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Tuesday, August 26, 2003
I know I'm a little late with this. I was going to title this "Don't Let the Screen Door Hit You in the Ass", but Jeff Jarvis already took care of that. Following in the slime trail left by Guardian writer Matthew Engel, the Observer's "award-winning" US correspondent, Ed Vulliamy, is leaving the US, and to mark the occasion he writes this long, rambling, tedious article.
The gist of it is that when he came to the US, it was "cool", but now it's a different place, not cool at all. It was very difficult for me to slog through this article without tearing out some hair. Allow me to summarize so you will not suffer the same fate.
Bill Clinton was cool. He might have made America cool, at least as far as my trendy EuroFriends are concerned. I am such a pathetic Clinton fanboy that I got a major thrill listening to the Allman Brothers with George Stephanopoulos, who ate takeout pizza with Clinton. Cool.
Clinton only intervened in other countries when all the people of those countries---and everyone all over the world!---wanted him to. Everyone in Haiti, for example, wanted the Americans there.
The only terrorists then were right-wing Americans who regarded Clinton as a usurper and despised the Federal government. This was uncool of them.
James Byrd was "lynched" in a racially vicious area, but because Clinton was in office there was moral outrage.
Some people are poor in America. This is racist.
Something about Juarez and black suns and deserts and mass abductions which are all America's fault. Tequila is really cool.
People from a lot of different nations live in New York, and rooted for their home teams in the World Cup. These people are the "real America". Meanwhile George Bush insulted Vicente Fox by not getting up at 2:30am to watch the US play Mexico. Most native-born Americans didn't give a shit, the arrogant bastards.
James Baker is a Dark Prince whom no one can withstand. 2000 election...Halliburton...Ken Lay...Ralph Reed...Karl Rove (who is the Horned One himself!)...
Parties out of power plot ways to return to power. This is sinister. Project for the New American Century! Ia! Ia! Cthulhu fthagn!
The CIA's assessment of Saddam's weapons was sexed---I mean---"cranked up" by the administration.
"I had the honour and pleasure" of name-dropping several supposed artistic geniuses, all of whom think the country is going to hell and dissent is being crushed.
In the '60s, being a good American meant questioning everything America did.
Clear Channel...owned by a "close friend" of Bush's!..."forced" the Dixie Chicks to "withdraw" their criticism of the Bush "regime".
Texas has its own power grid! Oh, the humanity!
Karl Rove, Man-Goat. Remember that.
French fries become Freedom Fries. Weep for the children.
Students "are urged" to spy on faculty who oppose the invasion of Iraq.
"The world"---by which I mean my friends in London and Paris---thinks America is becoming uncool.
I took my 9-year-old daughter to a Patti Smith concert, and started to hallucinate something about the Declaration of Independence.
Finally I'll indulge in a completely pointless reminiscence of a bar infested by Britons singing raunchy songs at breakfast time.
In summary, Clinton was cool because he was one of Us---the sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll Boomers. He's an intellectual! He cares about people! Even non-American people! You know that because he tells you so. And he shakes their hands.
Bush, on the other hand, was one of Them---the non-'60s Boomers. Though of the same age, they lived in a completely different '60s. We wore blue jeans; they wore suits and ties. They drank; we inhaled (well, except for Clinton). We protested the war; they joined the military. They are too much like our parents.
(And this is all pretty funny when you remember how serious a little bastard Clinton was in his college days, whereas Bush was more of a frat rat.)
Vulliamy doesn't come right out and say this---he describes Us, but doesn't go into what They may be. But it seems to me that this is exactly the point; it's the Great Divide in politics. A lot of the media and (especially in Britain) political classes arose from the '60s. For them, it's always the '60s---always a time of Peace and Love and Pretty Rainbows through Caring and Sharing. But there were people of the same age who did not partake of the Age of Aquarius, but were dinosaurs left over from the hard-minded and rigid '50s.
It was clear to me that the Republicans had a hate-on for Clinton right from the first. Hillary Clinton embarrassed herself by whining about a Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy to destroy her husband. They only thing she got wrong was the conspiracy part. A conspiracy usually implies secrecy. This was a conspiracy like the Roman Catholic church is a conspiracy, like McDonalds is a conspiracy.
But I never understood why this visceral dislike. Yeah, yeah, a lot of people put it down to his sexual proclivities; some of those same people made excuses for others in their own ranks who'd had the same proclivities. But I think it was less what Clinton had done that what he was---he was one of the Dungarees, rather than the Suits. (10 point reference.)
The same thing is operating here in reverse. Bush is a Suit. It doesn't matter what he does, in the eyes of the Dungarees he's one of those imperialist, militaristic, god-bothering Suits. He can do the very same things Clinton would do, but in Bush they're EEEEVIIIIIL. Clinton goes into Haiti---well, that's OK, because we know his motives are pure. He's one of Us! Bush, on the other hand, is an imperialist for going into Iraq (and Afghanistan). We know that because he's an imperialist. Clinton went to church, but we know that was harmless because he was a Dungaree. Now, when Bush the Suit goes to church, we don't know whether to laugh in mockery or tremble in fear. (He's said to---gasp!---pray!!)
I didn't realize that there was such an intra-generational divide amongst the Boomers. I wonder whether there will be one in the supposedly-slacker Generation X. Will there be war between the McJobbers and the hot-shot entrepreneurs? Which generation am I, anyway? Stay tuned.
But one thing's for sure, if a foreigner leaves the US in 2010, sighing for the coolness of Rummy, we won't read about it in the Observer.