Before I headed to Germany, I was having some intermittent discussions with people who are much more conservative than I am. I like these discussions because they make me clarify the reasons that I hold onto my opinions and to remind me that, while I may think I know how things are and should be, there are many people who hold opposing views who are just as convinced that they are correct. I occasionally read some conservative blogs just to get my blood up a little but also to try to understand where people who hold these beliefs are coming from. Sometimes it works and sometimes I just shake my head and say "no". I love being idealistic about the possibilities of collective society and firmly believe that it is us idealists who are the ones that make change happen.
Among the artsy, international set that I was temporarily a part of, the general opinion about the US was pretty low. Everyone had been to NYC and loved it but they all disliked George W. Bush intensely. I think "wanker" and even "douche bag" were some of the phrases that came to their smoke-filled lips. As a card carrying member of the Green Party (can I make myself more irrelevant??), I am not about to defend W or the US at this moment in time. I was part of the several million strong "focus group" that protested the war, again and again, that W so easily dismissed way back when, many thousands of lives now ended ago. And I have continued to do what I can to register my protest including visiting my congressman and writing many letters. Futility, thy name is leftwing politics. Or so it seems sometimes.
Yet, after meeting the umpteenth person who trashed the US, I started to feel...not angry exactly...but kind of bummed out. The US, for all its many, many flaws at the moment, is quite an interesting experiment. Good things have come from it and, I suspect, will continue to come. But it seemed impossible to say that without sounding like some kind of patriotic bumper sticker. Dang! I'm a Canadian permanent resident! An Irish citizen! Who is ready to blame America first? That would be me! But there I was, feeling kind of defensive. It reminded of a time I was traveling in South India, staying in a village in a small set of little huts created for low-budget tourists. Next to my little hut were two British guys who spent a good deal of their time talking trash about all the "fat Americans" they saw that day and how awful America was (this was the Reagan years, so again, I could not disagree). They were relentless about it. But what really got me was that, in between America bashing, they would play their guitars and sing (wait for it) Eagles songs! And guess what kind of books they were reading when they put down their guitars? Yes! American authors! Tempting 'though it was to point out the inconsistencies in their thinking, I let it go. They were pretty convinced of being right and I wasn't going to change that.
So yeah, like 81% of my fellow citizens, I believe the country is on the wrong track right now. It is a strange moment to feel like I should be defending this place. Fortunately, not everyone only sees the negative. Here are two British guys, and I don't think they are the same ones as my neighbors in Mahabulipuram, who appreciate some of things the US has to offer. Is Human League British? Ok, ONE British guy...