January 27, 2005
I liked Tom Friedman's article in the NY TImes on Bush's need to listen to Europe. When I was over in Switzerland, I could sense a lot of animosity towards Bush, not so much against America. I found Friedman's point quite interesting where he says the Europeans secretly envy American optimism and freedom, and that one reason they dislike Bush is that he has displaced those good feelings with fear. I consider myself somewhat libertarian and independent and don't really care much about the yellow or orange alert or anything like that. In fact I am bothered by the Patriot Act and the intrusion upon many civil liberties that have taken place. I don't think all foreigners should be fingerprinted and photographed as they enter the country. I don't think America should live in the shadow of fear, and I personally do not. As Friedman pointed out, if he would just listen, he would undoubtedly hear some "Eurowhining," but I have to agree with them a bit on the loss of freedom. While I understand where the government is coming from, and I know a lot of people agree with the changes, I think many, if not most, are ineffective overreactions.
Posted by charr at 3:37 PM
I think there's more to "Eurowhining" than just fear replacing American hope. I really don't think that's the root. First, a friend of mine at the State Department once said that he felt those who were raised in sochialist (ignore the H - anti-spam filters) often fail to understand the roots of our unique democracy and way of life. I've been told so often by Europeans that they believe we should eliminate state governments in favor of nationalized laws and programs down to the most minute detail. Sure, this works great for Iceland, whose population isn't even the tiniest percentage of those crammed onto Manhattan. But this very idea shows a lack of understanding of the diversity of our nation. Sochialism (again, ignore H) just won't work, and I don't think they like that.Second, I think Bush is getting a raw deal for other reasons besides disagreement over policy. It's shallower than that. It all comes down to accent. Europeans - as well as many Americans - are judging a man's intelligence based on his accent. Gee, they haven't been doing that for thousands of years… It's nothing more than linguistic racism. Would we call an African American "an ass" due to the color of his skin? Then why do we make such assumptions based off linguistic inclinations that have nothing to do with matters of intelligence, but rather cultural cadence? Like I always say, Kennedy said "nucular", and no one called him an idiot for it. You say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to. We've seen centuries of this behavior in such countries as Great Britain, where they're still trying to overcome prejudices based on which borough you came from. There are schools in England where you can actually pay experts to help iron out your accent, just in case you were born on the wrong side of the Thames. It's like a multi-national case of My Fair Lady - they think because Bush talks with a twang, he's somehow worse off than Eliza Doolittle. And because he's such an idiot, they are obviously so much more apt to making the big decisions. Clearly they must be more intelligent than some American cowboy. Funny, since they didn't have any of these linguistic complaints with Clinton's southern drawl.
I don't think I'm attacking Bush here. I agree that he often doesn't get the respect he deserves, but that's not what I'm trying to state here. Rather, I think Friedman brings up an interesting point. I don't think Bush should pull a John Kerry and have Europe approve our foriegn policy. In fact, I want America to remain powerful, but the government has crippled that power with all the freedom-restricting measures to deal with the fear we may get attacked again. The Bush administration has used a fear factor several times to go ahead with a certain plan. I'm not saying those fears are all unfounded, but I am saying that I don't like the fact (like the Europeans), that fear has become such a dominant factor in today's American society. I think it's one way the terrorists have been successful, and I don't blame the Europeans for disliking the presence of so much fear.
Cameron, I didn't mean to sound like I thought you were attacking Bush, I didn't mean that at all. Rather, that has just been my most common experience when dealing with Europeans who are vehemently anti-Bush. I agree that it's not great that fear has become such a factor in our lives, but I don't think it's fair to say Bush is the one behind it. The terrorists are the ones behind it. Yes, it's a marginal victory for the terrorists if you look at it one way. But, on the other hand, by channeling our fears into productive action, we're being constructive. Thus, there's no victory for the terrorists - they hope to cause panic and hysteria, paralyzing fear. Rather, they have provoked action. Therefore, I have no problem with the "fear" we live with today, as far as it being used constructively. It's a powerful motivator, just so long as it doesn't get out of control.