After Eight Years Of Quiet…

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I’ve written before that this is not a politics site and that I will not push my personal political opinions at you. You don’t care about what I think and I don’t blame you. My views aren’t important.

However, sometimes politics must come up when addressing certain issues. And it may be unavoidable to touch upon when a writer becomes vocal about it. For, it seems, here we go again…

It appears that Ms. Oates longs for a return to the halcyon days of the George W. Bush White House. I gather we’re missing that nitwit president? That’s intriguing, given during his tenure we were endlessly lectured by those such as she that Mr. Bush was the absolute worst thing that could ever possibly conceivably happen to the presidency.

In any case, this “embarrassed American” stuff is silly. I have actually lived abroad since the Clinton administration in the 1990s – prior to the Bush era. I don’t know what Ms. Oates is talking about regarding “embarrassing.”

Although one must assume that when abroad she spends a great deal of time in the company of left-wing writers, critics and intellectuals. Many in France will probably be outright communists. Given her stance there, evidently she has failed to develop some reasonable self-confidence when outside of the US.

In the early 1990s, my uncle had been at a writers’ conference in Spain. A more left-wing environment is hard to imagine. (Cuban communists were in attendance.) He noticed that at a panel discussion he was going to be asked to sit beneath an American flag displayed upside down.

With an air of superiority, an organizer reminded him that was how to display the American flag when the US is in “distress.” My uncle well-knew of that claim. He was not an idiot.

While he was pretty left-wing, he was also not accepting that rationale from a foreigner when no other country had had its flag displayed oddly – including several that were involved in imprisoning unfortunates who dared voice an anti-government opinion, or were even in the midst of civil war. He replied to the organizer that he would not take questions under a US flag displayed that way. He added that they had better hang the flag up properly…or he would punch him in the mouth.

My uncle’s parents – my maternal grandparents – had President Franklin Roosevelt’s portrait hanging in a guest bedroom long after he was dead. When as a child in the 1950s my future mother once came home from an after-school event during a presidential campaign innocently wearing an “I Like Ike” button, my grandparents were decidedly NOT pleased: they were Adlai Stevenson supporters – twice. So I was raised in a New Deal-worshipping, staunchly liberal, Democratic family.

But as an adult making my own life, I became more willing to listen to Republicans after 9/11/2001. Living abroad by then some years, I found myself seriously underwhelmed by the reactions of too many Democrats at home to foreign religious maniacs crashing hijacked aircraft suicidally into New York skyscrapers. I found myself in argument after argument with long-time Democratic friends when I detected a “blame America” attitude in some of them. What the hell, I thought, would FDR, his successor Truman, or Stevenson, have said in response to the likes of that?

I am now a registered Republican, but that could change any time; I am currently really an “independent.” I did not vote for the current president. I voted for his Democratic opponent.

Many Americans abroad are I believe quick to internalize disagreement from foreigners with this or that US policy, or dislike of this or that US president, as indicating they should feel “embarrassed” and that they are being faced even with “anti-Americanism.”

I was working at a London university in 2003, just before the Iraq invasion – most students and staff were bitterly opposed to what appeared about to happen. And I was in France just weeks before the invasion – at the time, we recall, the French government under President Jacques Chirac was adamantly against a possible US invasion and had for months made its views quite plain to the point that it was easy to think some Americans (especially in “conservative” US media circles) would have even preferred invading France before invading Iraq. Yet in neither place did I feel myself needing to cower in embarrassment at being an American or that my nationality was despised.

I notice this, too: we see this “embarrassed American abroad” mentality re-surface especially when Republicans are presidents. That makes a degree of sense. It is well-documented that most non-military Americans living outside of the US are registered Democrats.

And some of them also turn up at protests. Democratic President Obama’s two terms are now finished. After a quiet eight years, the Democrats Abroad organization is now back to partisan-protesting a Republican president on foreign soil(s).

As Americans abroad, we are de facto representatives of our country. If we run around waving our hands over our heads and screaming “We’re all doomed!” foreigners among whom we live will take their cues from us. After all, if we Americans are seen losing our cool over our officialdom and its policies, one can hardly wonder why they as foreigners might do so.

Perhaps it’s the former politics lecturer in me. But I believe as an American I have a responsibility to my country and to people at home to be measured and as objective as I can be with foreigners in my critiques of our government and its policies. I feel it is VITAL to do that because those foreigners with whom I am speaking may know few Americans in person and possess only limited first-hand knowledge of our country.

Believe it or not but there are many here in Europe who have never set foot in the United States; indeed I might even be the only American someone knows personally. Thus they will likely invest a great deal in my opinions and in my demeanor when I voice my views on US governance and American society. So when asked about America and/or about our politics, whatever my personal partisan opinions may be I chat without rancor and as thoughtfully as I can manage.

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Which is why I have never, and I will never, attend a protest on foreign soil directed at any constitutionally chosen US president of either party.

And on that rather complicated, and not exactly lighthearted, note…have a good Monday, wherever you are in our world. 🙂

8 comments

  1. Very interesting considerations, dear Robert! Before this post I used to think you were British (due to your manners, language, appearance) and I liked to think that you were not as snobbish as many of them. Now, I’m happy to find out that you’re another normal American. In a good sense, of course. Please, don’t be offended.
    I believe that you as a historian can’t avoid politics and you shouldn’t. It’s important to keep the truth of history away from lies & misunderstanding. And politics is a life of a country we can’t avoid.
    Have a nice Monday too! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Maria. British I am not. Although, someday I may be. 😉

      I write here occasionally that I like to avoid politics – meaning especially too much opinion – because I prefer to stick to books, travel and such. There are gazillion places to go on the net for noisy, partisan politics. That’s not what I’m about here and just not what I want to do. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ha-ha-ha! You’re right,dear Robert. Political debates will kill blogging.
        Hm…let’s say that you have so much of the British air! In the way I understand it. I mean true Wodehouse’s spirit. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Ha-ha-ha! True! I’m none of both. By origin I’m Russian, though I can hardly name myself to be a true one. There are two reasons why: the first: i’m a specialist on the 17th century France. Professionally more than 10 years, the second: I share my life between Italy & Moscow. Foreign languages change something in our mind. That’s why I wonder myself what I’m. 🙂 I have a constant mix of English, Italian & French in my mind. And a bit of native Russian one. 🙂

            So, nice to meet you, my dear American friend with the British air 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

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