In an appendix of sorts to last week’s US election rant, here’s a roundup of related commentary that caught my attention (and might otherwise have been lost in the Linklog):
Simon Schama: Onward Christian soldiers
Historian Schama sees the US as a divided country, positing the existence of two nations — Godly America and Worldly America. If you can get past the bloviation he makes some valid points.
Jason Kottke: How George Bush won the election
Kottke goes the opposite route to Schama, and hits the nail on the head: “Half the country is not stupid. We’re all stupid.” I think that speaks for everyone, not just Americans.
The Independent: Why The Guardian and its readers are still feeling the wrath of Ohio
Bit of a gloat from the Independent here on the Clark County ‘debacle’. I’m with The Guardian on this one. And I don’t agree with the respondent who said “[just] for a second, imagine if The Washington Post sent folks from Ohio to do the same in Oxfordshire”; if Britain’s foreign policy impacted the world as much as the US does, then ‘Operation Oxfordshire’ wouldn’t seem such a silly prospect, would it?
Greasy Skillet: Reflection
“We didn’t vote for a moving leader, but for an alternative – any alternative – to Bush. We don’t think this is what winning elections are made of.”
Mat Honan: Disaster
Shattered and dismayed he may be, but Mat concedes nothing: “There will be a lot of talk about moving to Canada in the coming days. About moving to Europe. Nothing could be further from my mind. I love this country too much to surrender it. I love it enough to fight for it, whatever that takes.”
Philip Pullman writes in last weekend’s Guardian Review on the fate of literature as democratic activity in an increasingly didactic, theocratic world:
The democracy of reading exists in the to-and-fro between reader and text, when each is free to engage honestly with the other. The democracy of politics needs the same freedom and honesty in the public realm: freedom from lies and distortions about other candidates, honesty about one’s own actions and programmes and sources of information. It’s difficult. It’s strenuous. The sort of effort it takes was never very common, but it seems to be rarer now than it was. It is quite easy for democracies to forget how to read.
Does that last sentence unsettle you as much as it does me?
Branches of a tree by the roadside, Clontarf (April 2003).
Unless you’ve been living under the proverbial rock till you began reading this sentence, then you’ll know by now that the Republicans have won the US presidential election.
I’m disappointed, certainly. But I’m not surprised.
Why? Because you have to see things from a significant proportion of Americans’ point of view.
There has been a lot of comment about the existence of not one, but ‘two Americas’: the commonly self-righteous liberal left, vociferous about welfare, the environment, education and civil liberties; and the oft-hypocritical right, fearing the erosion of the moral fibre of _their_ country. Discourse about the American condition, from within or without, is so polarised in this manner that it’s hard to see there is in fact not one, not two, but a _multitude_ of Americas. One for everyone in the audience.
At the root of it (moral issues aside, since that’s a whole topic unto itself) the average American doesn’t give a damn about what happens in the rest of the world, or what the we think. He doesn’t give a damn about what folks over the state line think. He doesn’t even care what the people next door think! The average American only cares about what’s best for him and him alone. It’s not about the war or national security or any of that crap; it’s all about the primacy of the individual.
So what if the liberal big cities get attacked? So what if Israel and Palestine bomb each other into oblivion? So what if thousands more troops lose their lives in Iraq (which is fast becoming the new Vietnam)? As long as no one interferes in his own business — be it by bombs or by taxes — that’s all that matters to Joe Citizen. The rest of the world is just a theme park, or a movie.
Putting it like that (in an admittedly crude, not very well thought through manner, to be sure) it seems completely irresponsible. But that’s the way it is. And frankly, I doubt that it’s any different anywhere else in the world.
Come on, people; we’re all selfish bastards! It’s a rare individual who thinks of anything other than what immediately concerns him when he goes to the polling station. Not to mention that the whole process is clandestine: the ballots are secret; open debates amongst the general public are the exception, not the rule; we leave all the decision-making up to the politicians, most of whom we don’t directly vote for anyway. We haven’t practiced true democracy in this world since the Greeks two millennia ago — and strictly speaking, even _they_ never did it.
Let’s be honest. The only real distinction between this election and any other is that America is _the_ superpower, the only nation that wields a significant influence on global events — and that, sadly, affects us much more than it affects them. They’re not any more or less stupid or ignorant than the British or the French or the Germans or the Irish or anyone; there just happens to be more of them, and their decisions have a greater impact, much greater than they understand.
Do the rest of us have any say in all this? Do we fuck. It’s up to America alone to take responsibility for itself. And for us, it’s time to stop crying like fucking babies and start practicing what we preach; only then will we have a right to reply.
So this weblog is three years old today. Three!
Still a baby, as far as I’m concerned. Still lots more growing to do. Lots to improve. One day I might even get the hang of it. You never know.
To my regular readers, thanks for sticking around during the ‘terrible twos’. Your loyalty will be rewarded. Eventually.