Tuesday, February 19, 2008

America: What an Awful, Nasty, Disgusting, Smelly, Bad Country

Or maybe it's not.

This blog is not political, but politics is hard to avoid: particularly in an election year.

America is getting ready for a presidential election in November of this year. It's more than usually important, since it's the first presidential election since 1928 without an incumbent running in the primaries for president, and the first since 1952 without an incumbent in the general election."

With politicos in both major parties trying to grab the White House, and smaller parties with wild hopes of making the big time, something weird was almost bound to happen.

Today, something did. The wife of one of the candidates hit national news today: full speed, no brakes. As reported on WRC / NBC4.com:

" 'People in this country are ready for change, and hungry for a different kind of politics,' Michelle Obama said. 'And let me tell you something, for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.' " I put emphasis on the phrase that caught many people's attention.

She explained her remark at the time, as reported of FOXNews.com: " 'I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment.' "

The Obama campaign is doing a professional job of clarifying her statement, or putting their spin on it, depending on how you want to put it. "The point is that of course Michelle is proud of her country, which is why she and Barack talk constantly about how their story wouldn’t be possible in any other nation on Earth," a spokeswoman said. "What she meant is that she’s really proud at this moment because for the first time in a long time, thousands of Americans who’ve never participated in politics before are coming out in record numbers to build a grassroots movement for change." Again, the emphasis is mine.

I don't think that the "for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country" statement is particularly important by itself, outside the American presidential campaign. And I don't think it will be important in politics a week from now.

I do think that what a presidential candidate's wife said shows an all-too-common set of feelings and assumptions about America. Being born in 1964, she's lived her entire life in the sixties, and in a culture that's been steeped in the groovy decade. "Marinated" might be a better term.

In some circles, America is considered
  • Imperialistic (an oldie but a goodie)
  • Oppressive (Power to the people, man!)
  • Hypocritical" (an inevitable accusation, where people or nations with ideals are involved)
  • Polluting (This may fade, since China got on the radar recently)
  • Materialistic (Sometimes confused with 'successful,' I think)
  • And enough other pejoratives to fill a glossary
Further, unless things have changed since I rubbed elbows with the self-defined better classes ("tolerant" or "open minded" seem to be preferred terms now: I haven't heard "sophisticated" used that way for decades).

I'll admit to a bias: I like living in America.

Parts of that preference came from:
  • Living in San Francisco, where an ESL program brought me in contact with people from east Asia. They had gone to a lot of trouble to get themselves, and their families, here: one of them got out of the worker's paradise he was born in by imitating a pile of anchor ropes for longer than most native-born Americans would be willing to sit in a bus.
  • Studying history, which brought me in contact, vicariously, of what humanity's efforts at government have achieved - and committed - over the last four millennia or so. Although some cultures are attractive, like
    • Ancient Greece (provided you belonged to the right class)
    • Viking Scandinavia (my Nordic ancestors didn't spend all their time pillaging my Celtic ancestors)
    But, all things considered, contemporary America is the least unpleasant place I can think of to live: particularly if I wasn't given a choice of which group I belonged to.
Do I think America is perfect? Of course not. Not even close. We're a nation populated entirely by human beings: and that means trouble, no matter where or when you are.

It'll do as a homeland, though, until something better gets built. Meanwhile, given a choice between
  1. Being miserable about how America doesn't live up to my dreams of an ideal nation
  2. Enjoying the freedoms I have, and doing what I can to make those dreams real
I'll take option 2. A nation that can make "Irish need not apply" a thing of the past can, I think, do almost anything.


Anonymous said...

Your post is intriguing, on many fronts. Perhaps it's because I'm of Nordic descent, or perhaps it's that I've become soft and "understanding" from living in San Francisco. Maybe it's because I've lived in a few foreign countries, or that even currently live overseas and see the country from a third party perspective.

Whatever it may be, the "spin" that's being put on the current race for the White House is working. For me, for my family in California, and even the Australian public, who once they find out I'm American, bring up the current election campaigns the first chance they get. We are all now starting to breathe a sigh of relief that the country may start applying its brakes and become a team player on the world market once again. It has been a rought road, these past eight or so years. Will it change once the elections past? I think so. Be it Clinton, Obama, or even McCain, America is destined for bigger and better things. Unfortunately, much of the time that will be spent in the office in the first year or so will be spent doing damage control.

Heck, it's a start.

Brian H. Gill said...


Thanks for your response.

I agree that the Obama campaign is doing a good job of (clarifying?) Obama's wife's remark. I also think that what she said was most likely not a planned statement.

Your use of the phrases "team player" and "doing damage control" suggests that you believe the standard position that American has been unilateral in the war on terror.

Although it's true that the United States has not followed directions from the French government, America has been "going it alone" as part of team of over two dozen nations, from Albania to the United Kingdom.

In my opinion, that's teamwork among nations: Even if the French president and Berkeley students didn't approve.

About the American presidential election, my homeland has much to look forward to. As you said: "Heck, it's a start."

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.