For those readers who haven’t spent time in the U.S., “This American Life” is a radio program on National Public Radio of random, cute, and quirky stories from all over the country. It’s one of the nice things about America. But this post isn’t about that, I just like how it sounds.

The reverse-culture shock of visiting the US after two years away has mostly to do with things like the propaganda about the war in Iraq, and how much religion pervades daily life here. Some examples:

1. TV ad sponsored by some right-wing PAC trying to shore up public support for the war in Iraq, featuring disabled soldiers and bereaved mothers. “We are winning on the ground in Iraq; if we give up now everything we’ve sacrificed will have been for nothing; remember, THEY attacked US on 9/11”. WHO attacked us on 9/11? Iraq? And I’m sorry about your losses, I truly am, but they were for nothing, because this war was started on false pretenses and it is unwinnable.

2. Ad for the US Army I was subjected to before seeing the Simpsons movie last night. Pure propaganda. Made me want to throw up.

3. Young woman on a game show repeatedly kissing the cross around her neck and thanking god before and after each and every answer. Honestly, if there was a god, wouldn’t s/he have better things to do than worry about how some ditzy girl was performing on The Power of 10? Apparently so, because she only won $1000.

4. The anti-abortion protesters with their crosses outside my hometown Planned Parenthood who inspired me to stop the car, march in there, and donate $50. If you want to save lives, folks, go protest the war in Iraq. And another thing? By providing birth control and counseling to women, Planned Parenthood prevents abortions too.

But it’s not all bad here. At the moment I’m at taking advantage of the free wireless at the Bagel Grove, which sells free trade coffee, and, judging from their newsstand, more New York Times than USA Today or the local paper. The community bulletin board is covered with ads for local crunchy causes. And I just had cream cheese and lox and capers on a salt bagel. Mmm.