Monday, November 05, 2007

A Brief Encounter

After the long contemplation that can only be understood after two years abroad, I have concluded that the most unpleasant experiences of my life as an expatriot is coming running into others from my homeland. Given the current political climate, I have, with rare exception, catagorized Americans into two divisions. Hawkish right wingers who are, as stereotypes dictate, American and the apologetic left. And, after considering this matter deeply, whilst emmersed in my own brand of neo-liberal, yet somehow marxian politics, the most disagreeable are the apologetic left--though this could be primarily because the university setting in which I find myself emmersed on most days precludes this condition, thus bringing me to the scenario that I view with utmost disdain, fear and loathing: sympathizing and later justifying with those for whom I have not sympathy nor desire to justify.

In the coffee line today, I came across a girl, typically American, and more importantly, typically American College Girl Abroad: somewhat intellegent, somewhat fat--not the usual kind of fat that has done the US proud--rather, nascent fat; very left wing.

"Oh, are you from Kansas?" She asks in that whiney midwest college girl accent.
"What?! no!" >>>who are you, why are you talking in the the coffee line, don't you know this is Londond? Fuck-off<<< (arrows denote thougt-speech).
"Oh, I just, like, saw your sweatshirt..."
To which I responded witht the look that has come to characterize my own ego-centric world--raised eye brow, slight nodd--that anyone who knows me knows I'm thinking >>>so, I don't give a shit, why are you still talking, or, maybe, why am I still standing here, btw, you didn't 'like see my sweatshirt'. you either did or didn't. Get to the fucking point<<<
"...I'm from Arizona." she continues.
"really." >>>ooo that was a mistake, because she's going to take it as a question 'really?' instead of a statement like I meant it. why doesn't this queue move faster?<<<
"Oh, but I'm not one of those Americans."
>>>those Americans? What like those from Arizona? the Southwest? ...oh THOSE it comes<<<
"those Americans?" I ask.
"Yeah, you know people in this country think we are all for the war and stuff,"
>>>really, who, everyone I know has never thought that of me. and why are you telling me this? you have no idea of my political ambivilence."
"Yeah, well, the US's track record isn't particulirly good, and 52% of "us" did vote for Bush."
"I know, but I hate be stereotyped"
"yes, that's problematic" >>>sigh, but honey you are, and here's why...wait, you're about to tell me.<<<
"How long have you been here. Does this happen to you." >>>what?! are we stil talking?<<<
"Not really, but then again, most people who know me don't want to know my politics" >>>they're scary enough without me having to wave them around like a flag.<<<
"How do you find it? I mean defending yourself against those who think you are for the war or are like one of those tourists?"
(author's note. I think other European Tourists are way more unpleasant than the Americans; not the Americans of stereotype, but those honest to God American tourists whom I have met and spoken with.)
I snap.
"It's funny actually. I've never had those issues, but I think that's partly my perspective. I don't so much have a problem with the hawkish Republicans. They mean what they say and do what they meant" >>>an elephant's faithful 100%<<< "the problems I've encountered living here are the American academic left. I find them, in general, to be apologetic to the point of atrophy and ineffectivness and to be overly whiny; and for that matter typically 'American' because they are so inwardly focused. It's best to get over it."

Stoney silence >>>wa hahahahah!!! that'll teach you to interrupt my coffee and meditation<<<

The above excerpt is more or less a conversation I had this morning--however ineloquent. My problems with and therefor the source of disdain I have with the US is, believe it or not, the regime based on deciet, lies and that funny balance between immorality and amorality. Hating the Republicans in that context is like hating the Dallas Cowboys of the 90's because they won so often by redefining the rules of the game. What I do hate, however, is the left who has done nothing in the past 7 years except winge that they should be in power and apologize for the actions of a regime bwhose power is based in mendacity when they should have been overthrowing it. And worse, now that they are in power, however tenuous, there is the overwhelming surity that they will win in the next set of elections despite two fundamental flaws in their approach: the first is that they will flock to and rally around two candidates who cannot possibly win, and the second is that despite the grandstanding, and the hard won desparate mandate from 'the people,' there has been no tactical or rhetorical shift. In other words, same shit new year. Unfortunately, this mandate won't last once the right wing machine gets rolling unless the left wings gear up an equally vicious machine of their own and start making some rules instead of taking them. Unfortunately, this is a paradox. The left will not win because it is good, and we all know that in the end, 'good is dumb.' That is why it is good.

and to add closure to the short conversation I had with this poor, deluded girl, she broke her stoney silence.

"what do you mean? I'm not like that."

But by this time, I was at the front of the queue had coffee in hand and was no longer listening--"take it easy" >>>chew on that with your latte<<<

As I was sipping my quadrupple espresso and gearing up for another day sat in front of the keyboard, I came to one other conclusion. I miss America. Not in the homesick sort of way that makes me want to move back, and not because I am intelectually or academically intrigued by all of the odd contradictions; the United Kingdom has enough of those plus 20 ounce pints. What I really miss is all of the shit you can buy in America that you can't here.

To explain this; I need to explain an incident that occured whilst I was sipping my huge coffee. I over heard another American girl (see description above) on her phone talking about her new house/flat. Apparantly she loves it, but needs to get some "Drano".

And, therein lies the beauty behind what makes America great. Drano, and not just in single use, carefully portion controlled bottles, but huge fuck off vats of it, for sale to the general public without any sort of vetting process. Gallons of sodium hydroxide available in one go at Home Depot--I'm about to start singing 'America the Beautiful' in the library it's so fucking cool.. We have entire industries set up to brand, market and sell the waste of other entirly different industries--and a consumer market that not only wants and is told they need it, but that can ask for it by name: Drano.

My mind racing, I began to think of other things that I can buy in the U.S.A that I can't get here. The gazillion pack of Ibuprophen I bought at Walgreen's 4 years ago that I gifted to Adam before I left. Where else in the world can an average joe off the street buy 10,000 Ibuprophen pills in one go? With not even a raised eyebrow, or back ground check. If my memory serves me, this was not the largest bottle I could buy, and Walgreen's sells Drano too! Think about that. Drano and Ibuprophen, and a shitload of both under one roof next to the cheap perfume and squirtguns.

Before I get too wound up in this celebration of what makes America great, and what makes our wars worth fighting; I feel like I should make my point--and one that is only visible from the outside looking in, a neo-autoethnography of the collective self. All sides of the US political spectrum, and by extension, all people in the US, are predicated on the same expectations and sense of entitlement, however skewed and however leaning--all of which points to the central contradiction of ourselves; left or right; we are all basically the same person. The American President is the that small child in all of us who wants and wants and wants. He is the same person inside me that provides the motivation for me to buy a ton of pills, or wind my car up to 120mph on a back road--he, and us, are the same, and we act through the best and worst of all possible reasons; we can.

stay tuned; I plan on embarking in a extension of the prvious post: a collection of vignette short stories about what makes Lawrence, KS what it is.