Chalmers Johnson Died Saturday

Chalmers Johnson, one of the sharpest critics and analysts of US imperialism today across the globe — much of it involving some oppression of the world’s non-European peoples–died Saturday at age 79. Those who work to try to understand US imperialism will greatly miss him.
As one analyst put it over at

Before 9/11, Johnson wrote the book Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire. After the terrorist attacks in 2001 in New York and Washington, Blowback became the hottest book in the market. …. He then wrote Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, and most recently Dismantling the Empire: America’s Last Best Hope. …. Johnson was the more serious, the most empirical, the most informed about the nooks and crannies of every political position as he had journeyed the length of the spectrum. . . . Many of Johnson’s followers and Chal himself think that American democracy is lost, that the republic has been destroyed by an embrace of empire and that the American public is unaware and unconscious of the fix.

Here is a link to his last book, a blockbuster laying out one major way out of this imperial mess and hubris.

All these books are sharp and well-argued. He will be missed.

New Hate Crimes against Latinos

The Southern Poverty Law Center just published a comment on the increase in racially motivated crimes by non-Latinos against Latinos

Here is a sampling of these racist attacks:

Early last Saturday in Baltimore, Martin Rayez, 51, was beaten to death with a piece of wood. The man arrested for the crime, Jermaine Holley, 19, allegedly confessed and told police that he “hated Hispanics.” He has been treated in the past for schizophrenia. The killing occurred in East Baltimore, the scene of other recent attacks on Latinos. . . . In June, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in Phoenix said that the murder of a Mexican-American man a month earlier was a hate crime. Gary Thomas Kelley is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Juan Varela. He also is charged with menacing Varela’s brother with a gun. “Hurry up and go back to Mexico or you’re gonna die,” Kelley shouted at Varela before shooting him in the neck, police said. The dead man was a third-generation, native-born American.

There have also been 11 attacks on Latinos on Staten Island just since April.

The SPLC attributes some of these violent attacks to the hostile climate created by U.S. political officials:

Two of the most outrageous recent examples: Texas Republican Congressmen Louie Gohmert and Debbie Riddle both claimed that pregnant terrorists plan to sneak into America to give birth to future terrorists who will automatically become U.S. citizens and eventually “help destroy our way of life,” as Gohmert put it. Both representatives claimed that former FBI officials divulged the terrorist baby threat to them.

Given that undocumented immigration has declined in recent months, this upsurge in the hostile racial climate, fed by actions such as those of leading Republican officials in Arizona, seems to be intentional. Anti-brown-immigrants seem part of an old right-wing framing of U.S. racial matters.

The human rights report to the United Nations that I mentioned yesterday does not even discuss the thousands of these racially and ethnically motivated crimes that the U.S. has seen in the last decade, including these against Latinos–although it does mention the new hate crimes law and has a brief sentence on anti-gay crimes. The human rights report also has rather general and skewed language on official attacks such as racial profiling:

The United States recognizes that racial or ethnic profiling is not effective law enforcement and is not consistent with our commitment to fairness in our justice system. For many years, concerns about racial profiling arose mainly in the context of motor vehicle or street stops related to enforcement of drug or immigration laws. Since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the debate has also included an examination of law enforcement conduct in the context of the country’s effort to combat terrorism. Citizens and civil society have advocated forcefully that efforts by law enforcement to prevent future terrorist attacks must be consistent with the government’s goal to end racial and ethnic profiling.

Even racial profiling is not discussed in its problematic details, with data, but is tied to outside terrorist attacks. There is also no mention in the report of the internal terrorism against thousands of Americans of color.

Pressing for Enforceable Human Rights in All Nations: The 2048 Rights Project

I just learned today about the 2048 project on international human rights, which has bold goals that in my view would make for a much more human, humanitarian, rights-oriented world:

Our mission is to educate students and the public about the evolution of human rights, and to provide a process to draft an international framework for enforceable human rights that can be in place by the year 2048, the 100th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

There is lots of good stuff on the site about human rights, and about teaching about human rights issues, nationally and internationally.

The site also has some excellent links to many good resources on U.S. and international human rights issues, like this listing on the U.S.’s spotty record on signing and not signing (or signing with major reservations) various important international rights agreements.

Interestingly, too, the U.S. government under President Obama is just now rethinking our official and hostile position (developed under George W. Bush and other previous administrations) against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Indian Country Today summarizes our “outlaw state” record:

UNDRIP was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly Sept. 13, 2007, in a historic vote by an overwhelming majority of 143 states in favor to four against, with 11 abstentions. Canada, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand – all countries whose sizeable indigenous populations can claim large areas of land – were the only four states that voted no.

Interesting: 143-4! Here is the Obama administration recent statement:

Welcome to the Department of State’s website for the U.S. review of its position on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The Administration recognizes that for many around the world, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provides a framework for addressing indigenous issues. Tribal leaders and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have recommended that the United States reexamine its position on the Declaration. In response, the Department of State and other Federal agencies will be conducting a review of the Declaration’s provisions.

How Diverse is the Dominant US Culture?

Often when I am talking about how the dominant culture in the U.S. is white-centered, shaped, and maintained, someone usually pipes up with a comment about the “diverse” array of foods that are now central to our “highly diverse” general culture.

They like to cite Chinese food, Japanese food, Middle Eastern food, Asian-Indian food, Mexican food, and so on, to try to make the point that whites of European origin no longer dominate U.S. culture, and thus that the U.S. is a truly “diverse” culture. There is certainly some truth to this reality of diverse foods and some other cultural features, such as music, but the typical comments miss very important points.

One of these is how adulterated much of this “diverse food” really is. I have been reading former FDA Commisioner (and MD) David Kessler’s relatively new book, The End of Overeating, and at one point he makes this very important point:

Bottled teriyaki sauce … combines soy sauce and rice wine to mimic Japanese flavorings, putting an American spin on a classic Japanese cooking technique. The amount of added sugar makes it far sweeter than anything found in Japan. We’ve also invented new approaches to sushi classics—for example, mayonnaise-topped tempura shrimp now comes wrapped in rice as a sushi roll. . . . The dish we call ‘General Tso’s chicken’ is loaded with sugar, much to the consternation of the Taiwanese chef who created it. . . . Traditional Chinese cuisine also makes use of a lot more vegetables than are included in our versions.

Many other international foods are similarly adulterated with high fat, high sugar and/or high salt.. Kessler discusses throughout his book how U.S. food corporations have aggressively added sugar, fat, and salt to—and otherwise significantly altered–many food items from across the world. So, Chinese food is not really Chinese food, and Mexican food is not exactly Mexican food. And so on.

Working for top corporate executives in the food industry, who are aggressively seeking so much added profit that people are often harmed, thousands of U.S. workers are constantly redesigning the world’s foods to fit what Kessler calls “American desires.” Once again, as we often ask here, just who are the Americans who have disproportionate power to redesign the world’s foods — and then to successfully manipulate via advertising, the media and other avenues U.S. (and then overseas) consumers to eat them (and, increasingly, become obese)?

I have not seen any demographic data on these top food industry executives lately, but I’ll bet they are mostly white, male, and upper middle class and middle class. And the Us food culture is not as international and diverse as it is often made out to be.

Racism in International Context: Nigerian “Scam Baiters”

As I’ve written about here before, the contours of racism in a global, networked society are changing. Old forms of overt racism now exist alongside emergent new forms of cyber racism.   One of those new forms of cyber racism is the phenomena of white Americans pursuing Nigerian email scammers, a practice known as “scam baiting.”  If you’re not familiar with this practice, there have been a couple of stories in the news recently that shed a some light on this new form of vigilantism.   Here’s a brief description from a recent piece at CNN/

These self-described Web vigilantes go after alleged e-mail scammers claiming to be Nigerian princes, U.S. soldiers in Iraq or Chinese businessmen. They say they need your help (i.e. your money) to access fake multi-million dollar accounts or palaces full of gold. Most people recognize these e-mails for what they are and delete them without replying, but enough victims actually fall for these scams to keep them coming. And then there are the scambaiters who answer the e-mails and feign genuine interest in sending money, as a ploy to send the scammers on a wild goose chase.  Mike Sodini, a firearms importer and owner of the Web site, says he started scambaiting in 2001, when he worked at an Internet real estate marketing firm that got inundated with scam e-mails. Sodini started writing back out of curiosity “to see how the operation would go” and he said it soon became a hit with his co-workers, who would gather around his computer to read his farcical dialogue. “I started it to make my friends laugh and see what was going on,” he says. “I didn’t have a motive of, ‘Let’s get these guys.”

Sodini and other “scam baiters” like “Rover,” a scam baiter since the 1990s who owns the scambaiting site, get alleged scammers to make fools of themselves by posing in photos and holding signs with offensive statements. He says he would get them to do this by claiming it was “for tax purposes,” which was a ruse, since he never intended to send them money. He says he’d also convince them to make numerous trips to airports and Western Unions, lured by the promise of money packages that never arrived.

These photos are called “trophies” in the parlance of the scam baiters, and in many ways are reminiscent of the photographs of lynchings that were once popular in the U.S.   The radio show This American Life did an episode about the men (yes, they’re all men) who do this. Perhaps not surprisingly, neither the CNN/ report nor the This American Life episode mention race as even a factor at play in, if not an underlying motive for, these transnational vigilantes.  Certainly none of the reporting that’s been done about this to date mentions any similarity with lynching photography.

My colleague at John Jay-CUNY, Dara N. Byrne, is doing some really interesting work on this phenomenon.  Combining the concept of “vigilante” with the digital era, she examines a range of what she calls “digilantism.”    Dara presented a paper called, “Digilante Culture: The Rhetorical Performance of Justice and Punishment on the Wild Wild Web,” at the eastern regional sociology meetings (ESS) in Boston on a panel I helped organize.  Here’s the abstract:

This paper focuses on the rhetorical performance of justice and punishment in digilante culture. Digilantism is the term I use to refer to the growing practice amongst some netizens, mostly based in the United States and the United Kingdom, who mete out extrajudicial punishment to cyber-criminals such as scammers, hackers, and pedophiles. Although digilantism is a growing internet subculture, short of legal research on cyber-crime, little attention has been paid to the rhetorical, cultural, and socio-historical dimension of this widely practiced do-it-yourself form of justice. The paucity of digital media research is particularly surprising given the explosion of popular and scholarly rhetoric on cyber-terrorism, digital surveillance, and internet security and safety. The purpose of my paper then is to address this gap by developing a typology of digilante justice. I focus on responses to real cyber-crimes on a range of sites, including Nigerian 419 and Russian romance scam-baiting sites, pedophile watchdog sites, and texasborderwatch discussion groups.

So, in trying to understand ‘racism in an international context’ as we’ve been doing here this week, one of the things to keep in mind is that the international context has changed with the digital era.  While in the early days of the digital era, there was much speculation by respected sociologists that nation-states would lose control because the Internet, along with globalization, would undermine sovereignty.   More recently, however, other scholars have argued that it is an illusion to think that we are living in a borderless world and that nation-states do still matter very much, despite trends of globalization and the Internet.   The rise of scam baiters and this particular expression of cross-border digilantism – with its echoes of lynching photography – point out one of the ways that old forms of overt racism are re-mixed with new forms of racism in our globally networked society.

Racism in International Context: Challenging Racial Profiling in Europe

This is a remarkable story about racism, and steps to fight it, in an international context from the Open Society Institute (OSI). Rachel Aicher of OSI interviews Rosalind Williams in this short (about 1 minute) video clip:

The story she tells is one of a brisk winter day in 1992, when she, Rosalind Williams—an African-American woman and naturalized Spanish citizen—stepped off the train at a railway station in Spain and was immediately asked to produce her ID. When asked why she was the only person being stopped, the police officer explained that he was following orders: it was because of the color of her skin.

Williams brought her case of ethnic profiling to court, culminating in a landmark decision by the UN Human Rights Committee after 15 years of litigation. Despite this victory, it seems that racial profiling is still going strong in Spain.

Racism in International Context: International Coalition of Cities against Racism

One of the things I intend to do with this international series is focus on possible solutions, or at least attempts, at combating racism around the globe.   More and more, I think that municipal policies are one part of the answer for addressing racism and intolerance.    An interesting example of using municipal policies to combat racism and intolerance comes from UNESCO, the Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization within the UN (founded in 1945).

The International Coalition of Cities Against Racism is an UNESCO initiative launched in March 2004 to establish a network of cities interested in sharing experiences in order to improve their policies to fight racism, discrimination, xenophobia and exclusion.  The goal of the initiative is to involve interested cities in a common struggle against racism  through an international coalition. One of the things I like about this approach is that it recognizes a global struggle while it simultaneously acknowledges the priorities of each region of the world by establishing regional coalitions.  These regional coalitions are being established in Africa, Arab Region, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and North America, with their respective program of action.

Within each region, the people involved will identify a “Lead City” which will develop a “ten point plan” of action.  The ten point plan includes ten commitments to racial justice in areas that city authorities typically control such as education, housing, employment and cultural activities.  There’s a list of participating cities and regions here.

While there are no cities from the U.S. officially participating in the UNESCO initiative (not surprising given the reluctance of the U.S. to participate in global efforts to curb intolerance), there is one U.S. city named in a discussion paper series (No.3), available here [pdf].   On pages 36-40, the report details the efforts in the city of Boston to combat racism.   Although Boston has “a reputation in the United States for being rather unwelcoming to persons of colour, and the metropolitan region of Boston comes in third among the most “white” metropolitan regions in the United States,” (p.37), it is taking action through the Office of Civil Rights to change this reputation and the reality behind it.  Perhaps Boston could be the “Lead City” as the U.S. joins the UNESCO initiative to fight racism, discrimination, xenophobia and exclusion.

Of course, this approach has some problems – most notably the fact that, at best, it will be a patchwork solution that only addresses problems in some cities.  Other municipalities may not follow the “lead” of neighboring cities.  Rural and suburban areas are left out.   Still, I’m somewhat encouraged by such an approach. In part, I’m encouraged by drawin on the lessons of the LGBT movement which has effectively used activism at the municipal level to win protection from discrimination and some civil rights.  Then, the movement has used those victories as leverage to fight for extensions of those same rights at the state and federal levels.     The other advantage of starting at the city level in developing policies to combat racism and discrimination is that there is an affinity between urban areas and tolerance, people often mention “greater acceptance of diversity” as one of the main reasons for moving to large urban areas.   Perhaps it’s time for cities in the U.S. to join the international community in combating racism.

Racism in International Context: News Roundup

As we focus on racism in international context here this week, a few news items from outside the U.S.caught my eye.  A quick trip around the globe:

  • Australia – The Herald Sun reports that a group linked to white supremacists is calling for a Melbourne rally “against immigrants and Islam.”  Police say they will not tolerate any breach of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act, and the organisers of the rally planned for next month need to quickly close down their Facebook page.  And, speaking of Facebook, Australian-based researcher Dr. Andre Oboler has authored a report on “Antisemitism Online.” Once again, most other democracies are well ahead of the U.S. in combatting such hatred.
  • Scotland (UK) – According to the BBC News, two men were injured in a violent, racist attack in Aberdeen.  The attackers were all believed to be in their mid-teens.
  • Hong Kong – A British man living in Hong Kong, Martin Jacques, author of best-seller “When China Rules the World”, accused the city’s hospital staff of racism after his Indian-Malaysian wife, Harinder Veriah, died.  Mr. Jacques said that the hospital staff failed to give timely treatment to his wife because of her race.  The hospital agreed to a settlement.
  • JapanRacism and discrimination are commonplace in Japan, according to Jorge Bustamante, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants. Bustamante urged greater efforts to protect the rights of immigrants in Japan.  Problem areas included immigrant detention centers, work programs that exploit foreign industrial trainees, and a lack of educational services for many migrant children.
  • Germany – A recently released report from the GDR finds that members of the German extreme right committed about 20,000 crimes in 2009, reported the Secretary of the Interior Thomas De Maizire. This is the highest figure since 2001, when they began keeping records of such crimes.  According to deputy of the Die Linke (the left) party, the figures demonstrate that the government’s campaigns to combat the extreme right have failed.
  • India-Britain(UK) – An  Equality Bill in the UK would make caste discrimination illegal, equating it with racism.  Until now victims of caste discrimination in Britain have had no recourse to law. India also has legislation outlawing caste discrimination but is fiercely opposed to any comparison with racism.  The bill is being welcomed by campaigners for India’s “dalits” or “untouchables”, a caste which suffers extreme violence and persecution, but has been rejected by their government. There are more than 250 million dalits in India, many of whom are denied water, access to schools, and in some cases the right to pass through villages by upper caste Hindus who believe their presence, or even their shadow, pollutes them. Some dalits in India still work as “night soil carriers” – transporting human waste from latrines. One prominent dalit campaigner had his arms and legs amputated because he refused to withdraw a police complaint against higher caste men who had raped his daughter.  Officials in London have become increasingly concerned about discrimination and persecution against lower caste Indians in Britain following a report last year which claimed thousands had been ill-treated because of their caste.  A report by the Anti-Caste Discrimination Alliance surveyed 300 British Asians and cited cases of children being bullied at school, bus inspectors refusing to work with lower caste drivers, and employees being sacked after their bosses discovered their caste status. Until now victims of caste discrimination in Britain have had no recourse in the law. India also has legislation outlawing caste discrimination but is fiercely opposed to any comparison with racism.
  • Cuba – A replica of the historic Cuban slave ship Amistad, which was taken over by the Africans aboard in 1839, is visiting Cuba, where academics and community leaders have begun to publicly debate the problem of racial discrimination that has not been stomped out in Cuban society.

The point of this series is not to diminish the importance of racism in the U.S., but rather to expand our view to see how it is connected to manifestations in other places beyond our usual focus.

The US and Human Rights: A Chinese Government Verdict

One has to have a strong sense of the ironic nature of human action to understand much that goes on in regard to racial-ethnic and other human rights matters. The China Daily has published a March 2009 report of China’s Information Office of the State Council, titled “The Human Rights Record Of The United States In 2009.” Clearly, this is part of “getting even” with the U.S. government for its recurring critiques of human rights problems and violations in China. And Communist China, of course, has massive human rights, racial and ethnic rights, political rights, and other related problems.

Nonetheless, it makes interesting reading for U.S. citizens, who are as the report suggests rather ethnocentric and blind to our own severe human rights problems. Let me quote some brief sections from a very long and doucmented (to US sources) report:

The State Department of the United States released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009 on March 11, 2010, posing as “the world judge of human rights” again. As in previous years, the reports are full of accusations of the human rights situation in more than 190 countries and regions including China, but turn a blind eye to, or dodge and even cover up rampant human rights abuses on its own territory.

First they note violent crime in the United States:

Widespread violent crimes in the United States posed threats to the lives, properties and personal security of its people. In 2008, US residents experienced 4.9 million violent crimes, 16.3 million property crimes and 137,000 personal thefts, and the violent crime rate was 19.3 victimizations per 1,000 persons aged 12 or over, according to a report published by the US Department of Justice in September 2009. . . .

Soon it moves to issues of “Civil and Political Rights”:

In the United States, civil and political rights of citizens are severely restricted and violated by the government. The country’s police frequently impose violence on the people. Chicago Defender reported on July 8, 2009 that a total of 315 police officers in New York were subject to internal supervision due to unrestrained use of violence during law enforcement. The figure was only 210 in 2007. Over the past two years, the number of New York police officers under review for garnering too many complaints was up 50 percent …

Most of its points throughout the report are documented with links to U.S. sources. Next, the report then zeroes in on our distinctive prison industrial-complex:

According to a report released by the US Justice Department on Dec. 8, 2009, more than 7.3 million people were under the authority of the US corrections system at the end of 2008. … The basic rights of prisoners in the United States are not well-protected. Raping cases of inmates by prison staff members are widely reported…

After discussing freedom of press issues, it then discusses “Economic, Social and Cultural Rights”:

Poverty, unemployment and the homeless are serious problems in the United States, where workers’ economic, social and cultural rights cannot be guaranteed. Unemployment rate in the US in 2009 was the highest in 26 years. … The poverty rate in 2008 was 13.2 percent, the highest since 1998. … The population in hunger was the highest in 14 years. …

After discussing many other economic problems it has a long section on racial discrimination:

Racial discrimination is still a chronic problem of the United States. Black people and other minorities are the most impoverished groups in the United States. According to a report issued by the US Bureau of Census, the real median income for American households in 2008 was 50,303 US dollars. That of the non-Hispanic white households was 55,530 US dollars, Hispanic households 37,913 US dollars, black households only 34,218 US dollars. … According to the US Bureau of Census, the poverty proportion of the non-Hispanic white was 8.6 percent in 2008, those of African-Americans and Hispanic were 24.7 percent and 23.2 percent respectively, almost three times of that of the white….
Employment and occupational discrimination against minority groups is very serious. Minority groups bear the brunt of the US unemployment. According to news reports, the US unemployment rate in October 2009 was 10.2 percent. The jobless rate of the US African-Americans jumped to 15.7 percent, that of the Hispanic rose to 13.1 percent and that of the white was 9.5 percent …
In 2008, a record number of workers filed federal job discrimination complaints, with allegations of race discrimination making up the greatest portion at more than one-third of the 95,000 total claims … According to a news report, by the end of May 2009, the black and Hispanic groups each accounted for roughly 27 percent of New York City’s population, but only 3 percent of the 11,529 firefighters were black, and about 6 percent were Hispanic since the city’s fire department unfairly excluded hundreds of qualified people of color from the opportunity to serve …
The US minority groups face discriminations in education. According to a report issued by the US Bureau of Census, 33 percent of the non-Hispanic white has college degrees, proportion of the black was only 20 percent and Hispanic was 13 percent…. According to another study conducted among 5,000 children in Birmingham, Ala., Houston and Los Angeles, prejudice was reported by 20 percent of blacks and 15 percent of Hispanics. The study showed that racial discrimination was an important cause to mental health problems for children of varied races. Hispanic children who reported racism were more than three times as likely as other children to have symptoms of depression, blacks were more than twice as likely….
Racial discrimination in law enforcement and judicial system is very distinct. According to the US Department of Justice, by the end of 2008, 3,161 men and 149 women per 100,000 persons in the US black population were under imprisonment …. The number of life imprisonment without parole given to African-American young people was ten times of that given to white young people in 25 states. The figure in California was 18 times. In major US cities, there are more than one million people who were stopped and questioned by police in streets, nearly 90 percent of them were minority males. Among those questioned, 50 percent were African-Americans and 30 percent were Hispanics. Only 10 percent were white people….
Ethnic hatred crimes are frequent. According to statistics released by the US Federal Investigation Bureau on November 23, 2009, a total of 7,783 hate crimes occurred in 2008 in the United States, 51.3 percent of which were originated by racial discrimination and 19.5 percent were for religious bias and 11.5 percent were for national origins…. Among those hate crimes, more than 70 percent were against black people. In 2008, anti-black offenses accounted for 26 persons per 1,000 people, and anti-white crimes accounted for 18 persons per 1,000 people…..

It then has long sections on children and women’s rights and on U.S. global militarism, and concludes with this:

The United States ignores international human rights conventions, and takes a passive attitude toward international human rights obligations. It signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 32 years ago and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women 29 years ago, but has ratified neither of them yet. It has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities either. On Sept. 13, 2007, the 61st UN General Assembly voted to adopt the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which has been the UN’s most authoritative and comprehensive document to protect the rights of indigenous peoples. The United States also refused to recognize the declaration.

The above-mentioned facts show that the United States not only has a bad domestic human rights record, but also is a major source of many human rights disasters around the world. … This fully exposes its double standards on the human rights issue, and has inevitably drawn resolute opposition and strong denouncement from world people. At a time when the world is suffering a serious human rights disaster caused by the US subprime crisis-induced global financial crisis, the US government still ignores its own serious human rights problems but revels in accusing other countries. It is really a pity. We hereby advise the US government to draw lessons from the history, put itself in a correct position, strive to improve its own human rights conditions and rectify its acts in the human rights field.

This reminds me of Robert Burns’s, famous poem, “To A Louse. On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet at Church”: “O Would Some Power the Gift to Give Us, To See Ourselves as Others See Us! “