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Sunday, September 21, 2008

America: A Country Of Children

I just returned from visiting my friend a.k.a. Marla in Biarritz, where I had the opportunity to have several very interesting conversations with her boyfriend, a Tunisian cardiologist whom I'll call Larry. I turned him on to NetNewsWire and loaded him up with my Arab/Middle East blog and news feeds. He'll never be the same.

The funniest story he told was yesterday on the beach in Bayonne, where he and Marla treated me to a goodbye lunch of delicious tapas and rosé wine. That morning he did a check up on one of his long-time patients, an American 87-year-old man. Larry said to his patient, "If you promise me you will vote for Obama, then maybe I'll make sure that your defibrillator works." His patient was amused, and promised he would vote for Obama.

I don't think Larry ran much of a risk cracking his joke, because I'll hazard a guess that most Americans who live in France are probably Democrats. Although, I have a Canadian friend who does computer support for the expat community here in Paris, and he told me he had a neocon client who was clueless about his PC and incredibly demanding and impatient. I would like to say that computer cluelessness and being demanding and impatient are neocon traits, but I've done computer support before and I know that those three traits are shared by lefties, righties and terrorists alike. I'd just like to know how my friend knew the guy was a neocon, and I'd love to know who he is. What's a neocon doing in the Land Of The Socialists? But, I didn't ask. There's a part of me that's afraid to know the answer.

Larry the cardiologist asked me an interesting question - why are Americans so bent on war and agression, versus diplomacy and trying to get along? I had to think about it. I thought perhaps it's a group psychology that supports a mythology that America and Americans are "independent," like lonesome (gay) cowboys, mafiosi, war heroes and action figures in the movies. We love Bruce Willis and a take-no-prisoners attitude. We like corporate raiders and aspire to be one of those people who act first, and ask questions later, and most of all, get away with it. We honor knee-jerk decisiveness over measured actions taken after balanced analysis. Just think about Sarah Palin's "I didn't blink" or "we can't blink" talking point, which she repeats over and over and over again. Rove and/or his surrogates are running McCain's campaign, and they are experts at the power of repeating emotional, vacuous slogans that the American people eat like candy and repeat to each other so they can feel like one of the knowledgeable elite.

My answer made Marla mad. But I wasn't surprised. I was born in America, but I don't like nationalism very much, so I don't take any of this personally. I don't go around defending the American people. Nor do I emotionally adhere to a false construct of American pride.

After I finished ruminating, Larry said, "Oh. So Americans are naive, like children." Well...yeah. Since only 10% of Americans own passports (but aren't we delighted that Sarah Palin just got her very own for the first time at age whatever?), they don't get out much. And the American corporate press encourages American naval gazing with insular, sensationalistic, celebrity-focused, depth-free reporting. Nothing much about the rest of the world. And if there is anything, it's hardly worth reading. If Americans travel, they might cross the border into Mexico and hazard an American corporate hotel that keeps them insulated from those dirty locals. Even when they go to Europe, they tend to look at the world through an American lens, demanding "American coffee" and bitching about everything that seems the least bit inconvenient. Thus the term Ugly American.

I think about the derision thrown at Obama's message of hope. Like hope is a bad thing. I think about the snarling, caustic speeches made by Palin and that fucking cross dresser Giuliani at the RNC. (How sad that cross dressers now have him as a poster child.) I think of Palin jeering at community organizers. Then I realize that this is school yard behavior. The nice kids get kicked. The bullies get an entourage. The smart kids get laughed at. The weak get beaten up. When they go home with bruises, their parents ask them why they didn't fight back. Name calling is a high art.

In America today, right this very second, people who want to end this horrible mistake of a war in Iraq are called wimps and pussies and told that they just want to "cut and run," like cowards. Those who want to stop Cheney's next war with Iran are called radicals! People who want peace are the ones being called naive. People who favor negotiation over aggression are called Pollyannas, or collaborators or apologists for the enemy. People who are smart are called elitists. How dare they think they are smarter than us! As an old cowboy boyfriend of mine used to say, "Make sure you don't git above your raisin'."

Not all Americans are spoiled, childish, empty-headed, tantrum-throwing bullies. It's just the regime that's in charge right now, along with their corporate partners, their slavering press toadies, and their mindless sycophants. Some Americans proudly espouse peace, stand up for the weak, include the excluded, defend the poor, speak for the voiceless. They educate themselves, are not afraid to voice dissent, they ask difficult or unpopular questions, and if they don't get a real answer, they ask again.

To me, they are the true heroes. Now, if we could just dress them up as action figures...

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