I’m no anti-American, seriously, not in a million years. I don’t subscribe to any of the Brit crap about USA stupidity or the lack-of-irony myth, when my own experience has been almost exclusively that of open-minded, open-hearted people. They’ve maintained welcoming curiosity and in many cases good manners that have long gone in many parts of Drunk UK.
But it’s worth really thinking about some of the raw aggression and open racism that has surfaced in the crowds at the increasingly desperate McCain/Palin rallies recently. The heckles need to be tied to the possible defeat of the conservative ticket, the economic problems and the slow decay of the American Empire: and I think they, as much as anything, signal the truly dreadful possibilities ahead in that land.
I love the USA so much. A month doesn’t go by when we don’t sit at home seriously weighing up the possibilities of moving to southern California and, when the boys from Entourage went out to Joshua Tree last week to take shrooms, I felt a physical longing for that place. No, it doesn’t conflict with my politics, obviously you can love a land, people, culture, counter-culture, even streets and buildings, without loving its government or systems. And anyway, if I was to move somewhere purely for politics, I’d be in Cuba or Venezuela right now, so that makes no sense.
However, I think there’s a truly epic gathering storm, as the great empire of the 20th century makes way for the great empires of the 21st, in the far east. You can see it in Simon Schama’s exploration of the water problems in the Colorado basin and even hints of it in Stephen Fry’s lighter-in-tone but equally perceptive jaunt.
They are used to opulence and it’s running out. They are used to freedom and – in order to maintain control as resources thin – it will be reigned in. Some are used to tying morally regressive patriarchy to isolationist elegy, when now, both are seeping away. Some are used to ignoring the Other America, the underbelly of The Wire and Hurricane Katrina and no health insurance, yet now that underbelly is rising. They are used to cheap gas (it’s still half the price of ours) but that’s ebbing fast and relies on their enemies.
They are used to being winners and deifying the concept of victory, yet they are headed – in so many ways – for defeat. There’s still no bigger insult than ‘loser’ in the USA.
They are armed.
By the way, I’ve just boshed off a complaint to the BBC about last night’s execrable Panorama, which, despite touting itself as a balanced look at the US election, turned out to be a strangely Fox News-esque and unBeeblike hatchet job, moulding scarcely any real content into a negative picture of Obama’s rise, while avoiding any similar study of his two rivals and ignoring his running-mate completely.
Simply: to bring up the Reverend Wright connection as an argument undermining Obama (in an emotive way, juxtaposing the worst soundclip over a photo of them together), yet not mention a single issue about Palin (such as her exorcism by a far more extreme religious nut, who has run people out of their homes for being witches, or her links to Alaskan Independence movements, or the bridge to nowhere, or McCain’s Keating scandal, or – for god’s sake – her rampant creationist extremism), instead letting the ‘hockey mom’ myth stand and presenting her as a mainstream populist alternative, was beyond biased, it was dangerously irresponsible and misleading for the UK public about what is really going on inside the USA.
While there is definitely some space for questions about Obama’s lack of legislative substance and fast rise through Chicago’s political scene, it was despicable that they let McCain and Palin off similar (any!) scrutiny.