Wednesday, October 06, 2004

political limbo dancing. european style.

i am tired today.

tired because i couldn't fall asleep.
tired because the last mosquito of the summer stung me at least 10 times (including three times in the face) so that i spend half the night scratching myself with a metal hairbrush that i had somehow gotten out of the bathroom while half-asleep.
tired because i had wanted to watch cheney and edwards on cnn, but had gotten up too early so that i fell asleep in the middle of it.
tired, too, because i eventually got up at 6am to get to my gyrokinesis class at 7am.
tired because i should be writing that fucked up property paper right now. and i am not.

tired. yes.

i eventually saw the debate though, as a re-run on cnn, and it was good.
maybe dick cheney believes in the power of the spoken word. maybe he hopes that if he just repeats often enough that all is well in iraq, all will suddenly be well. maybe he's read orwell, after all, and knows that words define history. maybe he doesn't believe it though, and just lies and knows he does, and still feels good about it, because he is, after all, loyal to bush junior. maybe it's pathological, who knows.
maybe it's a mixture of it all. i mean, he lied about never having met edwards before. how ridiculous is that?

i got an email from alex today, and he wrote that he was tired about being the american in his language school, the one to hear all the complaining about dubya, to hear the "i would never vote for him", the anti-americanism, yadayadayada ad nauseam.

i am guilty of tiring him with my us elections chatter, too, i guess.
he's been the one i've mainly been discussing iraq and the election with.
he's the one person i know who's in the know. not just because he's american and from a swing state: he's been in iraq. he's smart and articulate and we agree on much, and disagree on much as well. it's been interesting to realise how huge our cultural differences are in some ways, and how nonexistent in others.
i've enjoyed discussing things with him, there's enough common ground so that it stays civilised. discussions with chris, however brief, had much less common ground, and i couldn't help but blame him for not caring more about things like public schooling because his daughter in the us was able to go to private school.
i couldn't keep myself from mentioning how communist it is that i get my uni education for free.

i replied to alex's email trying to explain why he might be the one to get all the politican talk.
i tried to explain why we europeans have this bizarre love/hate relationship with the us.
how we're stuck in a limbo between admiration and being appalled. how we can't get our heads around all the contradictions in us politics and culture.

constitution/pursuit of happiness vs. death penalty and a faulty justice system.
freedom/equality vs. racism.
from rags to riches vs. the working poor.
plastic surgery crazy vs. everyone's fat.
beautiful landscapes vs. driving suvs and hummers, lack of eco mentality.

that kind of thing.

our culture is much less one of opportunity. we're pessimists, we europeans, way too often, and we often see the obstacles before we see the possibilites. i guess we envy the us for that.

the bottomline is though, in my opinion at least, that we europeans are fascinated by the us.
we love it. we hate it. we love it. we hate it.

that's why we're so opionated about the us elections.
why everyone is so keen to discuss the issue with someone like alex, who's not only a veteran of the iraq war and a marine, but also from a swing state and articulate and so american in so many ways, while not being the stereotypical american many europeans have in their minds in others.

in addition, it all appears to be so see-through, to us from old euorope.

the lies. the manipulations. the elections. the whole thing. it's easy to have a standpoint. it's easy to know better.
oh, and we're all feeling so good about having been right regarding wmd and the problems of winning the peace. oh, the sweet taste of superiority.

us political culture is dramatically different from ours. for some strange reasons we seem to like it better and get more excited as a result.

having a standpoint on european issues however, is apparently much much harder for us europeans.

and apparently so many care so much less about what's happening here, considering just about half of all europeans went to the polls in may. we worry more about bush lying than about the liars in our own parliaments. we worry more about him controlling fox than about berlusconi controlling three quaters of the italian media. here in germany we should worry more about where our social reforms are going, what to do with rampant unemployment numbers, than about the -doubtlessly appalling and injust- lack of welfare and health insurance for all in the us. we should find some visions for ourselves, instead of critising others.

of course we need to care about iraq and about terrorism, no doubt about that.
terrorism has reached our union, and whether it was smart of spain to decide the way it did after the madrid bombings...who knows. we need to worry about terrorism because it was a hamburg al quaida cell that flew planes into the world trade center. we need to worry about terrorism because al quaida members seem to be getting welfare from the german government. we need to worry because the iraq aftermath is ours to live in, too.
but we should do so with more european perspective. with more communication and understanding, and less smirking and being the know-alls. cooperation is the key.
kinda hard to want to cooperate when people boo everytime the un is mentioned at the republican convention, when the faulty but only venue of global cooperation is being shunned. but still.
we need to stand above that shit, and work on alliances, instead of standing in the corner, like what's happening is none of our business, and smirk and feel good about having known in advance. it's immoral, that corner standing thing. and it just doesn't look good, either.

today, the european commission recommended that the eu and turkey should start having accession talks.
having an opinion on whether turkey should be part of the eu is so much harder, takes so much more work than making up your mind about who should be president in a country that you love-hate, a country that isn't even yours.

what am i trying to say? i don't really know. not all of this makes sense, quite possibly. stream of consciousness and all.

maybe all i am trying to say is that even though the us election is mightily important for people all around the world, especially us europeans, we should sometimes care a bit more about what's happening in our own backyards, in our union.
everything is connected, after all. our own matters might not be as fun to watch, as easy to see-through as cheney straight out lying or bush smirking.

and you might not end up feeling as superior in the end, either.


thinks i like today, in this weird mood i am in.

i wish to say

flickr: picture by romanlily: a day at the office for sheryl oring.
public opinion on postcards - sheryl oring finds new way to share america's thoughts with president:

"oring launched a project called "i wish to say," which allows passers-by to write a postcard to president bush. she provides the card and even the stamp.
she got the idea for the project after many europeans told her that all americans think alike. "because i had lived in so many parts of the country, i thought this couldn't possibly be true," she said. "this project is demonstrating to the world how diverse america really is." "

more pitures at flickr on "i wish to say" by romanlily
some postcards can be read at sheryl oring's website.

wonderful stuff.