! They understood me. It was not hard to feel the love in this family. We saw a baseball game together, went to a funky country music dance party that they enjoyed, and visited the tallest building in Chicago. We also went swimming in Lake Michigan, which was a strange experience for me.
When I took my clothes off to swim naked, as I was used to doing in Germany, Betty said that that could get me imprisoned! Reluctantly, I had to put my clothes back on out of politeness and respect for the American culture. Apparently, being naked in public anywhere in Illinois was an outlawed offense and legally punishable. In Freiburg, people sunbathe naked around a lake in the middle of town, which is normal to many Germans — and natural too. Back in East Germany, my parents even forced me to go naked on the beach to overcome my childish shyness. I ran to hide in the forest at first, but after a couple hours, I came out of the shrubs and started to realize that being naked actually felt quite nice. I began to enjoy sensing the wind on my body and soaking in the sunlight.
Apart from small cultural adjustments like that, I felt at home right away in the USA. It did feel a bit strange to meet some people, like Wendy for example, who I swear looked like a carbon copy of Madonna! When I spent the night with her and told her where I came from, she had no clue where East Germany or West Germany was! She did not even know where Europe was located on a world map. I thought she must be especially under-educated, but our American friends told us that her geographical ignorance was nothing unusual for US citizens. Apparently, the public US school system was not that advanced in comparison to European countries. I also learned that the US government puts around half of its tax money into military development, so education and social services suffer as a result. Wendy was the first American, but not the last, who asked me where Germany was located. When I told her how much I loved Chicago, she responded, “If you love Chicago that much, just wait until you get to San Francisco!”
By the time we were ready to leave Chicago, we all had fallen in love with our hosts and the city. I was also very enamored with Wendy. Ruppert and Christopher had to literally pull me away from Madonna’s double. They threw me into the old, mechanically refurbished Chevy we had bought and our long drive across the United States finally began. As we drove through the Badlands, we sometimes saw hills with large animals grazing on the horizon that I thought might be buffalos. To me, America was still Native American land. I had read the fictional Winnetou books by East German writer Karl May and experienced the Native American way of life through his imaginative writings, which were made into epic movies that many of us Germans watched more than once. Every Christmas these classic films still rotate on Germany TV up to this day in 2017.
A deep sadness overcame me when I thought about the dreadful history of the United States of America and the holocaust perpetrated by immigrant invaders that had exterminated entire races of people who had previously lived in perfect harmony with nature there. They stole their land and claimed it as their own, thinking that they could privatize it without realizing that we are all part of our planet — something Native Americans have known innately for a long time! With a greedy madness for gold in their eyes, these foreign conquerors had lied and cheated to justify their ruthless actions against the indigenous population that they viewed as savages. When we stopped at Wounded Knee, which remains as a tragic historical monument, we learned that heartless European descendants shot Native Americans like animals. Not only were the unarmed men killed, but women and children were also slaughtered and enslaved! I felt empathy for the souls and pain of the lost indigenous spirits of these lands that were now owned by descendants of these attackers who could legally defend their (assumed) territory by shooting trespassers as intruders.
The native societies used barter instead of paper money in commerce, and they lived fine and natural lives without a currency that used to be backed by gold. Native Americans did not pollute the land or the water. They did not cut down the great trees for lumber or paper in large numbers. They did not unsettle the Earth by drilling for oil that serves as natural puffer between tectonic plates, or strip it of superconducting metals by mining with poison.
The madness for gold that infected the conquering non-indigenous population like a mental disease still seemed to be ruling the country. Contemporary American corporations were founded by the offspring of the greedy invaders for personal profit, without suitable concern for the long term good of our planet and all of its inhabitants. The one dollar bill reads “In God we Trust!” It has an image of a pyramid with an eye on top. This gives it a rather spooky and esoteric character that seems both intriguing and almost hypnotizing! To me, it is a strange thing to mix god up with money, although it seems to be done rather often throughout history. Was that mystical image put on the dollar bill to remind people of god and his all-seeing eye, or was it instead illustrating how money had become god to these people? Perhaps it was even intended to lead the general public subconsciously into worshipping money or be controlled by it? I did not know, but handling this currency each day made me wonder about god, gold, and what it had taken to create this social economy based on paper money that it has become today! I thought about how this funny money is lent to people by banks under signed contacts, and how those people then become enslaved under the legal responsibility to pay back those debts — often for the rest of their lives! If their god was indeed trustworthy, I wondered why he would command anyone to shoot innocent children, when the written morals of most — and certainly Christians religious teachings clearly include moral commandments like, “Thou shalt not kill!” If a country was built on the murder of innocents, what would its collective karmic destiny be, and could this disease spread to other parts of the world?
We drove for days at what seemed like a low speed limit of only 55mph on the almost empty highways. We noticed the fences at the side of the road that were often decorated with a sign saying, “Private Property — No Trespassing!” Our large car felt like a boat with a soft suspension, and driving in it was like floating on a cloud. The car consumed a lot of gas, which was cheap compared to Europe, and I ate the best burger of my life in one little town by the side of the highway, surrounded by miles of nothing. Sometimes the traffic signs read, “Last gas station in 150 miles.”
One night, we stayed at a hotel on Highway 50 in a town that looked like it should have been in an old Western movie. The local saloon was filled with a handful of strange guys. This collection of gun-wearing, ex-heroin junkies, and Indian haters told us stories about how “Redskins” were shot in this saloon. They pointed to a nearby pool table with bloodstains on it! These old jerks apparently had not seen a woman in a long time and mistook me for someone they could kiss, once they got drunk enough! I gathered rape was nothing unusual for them, and I was happy to get out of there alive. I also got the impression that they were probably used to only having sex with cows and sheep and they probably copulated with each other too. The United States can be a strange place for foreigners!
One magical full moon night, I drove through Utah to the sound of an instrumental jazz album by Frank Zappa. I loved the vastness and seclusion combined with the abstract landscapes that reminded me of a Dali painting. It was an indescribable experience to see Utah for the very first time like this — in that mystical blue moonlight. Both Ruppert and Christopher were sleeping in the back seat when I started to sense an Indian spirit flying by my side along with the car. I wondered, were they still alive?
My grandfather had told me fantastic stories of Native American tribes when I was a child and I had a book when I was young that taught me how to make bows, arrows, moccasins, and tipis. I loved this book and often imagined how to live life as a Native American. Perhaps the land I was traveling though was still home to Native American people and I secretly wondered, if I had once lived with my family and tribe in another lifetime in America. Whatever the reason, some part of me seemed at home in these mountains and I felt a loving kinship with these indigenous cultures. Out of the blue, my heart opened up unexpectedly when the cool desert air brushed through my hair and an overwhelming sensation of freedom overcame me. I suddenly started sobbing like a child, but I did not know if it was from happiness or sorrow. With this subtle feeling in between those extremes, our car kept on rolling towards the wild, Wild West.
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