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I remember it like it was yesterday: Mrs. Turchi's fourth grade class. We spent the morning learning about how positively revolting other countries were. How most of them didn't even have indoor plumbing. How immigrants risk life and limb escaping from their rodent-infested, sewage-strewn countries to crawl here on hands and knees, expecting to find the streets paved with gold.

At the end of this lesson we were asked to write a story (and then read it to the class) titled "Why I love my country". Like a good little brainwashed clod, I wrote a passionate story, complete with imagery of waving flags and justice for all. I delivered my heart-felt speech with proper desk-pounding sound effects. I believed.

But later that evening I started thinking about it from a different perspective. I wondered, "If the United States is so great, why don't other countries just give themselves to us?" I knew that there was a breakdown in the logic somewhere. Either other countries didn't have it so bad, or my country might not be that great. Or both.

I tried to reconcile what I'd been taught with logic. Perhaps everything was as Mrs. Turchi claimed, but evil dictators hell bent on staying in power refused to hand over their country so that they could stay in charge. A plausable theory. But why would they want to stay in power in a cesspool when we could magically give them flush toilets and Big Macs? Not to mention, all countries weren't run by evil dictators, some of them were democracies just like us. The people could vote to give themselves up.

Nope, the logic didn't hold up, I was being lied to one way or the other. I started questioning everything I was being told, not just the outrageous things. I felt shades of George Orwell's 1984, but it was only 1980 and I had never even heard of 1984. I was all of 8 or 9 years old, and it was the day I became an cynical anarchist.