Monday, February 05, 2007

America: As I See It

Since moving to Britain two years ago a number of my experiences have been shaped with the recognition that I am a citizen of what many people here consider to be the worst government in world in our current day and indeed a main cause, if not the cause of many of the world's problems.

I have claimed many times that the hostility to the Bush regime is understandable and indeed it's a hostility that myself and many of my fellow citizens feel very deeply. However, there is a line that is crossed, again and again - and not just on the left - when Bush's foreign policies get applied to me and other Americans and it is we who are considered stupid, dumb and brutal.

I'll never forget the feeling that I had when I saw the cover of the Mirror the day after myself and a number of my friends stayed up all night in NY wishing Bush out of office and hoping he would lose - this after protesting in the searing heat with a couple hundred thousand other New Yorkers against the Republican National Convention earlier that year: "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?"

I was offended. No, I wasn't one of the people that they were calling "dumb", but this is my country, my home, where my family lives. This was the place I grew up, a place of childhood memories, the country of New York City, San Francisco and Chicago. The home of rock and roll and baseball. The home of the brave civil rights movement. It's also a place of incredible beauty, particularly the deserts of the west.

There was no such headline in Britain after Blair was re-elected, even though his participation in Iraq and constant covering for Bush gave him a massive boost. Most worrying was that in the coverage that I monitored in Britain from the states after the election, time and again the focus was on those who had voted for Bush. There was very little coverage on just how heart achingly close the results were - even if a good deal of us wanting Bush to lose had no faith whatsoever in John Kerry.

What it was that offended me about the Mirror's question was that people like me didn't exist. The people I had met on demos, the people in line to see Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9-11" giving each other high-fives while standing in line or standing up in the theatre after the movie to ask others to support their soldier son's plea for proper body armour - they were all disappeared.

I moved to Britain a month after Bush was re-elected and it is this seeming non-existence that bothers me. People seem surprised that an American born in Idaho and raised in Utah can be against the war, or even left-wing or a Marxist for that matter. I know that Marxists are pretty rare these days anywhere, but I suspect my opposition to the war would be similarly surprising. I find this incredible given the radical and proud tradition of union militancy and activism in the states - yet people in Britain, even on the left, appear to be mostly ignorant of that heritage. (If you want to learn more pick up a copy of Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States").

Further, the context in which many people did vote for Bush extends well beyond Iraq and the idea that everyone was simply mentally inferior is too often taken for good coin. I recognise that it may be difficult for a population which a few generations ago saw very heavy bombardment within its borders to understand fully the significance of an event like 9-11, but it did indeed change entirely how America saw itself in the world and how Americans more generally feel about their personal security.

The dream of working hard enough to get a house and a car and the whole lot shattered instantly in the insecurity of the real world which the majority of the earth's population is a daily reality. This was a massive factor in people voting back in the Bush administration - not because they are moronic or stupid.

There are numerous experiences of anti-Americanism that I could raise - from my friend who was a bartender being harassed by guy who kept making explosion noises at her from behind the counter after asking where she was from, to my visit to a Moroccan restaurant in Paris where the man taking my coat handed me a ticket and when giving it to me smiled and said "don't be afraid" - the ticket read "911". Of course he had no idea I'd actually been there - what are the odds?

Further I realised earlier this week that the SWP in this country refused to condemn 9-11. This was a blatant act of anti-Americanism on the left if ever there was one.

Yet this is a problem that many on the left don't want to talk about. When you raise the issue you either get odd looks or uncomfortable conversation meant to steer you away from the topic - or a contention that it's not deserving of much time given that there are bigger problems. Maybe this is true, but the damage that has been done by anti-Americanism will take many years to be rectified and in its own way is yet another result of the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York over five years ago.

I know I am certainly not ashamed to be from America, although I was for some time after moving here. I had a bit of a crisis of conscience. Would people think I was stupid? Would they think I was racist? I used to not speak on tubes because I was ashamed and knew people would clock my accent. I knew others still who wore Canadian flags on their backpacks so as not to be recognised as an American. If a leftist like me feels this way, you can bet there are people who may not be at all involved in politics and come to Britain who have these experiences. The left should be open and honest about this issue and take a stand. No one should have to be ashamed of where they were born, as much as their government may be despised. That is something that socialists and Marxists must be clear about.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home