Monday, June 23, 2008
Pints with an American Conservative
An anti American flag on display in France
Last weekend I had the pleasure of of going on an all out session with an Irish American in Dublin. Oran, on holidays from New York is a cousin of a friend of mine and on Friday last we had a few beers in in our friends house while Watching Turkey Vs Croatia in the European Championship quarter final before heading off to our local pub after which we finish it off in a city center bar. Oran it turned out is a conservative. He is supporting John McCain in November and is against withdrawing US troops from Iraq . It was an unusual experience for me to have a conversation with a person who hold such view. I have done it countless times in the blogoshere but rarely face to face. I had studied with many Americans and know several living here but they are nearly entirely liberal and often more anti American themselves.
Oran, a very intelligent man and clever debater was capable of arguing his point on anything from the virtues of baseball over soccer to the evils of Jeramiah Wright compared to John Hagee. However anti Americanism was the subject we discussed most. I complained that America and Americans had become too introverted and excessively nationalist in recent times where as nationalism in Europe is on the way out and offered this as an explanation for the divide. He agreed more introverted yes, but "can you blame us" was his response. He listed a litany of incidents where he himself and family and friends have had to put up with all sorts of anti American rants while travelling throughout Europe. I felt sorry for him and was irritated by the stories. I don't like badly informed anti Americanism. I like and admire Americans that travel and I think its a shame that they have to put up with idiots in bars and trains when they journey around Europe.
Anti American graffiti in Paris
There is not much you can do about meeting an idiot but it has to be said, there is anti Europeanism in America too particularly in the right wing media. Most of it is perpetrated by these crazy TV and radio talk show hosts that I have blogged about before. The image they encourage is that Europeans are down right cowardly, anti Semitic and deceitful. I'm sure as a result there are plenty of stories of French and German travellers to the US being at the receiving end of unfair comments.
John Kerry apparently spoke French, looked French and acted French. It cost him in the 2004 presidential election.
I think I know how Americans view this thing. They liberated western Europe in 1944/45 losing hundreds of thousands of men in the process. They liberated Eastern Europe in 1989/90 after a forty year campaign to wrestle the Soviets to the ground in which they spent countless billions. So I think it is natural they would want to ask, why are Europeans so ungrateful? I think some are ungrateful and don't want to admit what America has done for them. But the truth is Americans and Europeans view the world very differently. Europeans are angered at the direction the world has taken since the turn of the millennium. The USSR is no more and we are living through a communications revolution yet all there appears to be is more war and misery. This should be a great era for humanity but its turning out to be an awful one. So who do you blame? Many chose to blame the greatest political, economic and military entity that has ever existed. Most Europeans don't buy the war on terror and those that do don't perceive terrorism as such a threat that merits putting off all the major world problems until every last terrorist is hunted down.
Jaque Chirac in bed with Saddam and Satan
I am regularly critical of US foreign Policy but I respect America. I feel I am a fair critic. I praise America when I believe it does something right, I condemn it when I believe it does something wrong. I therefor reserve the right to be critical of the US and not get labelled as a typical liberal, week European who hold a subtle hatred of America and sympathises with terrorists and tyrants. It may sound absurd, but this is a claim often hurled at Europeans in the conservative American media.
The answer to this dilemma is clear, dialogue dialogue dialogue. This divide is caused by ignorance and lack of debate. Europeans and Americans do have different values but they also have a lot in common. I learned a lot from my chat with Oran even if at the end of the night we were barely speaking English. I hope he learned a few things too. I feel I understand how Americans are generally hurt at some forms of anti Americanism after all no one can deny that France, Italy, Belgium, Holland and Germany are littered with the bodies of American dead, killed in a campaign against tyranny.