It was a terrible course. At least the economics professor was a terrible old school, neoliberal bullshit theorist who didn't teach so much as pontificate about the inherent value of the so-called free market. My disaffected friends and I--the rare, truly critical students among us--dubbed his theory Fat-Bastard Economics. Not only was he mistakenly and misleadingly proposing capitalism as the only true path toward enlightenment, but he was truly a fat bastard. I'm talking at least 400 pounds.
If you were to search his name online, you would find that he is a well-respected economics professor with several publications. You will also find, surprisingly enough, that he is an award-winning athlete not just in the distant past but now as well.
He slobbered, sweated and huffed his way along the cobblestone paths of Prague for a week and a half. I didn't hate him because he was fat, though. Some of my best friends are fat. I hated him because he represented to me--in the most literal of ways--everything that was low, base, and corrupt about America, about its hegemonic, systemic culture of violence and economic injustice. Fat as violence, fat as it reveals itself as terror.
The other American students in the program all seemed to worship him as the fattened golden calf of Kapital. I knew as soon as I met them at my connecting flight at JFK that I would have nothing in common with them except the color of our passport covers. One of the things that tipped me off was the leading question posed to me shortly after I arrived from Dallas: "People in Texas love George Bush, don't they?" My simple answer: no.
Over the course of the program, that same inquisitive woman also revealed how terrified she was of China taking over, although she really couldn't decided who frightened her the most, the Chinese or the Russians. Her father was on the board of the truly despicable organization who ran this program through Georgetown. At least that explained how she ended up in Prague.
The summer of 2001 was really a still moment in the otherwise chaotic maelstrom of history. It was the time between the US government's execution of Timothy McVeigh for perpetrating the greatest terrorist act in American history and the subsequent greatest terrorist act in American history. Looking back, it's pathetic how naive we all were. On September 11, 2001, I thought of this poor, already terrified woman and laughed, "She now has a new contender for those who would frighten her the most."
On that day she probably thought--assuming, of course, that she was capable of thought--that if only those Arabs had had capitalism and a free-market economy, then America would still be safe, never realizing that the violence perpetrated by the US might also be a possible contender.