August 31, 2008 | Ronda Jambe

The US of Ain’t

What this election clearly ain’t about is change, although both candidates are now waving that banner. After two weeks in the US, I’m now about to leave for Costa Rica, and not a moment too soon. The combination of crass urbanism and lack of substance in the politics is more than I am willing to put up with, although fortunately my mother is as angry as I am with the state of play.
A country that has CNN discussing the brands and shops where Michelle buys her clothes, or where Hilary supporters can decide that they will vote for McCain because he has a woman for VP is beyond my comprehension.
Commonly here, real life is compared with the movies, and it’s hard to work out which is which. One columnist compares Palin to ‘Mr Smith goes to Washington’, another with ‘Miss Congeniality’. Both are comedies.
Over dinner with friends in New York, after a refreshing visit to the MOMA, (some of my best friends are paintings), the serious question was raised: Do you really think there is enough difference between the candidates to offer hope for the US? Well, not really. The only hope is that Obama might stir enough people so that IF he got elected they would then get themselves up to hold him accountable.
But all the evidence of my eyes and ears tells me there ain’t much chance of that. Even in New Jersey, which has long been one of the ‘blue’ or Democratic states, the flags are waving everywhere, without ever a doubt about how wonderful that kind of intense nationalism is.
Nothing makes me shudder more than unblinking acceptance, especially when they come in pairs. It wouldn’t surprise me if the dollar shops started selling reliquaries:
flat and statue.jpg
There are no half-way opinions here, and that just makes me more extreme in my own convictions. A casual chat on the bus to NY leads to the accusation that I am a ‘limosine liberal’. I tell the husband of a childhood friend that I do climate change presentations for Al Gore. He says ‘Now I’ve lost all respect for you’, and is only half joking. People watch a lot of TV, but few read books (or blogs) among the bunch I’ve been exposed to. National Forum might be one of the few places where opposing views are side by side.
The Institute for Public Accuracy, via BEAU GROSSCUP, points out that “McCain was shot down over Hanoi while participating in a strategic bombing campaign intended to make civilians suffer so they would lose the will to fight.” He says the U.S. military put civilian deaths [from Operation Rolling Thunder] at 52,000, and others estimate they were much higher. Civilian deaths in Iraq are many times higher, but who’s counting?
Is it reasonable to ask what makes a war hero? Is it possible to respect someone’s courage while seeking an end to the carnage? Or question the motives that led the US to Vietnam in the first place? All of this is outside the boundaries for dialogue here. And McCain has consistently voted against better funding for the Veterans Administration, and against the new GI Bill. In fact, he has voted with Bush about 90% of the time – that ain’t change.
No one mentions that the US has 750 military bases in 180 countries (yes, of course in Australia) or that maybe the US wouldn’t like it if the Russians were setting up missile shops in Canada, as the US is in Poland, via their proxy NATO. Or that the greatest contributor to greenhouse gases on the planet, as an institution, is the US military.
These are not topics to raise while zipping along in a boat, out on a bay, while visiting a beautiful home in Surf City. This barrier island, just a long sand bar really, is too loaded down with expensive real estate to ever contemplate vulnerability. Even I wouldn’t heed an ex-pat (and therefore suspect) Cassandra who talks about sea level rise, if this was the only summer playground I knew:
bay houses.jpg
But as I pack up to leave, my original views before visiting rebound.I conclude there ain’t much difference between these guys: both will maintain the privitised form of health insurance that serves Americans so badly, both support increased military spending, both will continue to kow tow to Israel, both will drill for oil everywhere and anywhere, and both will provide vast subsidies for the nuclear power industry (because it can’t exist without these). Neither has mentioned the concept of conservation in their climate change strategy to any great extent, because that ain’t what people want to hear.
Hating big government is one thing, being expected to take responsibility on a personal level for change is quite another. The American way doesn’t admit to compromise. Don’t know if or how I’ll be blogging from Costa Rica, but I close with two perspectives, old and new, of what the American way has been.
The first is an old, but once servicable and modest home, typical of the area I grew up in:
NY aug 08 042.jpg
The next is more a reflection of today’s expectations, a bigger home for bigger people:
ugly house.jpg
My Spanish is good enough to read in El Diario that Hispanics are worried about the Republicans taking away health clinics, or clamping down on illegal migrants. This is already a big issue in California. The paper says they are told to ignore the policy, and look at McCain the man. But it ain’t necessarily so.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 12:52 am | Comments Off on The US of Ain’t |
Filed under: US Politics

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