On Saturday, the New York Times Weekend Opinionator column posed the question "Does the Nobel Hate America?"
Of course, the column was all about the du jour topic of the President receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. To say this was a surprise announcement is an understatement. I got the new via an e-mail alert from the selfsame Times whilst I was at work, arguing on the phone with a Frenchman in Modane and enjoying a late morning espresso. Suffice it to say that once I'd read the alert, most of the espresso ended up spewed on the computer screen.
I was that surprised. I admit my first thought was a simple ... WTF? Then, I was pleased; because even before I read the rationale behind giving the President this award, I understood why the Nobel Committee had done so.
Living in the UK, it was a refreshing change to see Obama make his first trip abroad last spring. When he spoke, it was a tangible relief not to have to clinch the cheeks of my ass in shame as I did with every halting, rambling gaggle of faux folksiness and mispronunciation that constituted George W Bush's addresses.
The height of my eternal embarrassment came three years ago at a G8 Summit in Europe, when Bush released his inner cowboy with that deprecatingly awful 'Yo Blair!' moment. I felt like Charlie Brown banging his head on his desk in frustration as I watched Bush's posturing, chest-bumping stance last year, whilst awarding degrees at the Naval Academy. What an embarrassment of a President!
I had George Bush pegged from Day One of the 2000 Presidential Campaign. He was every cocky docksider-shod frat boy who strutted his stuff on campus. He was arrogant and feckless. He didn't give a rat's ass about anything because he knew once he'd finished his degree, Daddy would be on hand to tide him over with something until he really decided what he wanted to do, and then Daddy would set him up in that venture as well. His character was all of the worst parts of my ex-boyfriend's character that I hated.
I could easily imagine George Bush spitting on Sherman's statue in full view of a DC policeman during a day out in Georgetown. I could imagine George Bush illegaly parking my car on a double yellow line on the same day and blithely telling me not to worry, only to return to find it ticketed. I could imagine George Bush throwing the Queen Mother of all hissyfits in the fast lane of Interstate 64 en route from Charlottesville to a wedding of a sorority sister of mine in Richmond, upon finding out that he was attending the wedding of a black woman to a white man. I could imagine George Bush taking up with a bottled-assed overweight co-ed during the summer I was studying for a Master's in Spain, only - upon being discovered in his transgression - to offer the lame excuse that she was merely a "cushion for the pushin' while you were kicking it up with the Spics."
Yeah, I knew George Bush.
What is important to remember, from my standpoint at least, is, living abroad, that Europeans, in general, tend to judge Americans by the President they choose. George Bush, and everything about him, to the Europeans, was an unmitigated disaster. He had never travelled outside the confines of the continental United States. He didn't give a monkey's about what the rest of world thought of him or his country, he would do what he thought best for America and be damned. A pretty arrogant attitude, to say the least; but in reality, not so very different from the ethos behind France and the French. But arrogance wears so much better with an ancien regime.
Anyway, I've had to defend the fallacious assumption, on Europe's part, of 'American stupidity' for almost three decades now - for a longer time than I'd actually lived in the United States - and most of that defense has come within the past 8 years. It hasn't always been easy.
Well, it seems the myth of 'American stupidity' has come home to roost heavily in the United States, so much so, that it's been embraced, acknowledged and broadcast about by the Left, in particular.
Two things I wish to point out:-
1. I've noticed the same political disparities which rule the Right and the Left in the United Kingdom, to be identical to the ones I now see emerging in the United States. In the UK, the Right - especially throughout the past decade - have managed to keep the public on edge through fear tactics: specifically, fear of unfettered immigration and increased islamification of the country. The Left, governing through the auspices of the Labour Party, has managed to deflect, deflate and denigrate any sense ofEnglish identity; in fact, they've gone as far as identifying any symbol of English (as opposed to British) cultural identity as racist, xenophobic and wrong. They are constantly apologising for the sin of Empire. They rule through guilt.
Fear and guilt are big factors identifiable, also, in the American Right and Left. The Right fears the unknown - the perceived terrorist threat, the increase in immigration, both legal and illegal, the downswing in the economy and the tanking of the American dream, the changing racial and cultural demographic of the United States. All this fear is neatly tied up, packaged, and released to rail against the current serving President of the United States: a man they feel far more illegitimate in that title than George W Bush, who stole the 2000 Election, ever was.
The Left, newly placed in power, on the other hand, is going about doing penance for the Bush regime, but in a curious way. Not only are they justifiably apologetic for the neocons' rude behaviour of the past two Administrations, they're cravenly apologising, embracing and advancing, almost with glee, the appeasement of 'American stupidity.' What's more, they're doing this, whilst simultaneously and slavishly agreeing to the fact that every other country in the known world, developed or not, is totally superior in every way to the United States.
2. The second factor is that there's a distinct difference between 'stupidity' and 'ignorance.' One can just as easily be ignorant, but possess an immense amount of common sense, as one can be educated to a high degree, but possess ideas and opinions which can only be described as 'stupid.'
A lot of the thought processes I see emanating from the Left, traditionally more cerebral, more intellectual and always better educated than the base of the Right, are the embodiment of stupidity.
Let me assure you, that I'm a Leftie of the first degree. I was weaned on socialism of the old order, raised to rail against Republicans. But I'm ashamed to be associated with some of the sentiment, some of the stupidity and a lot of the sheer ignorance spewing forth from the so-called Progressive wing of the Democratic party these days.
A few months ago, in an interview with Howard Kurz, Bill Maher revealed, worryingly, that most of the demands for a restriction of rights under the First Amendment - freedom of speech, specifically - was coming from young people who identified themselves as Democrats. I would agree with that. Earlier in the year, immediately after Barak Obama's Inauguration and in the wake of Rush Limbaugh's earliest pronouncements about wanting the President to fail, an American columnist, writing in the British daily, The Guardian, openly called for Rush Limbaugh to be silenced, pointedly saying that Obama couldn't hope to proceed with his agenda until Rush Limbaugh had been prohibited from speaking.
The British commentators on that site quickly shouted down her assumption in a welter of cries proclaiming Limbaugh's First Amendment rights. The British well appreciate freedom of speech these days, particularly as it's being regularly denied them by their center-left Labour government.
I see this clamour for people from the Right to be silenced everyday on the blog comments of The Huffington Post, a leftwing aggregate, whose existence dates from its founder's sudden epiphany from Gingrich Republican to fully paid-up Progressive. Believe me, only St Paul's conversion was more sudden and dramatic.
The ostensibly better-educated commentators on this site have discernably weak spelling skills and even worse understanding of the machinations of the government they swear is trying to shaft them in the worst way.
Their worst weakness is their fickleness. Always ready to second-guess the President and his motives, they slavishly echo the views of every well-known, but not necessarily well-read celebrity blogger who posts a missive. As a result, the Progressive Left has increasingly come across as a massively spoiled child, ready to stomp off in an enormous sulk, because the President seems to be ignoring their immediate and incessant demands. Things aren't going their way in the government, so they don't want to play anymore.
Back in February, when the latest season of Real Time started, Bill Maher opened his monologue, remarking on Obama's Inaugural Address, which asked for the help, support and sacrifice of all American citizens in the massive job he had before him in righting the enormous wrongs left by the Bush Administration. Bill wondered if the current generation of Americans had the fortitude to do this, reminding them of the way their parents and grandparents had, first, endured a Depression and then edured a World War, without complaint. But the current generation, he continued, seemed only to be willing to sit back and let the President shoulder the burden. They wanted Obama to do everything for them, from telling them to wash their hands to sorting out immediate health reform.
And, indeed, it seems these people thought Obama would stride purposefully into the Oval Office, whip out a magic wand and right the wrongs left by Bushco with a mere 'Abbracadabbra.'
The fact that it ain't going to happen that way or that fast seems unfathomable to these people.
Now ... maybe they're very young, or maybe they're very stupid; but to me, listening to these eminent sages speculate throwing the President under a political bus and mounting a primary challenge in 2012 with no less than Dennis Kucinich, more than slightly veers to the latter assumption.
Even more stupid is the classic refrain: 'If we don't get single-payer/a public option, I just won't vote in 2010.' Never mind a 'no vote' might result in the Republicans picking up additional seats or even control of the House or Senate, damn it, the President isn't doing what they elected him to do, so they simply don't want to play anymore. So there!
The pathetic thing about this behaviour, especially with regard to healthcare reform, is that half the assholes bleating about single-payer healthcare actually think it's FREE. Honestly, it's free healthcare - more to the point, it's free healthcare on the GOVERNMENT'S ticket.
What ... the ... fuck?
Try to explain to these obdurates, as one who's lived a great part of my life under the fabled single-payer system, that it really isn't the paradise they assume - that there is an element of health rationing, that there are interminable waiting lists, that the quality of your healthcare is dependent upon the fiscal responsibility of your local health authority, and I'm shouted down as wrong. Not just wrong, but horribly wrong, and in many cases, it seems I don't know what I'm talking about.
Equally incomprehensible is their inability to identify their own faults as reflected in the actions/behaviour of their rightwing counterparts. They have their own demagogues as well, and this is part of the problem, I think, in the United States today.
There is simply too much information about. The media is everywhere, 24/7, and every humble news reporter has to have an op-ed schtick. In short, everyone has to have a viable opinion that he just has to get across to the masses: incontrovertible and undeniable. Well, opinions are like assholes. Everybody has one, and there are certainly a surplus of assholes swanning about in the cable news media.
The Right has rush, but the Left has Keith Olbermann.
This past week, MSNBC rather grandiosly announced that the pundit-cum-infotainer allocated the 8pm slot, Keith Olbermann, was going to dedicate an entire program to declaim upon healthcare reform.
This was announced in the manner of a major policy pronouncement by a major political figure.
It was, succinctly, an exercise in ego.
Several so-called fashionably Progressive dittoes went orgasmic at the thought of Olbermann devoting an entire hour to lecture his listening public on the righteousness of universal healthcare. They looked forward to the event with the same sort of fervour, I would imagine, that devoted hausfrauen looked forward to an important national address by Hitler, himself.
In short, the only thing the wasted hour accomplished was informing us that Olbermann had an incredibly articulate vocabulary, especially with regard to using archaic phraseology - who uses 'mountebank' or 'inchoate' in everyday speech? - as well as giving us a detailed and embarrassingly personal account of Olbermann's father's recent illness. I didn't care to know that Mr Olbermann Sr kept a portable urinal by his bed, that he had to sit on the side of his bed and 'position' himself in a particular way in order to pee; that wasn't necessary. It was gratuitous and self-satisfying, only to Olbermann. I never did get the ethos of Olbermann's diatribe, amidst angst that his mother died from breast cancer, that he had a married sister with children and staff from a prominent New York health establishment stood smoking outside the premises.
I turned off this sanctimonious tour-de-force before the end.
A lot of other people did as well, I gather, because the two ra-ra girls, who expostulated the previous day about Herr Olbermann's discourse, couldn't be seen or heard for dust. I would imagine one got bored and turned the thing off and the other did the same, through misapprehension. But the point is that Olbermann could have called for healthcare reform to consist of headless chickens being served raw on silver platters surrounded by the corpses of aborted foetuses, and the dittoes would slavishly agreed.
Amongst this tranche of people, it's almost fashionable to criticize both the President and the country. Now I'm all for politicians, particularly leaders, being held accountable to the people who elected them; and I'm not above criticizing the country as well. After all, it's our country, and if, like our elected leaders, we see it going in a direction we don't like, we, as citizens, have a duty to correct it or to at least act in a way as to correct it - not sit around on our asses playing armchair quarterback and tut-tutting, or even wailing about 'giving up' on the country as a whole, even to the point of wanting to leave it.
Giving up? These people, and we're almost all descendents of immigrants, should take a look at their own backgrounds and discover exactly what their ancestors had to 'give up' and then endure in resettling here. America, I'm hearing most of these misguided souls say, is so bad (mostly because it doesn't have free healthcare) that they're leaving. They're going to Canada, to Australia, to the UK (always to English-speaking countries, you see, these people are too lazy to comprehend that other countries might just speak another language).
You really want to leave? Well, let me help you with your exit strategy:-
- As you're emigrating mainly for healthcare purposes, make sure you don't have what's commonly known as a 'pre-existing condition' - you know, like epilepsy, diabetes type I, cancer or any sort of heart condition - anything, in short, that might entail immediate healthcare in your new country of residence. More than health tourists, you see, these countries hate health immigrants. They want to minister to those souls whose taxes have paid into the maintenance of a healthcare program. You haven't.
- Make sure you've got a marketable skill, which your new country needs. Some countries need teachers, or nurses or doctors. Most would kill for scientists. If you're a pizza chef at the local Pizza Hut or a counter girl at the local CVS, forget it. They hire citizens first. Foreign countries are like that - unless you're willing to work for less than their minimum wage.
- Learn a foreign language. Most of the world doesn't speak English. By the way, forget about France. The most sensible country in Europe is very protectionist. In fact, if you're not European and brilliant, forget Europe, altogether.
- If you do get a foot in the door, please try not to big up the 'American stupidity' myth by slavishly agreeing with whoever in that country mentions what they perceive to be a fact. They expect you to argue against their assumption. Listen to the talking heads in their media. None of them even comes close to saying outright that the people in their countries are stupid. For you to do so is just ... stupid.
- If you can't accommodate any or all of the above, marry someone from the country to which you want to emigrate ... and stay there. But remember ... as a naturalised citizen, should you ever become disappointed in the country of your choice, you have an option ... you can always come home. Maybe by then, we'll have a universal healthcare plan, and one that's free at source, but funded by the taxpayer.
These people are either so arrogant or so stupid or both that they cannot see the harm their spoiled and puerile capriciousness is doing to this Presidency. I have never seen a serving United States President, newly elected, so pilloried, not only by the opposition, but also by elements of his own party. Look, the Republicans have put their wagons in a circle and sent up smoke signals distinctively saying NO; they've sent their drones, suitably brainwashed, their one braincell filled to the limit with Glennbeckian antifreeze, out onto the battlefield to spread the birther/socialist/communist doctrine. That's one front.
If the President has to do battle with the people who elected him, as well, he's doomed. And if all y'all don't grow up and grow a pair and realise that this is bigtime government and it ain't pretty, then don't bother voting again; and you'll always get the government you deserve. And while you're contemplating the next thing about which to nit-pick the President, as he's about to rescind DADT and DOMA, why not start by doing some reading ... I recommend the Constitution for starters.
You see, I know it's hard to believe, but we've honestly got a truly intelligent, articulate and intellectual individual at the helm now, and he's on our side. Hold him accountable for his actions, when something goes tangibly wrong. He's said as much that he expects that from the electorate; but cut him some slack on the trivial stuff. Really.