Shrinking the Empire: A Session on the Imperial Couch
Shrinking the Empire
A Session on the Imperial Couch
By Tom Engelhardt
[What follows is a transcript of a therapy session between the American Empire and a psychiatrist whose name we at TomDispatch have agreed not to disclose. Normally, even in an age in which privacy means ever less to anyone, we wouldn’t consider publishing such a private encounter, but the probative news value of the exchange is so obvious that we decided to make an exception. The transcript has been edited only for obvious repetitions and the usual set of “ums” and “uhs.” Tom]
Doctor: Would you like to tell me why you’re here?
American Empire: Well, Doc, I’m feeling a little off. To tell you the truth, I’m kind of confused, even a little dizzy some of the time.
Doctor: When did you first experience symptoms of dizziness?
AE: I think it was all the pivoting that did it. First I was pivoting out of Iraq. Then I was pivoting out of Afghanistan. Then I was pivoting to Asia. Then I was secretly pivoting to Africa. Then all of a sudden I was pivoting into Iraq again, and Syria, and Afghanistan, and… well, you get the picture.
Doctor: And this left you…?
AE: Depressed. But Doc, there’s a little background you need to know about the dizzying nature of my life. For almost 50 years — this was in the last century — I was in the marriage from hell. My partner, the Soviet Union, was a nightmare. I mean, we had a brief sunny courtship when we were more or less in love, but that only lasted the length of World War II. The minute I got home from the front, it was hell, and I’m hardly exaggerating if I tell you that, when we got to fighting, it was scorched Earth all the way. We regularly threatened to annihilate each other. It was one of those stormy relationships you could never predict in advance where this planet just isn’t big enough for the two of you.
In our worst moments, I used to fantasize about the Soviet Union being obliterated, simply disappearing from the face of the Earth, but it was a fantasy, nothing more. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be free. Not in my lifetime. Then one day as 1990 ended, like some unexpected miracle, it happened. Poof! The Soviet Union was gone. I was alone and the Earth was my playground — or so it seemed.
Doctor: Do you feel that it went to your head?