Home of the brave

29 Apr
Official presidential portrait of Barack Obama...

Image via Wikipedia

So, now Obama has produced his birth certificate proving he was indeed born in the country.  America has a REAL  president, just like we have a REAL Julia.

Speaking generally, one of the striking differences about Australian and American attitudes to government is the undisguised fear and loathing many Americans feel towards  theirs. While in Australia we are bored, fed up with and cynical about politicians, we have a long way to go before we reach the dizzy heights of fear and loathing generated in the USA.

Though maybe the state of  loathing is approaching faster than I thought – driving down the US 95 this morning I had a sudden vision of Prime Minister Abbott, and it seemed so real I nearly ran right off  into the desert. How did those Labor dorks get it soooo wrong? They had everything going for them way back in 2007 and that alone is sufficient reason for Australians to chuck them out – talk about the squandering of social and political capital: you have to be totally ignorant and arrogant (worst possible combination) to achieve that degree of loss so fast.

 There’s many Americans who seem to believe that any government intitiative is a conspiracy to strip them of their treasured freedoms of the kind we in Australia don’t consider freedoms in the first place.  Health care reform, for example, is seen by some as a form of moral corruption – you should be able to take care of yourself, and if you can’t, you probably deserve to get sick and die, is the Darwinian/moral subtext of the unreasoning  fury directed against this particular reform. Like some of the anti abortionists who recently ripped into me on the Drum  – the health care reform antagonists are full of what everybody should do and entirely lacking in understanding of what people do do. They’re lost in fighting for the realisation of  Utopian visions of their perfect world in which there’s nobody in financial need, (because they’ve got rid of them all somehow) and nobody ever has an unplanned pregnancy, so we don’t have to have all these morally disturbing conflicts in the first place, freeing us up to thank Jesus and make money. Or whatever. In the meantime, the messy real world of real messy people keeps getting in their conservative way and resists, thankfully, all their strenuous efforts to repress it.

I’ve long considered US society to have perfected a form of socially acceptable begging, otherwise known as tipping. Your waiter, hairdresser, and other service providers are paid pitiful minimum wages, on the understanding that if they perform their duties well, they’ll be rewarded with a tip to bump up their remuneration to  a living wage or better.  As a consequence service providers are  excruciatingly nice to you, and everybody knows why. There’s that moral equation again: nice servers deserve great tips, even when they don’t really give a toss about you. Appearance is everything.  I don’t know what it does to an individual’s psyche to have to put on extravagant demonstrations of entirely manufactured concern ten hours a day five days a week, but it probably doesn’t leave a lot of time to think about politics and society. Maybe that’s it’s purpose. Hell, I’m becoming a conspiracy theorist.

I did watch Fair Game on the plane over. The movie about how there really weren’t any WMD’s.

 Yesterday I discovered my granddaughter sitting on the dunny with the sheet music of  Star Spangled Banner on the floor before her, practicing her part for the school choir. National pride is everything in schools, they pledge every morning with their hands on their hearts, under the flag. But don’t talk about politics when you’re invited to dinner. Better you should bring up sex, or even death, but if it’s death you choose  don’t say they  died, say they passed. They don’t care for died. It’s too crass.

 Where I come from you pass wind, and sometimes the salt.

As I listened to the child’s tuneless piping of the home of the brave and the land of the free, there  was a ruckus going on upstairs where a four year old was hanging out a bedroom window yelling “Yo! Watcha doin’ dumbass!” at a bunch of Mormons going door to door in our street, while his Momma hauled him in by the seat of his pants on his way to the naughty corner for a good fifteen minutes. Meantime down in the kitchen someone had  left the back door open and five sneaky chipmunks frolicked under the baby’s chair, cleaning up his leftovers and depositing a few of their own. There’s hardly a moment not filled with fun.

 As I sit here picking the chipmunk poop off my feet and reflecting for a few precious stolen  moments, I consider America.  Like Leonard Cohen says, I love the country but I can’t stand the scene. Democracy has not yet come to the USA, no sir, it certainly has not, so how they think they can export it to the Middle East is a mystery to me.

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