America At The Crossroad

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Aug 31st, 2007, 07:26 AM
  #41
 
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The argument that Americans are sacrificing identity to a bland and repetitive business culture (e.g., Starbucks, Walmart, etc.) is silly.

Americans have always sought identity from ideas more than material surroundings. We don't derive our identity from where we shop anymore than the village of our birth.

Americans define themselves by ideas. Democrat, Republican or Independent. Christian, Agnostic or other. Anti-Abortion or pro-Choice. Embrace or despise labor unions. How does one feel about the Iraq War or Guantanamo. And so on.

I sometimes feel that, in Europe, the real debates were silenced decades ago. There appears to be very little dissent on climate change, abortion, public funding for healthcare and tertiary education, high taxes and generous social benefits, etc.

It seems that European political enthusiasm died in the ruins of the Second World War. Many of the things that Europe argues about politically, seem like trivially different positions from the US perspective.

The US is clearly alive politically in a way that Europe appears dead. That's where we get our identity from, not whether we prefer McDonalds or Wendys.
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Aug 31st, 2007, 07:49 AM
  #42
 
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>>There appears to be very little dissent on climate change, abortion, public funding for healthcare and tertiary education, high taxes and generous social benefits, etc.

It seems that European political enthusiasm died in the ruins of the Second World War. Many of the things that Europe argues about politically, seem like trivially different positions from the US perspective.<<<

I suppose it is because most Europens agree in those matters. There is nothing to argue about. Political enthusiasm in bombed ruins would not have helped in rebuilding.
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Aug 31st, 2007, 07:58 AM
  #43
 
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>>There appears to be very little dissent on climate change, abortion, public funding for healthcare and tertiary education, high taxes and generous social benefits, etc.<<

>>I suppose it is because most Europens agree in those matters. There is nothing to argue about.<<

One of the things that struck me the most during my trip to Ireland and the UK this summer was the uniformity of thought on so many topics. It is as if the people I met and talked with had ideas that were the product of groupthink or something. I don't mean for that to be insulting... well, I suppose I don't mean for it to be any more insulting than a European's insistence that Americans are all brainwashed into thinking uniformly! *LOL Maybe my hosts at these various family and social gatherings were just being polite, but I've experienced more diversity of thought at dinner parties in the US.
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Aug 31st, 2007, 07:58 AM
  #44
 
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Smueller.

To European eyes, U.S. politics and ideas seem very bland. The Democrats and Republicans seem very similar in their policies, one opposing what the other proposes, apparently for the sake of it. Both are to the right of most European parties.

I think you underestimate the traumatic nature of the twentieth century for many Europeans, and their resultant desire for progressive politics and a supportive welfare state. We saw populations destroyed and displaced and our industries and infrastructure in ruins. We also saw the negative effects of nationalism and political extremism.

Fortunately, we now seem to have put all that behind us, and have the opportunity to create a Europe of peace and prosperity for all its citizens.
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Aug 31st, 2007, 08:01 AM
  #45
 
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"...And we were shocked that GWB was elected TWICe and then was allowed to start a war he couldn't win."

Please remember that less than 50% of the popular vote went to Bush. And as for the war, there is very little popular support in that arena, either.

Not wanting to make this a political forum, but I believe Bush has squandered whatever international good will that existed for the USA ... as an American, I am embarrassed and ashamed that he is our "leader."
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Aug 31st, 2007, 08:11 AM
  #46
 
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>>>One of the things that struck me the most during my trip to Ireland and the UK this summer was the uniformity of thought on so many topics. <<<

Look at the topics smueller mentioned: "climate change, abortion, public funding for healthcare and tertiary education, high taxes and generous social benefits, etc." Those are the things Europeans usually want, and have managed to create. I dontīt think anybody would want to go back into 1950īs when social system was very much like that in the US. The only topic of those mentioned that might cause arguments is abortion, and even that would cause disagreements only in Poland, Ireland and Malta.
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Aug 31st, 2007, 08:25 AM
  #47
ira
 
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>Back in the 60s the US was a country to watch and be inspired by.<

Exactly which day in the 60's do you have in mind?

Before or after: the U2 spy plane incident; the riots in Panama; the Bay of Pigs; US Marshals integrating public schools in Alabama; the Cuban Missile Crisis; overthrow of Ngho Din Diem; escalation of forces in Vietnam; anti-American demonstrations in 1962; invasion of the Dominican Republic; riots in Panama; race riots in NYC, Philadelphia, Chicago and Jacksonville; race riots in Watts; anti-war demonstrations; anti-American demonstrations in Indonesia; race riots in Detroit and Newark; anti=American demonstrations in Greece; riots at the Chicago Convention; world-wide anti-American demonstrations in 1968; election of Nixon; Woodstock?

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Aug 31st, 2007, 08:26 AM
  #48
 
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My personal opinion is that the world doesn't like the US because the media tells us they don't. It makes for great copy, sells papers, airtime. You get the point.

Our economy runs first on money followed closely behind by ego. So, when you see media outlets pushing a volatile agenda the are trying to increase their bottom line, get fat bonuses, you get the picture. When you see an opposition party try to trick the public with "spin" they are vying for power which equates to money and ego.

Its all sad, but true.

Also, the Europeans we know can't get enough of the US.
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Aug 31st, 2007, 08:27 AM
  #49
 
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"And as for the war, there is very little popular support in that arena, either."

As for the war, there was no debate - not there wasn't much, but there was NO debate - in the US before America went in.

And as for this crap about European groupthink:

- How many of today's US Congressmen showed opposition to the Iraq war in 2003?

- How many of the current Presidential hopefuls showed opposition in 2003?

- If there's all this debate about climate change in the US, why did 96 of America's 100 Senators oppose the Kyoto treaty? Strident denial of scientific facts isn't debate: it's plain old fashioned know-nothingism (to use a US-invented political idea)

- How many US Congressmen voted to make US warcrimes abroad subject to international courts?

- Where in the US are the experiments in flat tax, privatisation and opening up of domestic markets and government procurement to foreign competition that are bursting out throughot Europe?

- And talking of political senility: if it's such a scandal Bush was voted in on a minority popular vote in 2000, why has there been no serious attempt to reform the 18th century Electoral College system that spawned it? Fact is: you'd all rather whine about it that get off your arses and do anything

When I go to the US, I see a country where serious political debate stopped about 1785. These days it's been replaced by interminable, action-preventing, acrimony
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Aug 31st, 2007, 08:32 AM
  #50
 
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The Clash got it right in 1977 and 30 years later it still rings true:

http://tinyurl.com/2r2kcf

If in doubt - ask a dead rock star. Works for me everytime
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Aug 31st, 2007, 08:34 AM
  #51
 
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Sorry, the thesis is flawed as any academic will explain. First, define Europe; is it the English speaking countries or the area between Iceland and the Urals? I have been in Europe 11 years (Poland and Slovakia) and have yet to hear or experience malevolent speech or actions toward or about the USA. Instead I get a steady request for help for means to move to or visit the USA. Europeans in general are to busy with their own problems to concern themselves with USA.
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Aug 31st, 2007, 08:37 AM
  #52
 
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Hi Flanner,

A good US friend of mine did write a letter to the President begging him not to go to war and stating the reasons why. And there were a few demonstrations.

Everything to no avail. The people's voice had been silenced.
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Aug 31st, 2007, 08:38 AM
  #53
 
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Liam - I agree, and I didn't offer it as a disparaging remark either. I spent a year in Japan as a visiting scholar at the University of Tokyo - talk about bland politics. European political debates are positively exciting in comparison.
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Aug 31st, 2007, 08:40 AM
  #54
ira
 
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>>"...And we were shocked that GWB was elected TWICe and then was allowed to start a war he couldn't win."

Please remember that less than 50% of the popular vote went to Bush.<<

Our political system (a strong executive, a strong legislature, and courts independent from both) is very different from the Parliamentary system, in which it is **usually** a coalition of parties that form a government with a weak presidency.

We hold elections on a regular schedule, not when it appears most useful to the political parties - whether in power or in opposition.

Despite efforts by some politicos to change it (usually to increase the likelihood of a Republican president), our President is chosen indirectly, and not necessarily by popular vote.

The two times that Mr Bush was elected, could not be called a mandate - more a lucky break - as voters were split almost 50/50.

As a side note, there are no red states and no blue states. If you look at the map by voting district, you see almost uniformly purple states.

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Aug 31st, 2007, 08:44 AM
  #55
 
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There is certainly plenty of dissent on the Iraq War today.

So what are the hot topics of political disagreement in Europe?

Are the difference between the Tories and Conservatives, Royale and Sarkozy, etc. even comparable to the differences between US Democrats and Republicans?

My impression of Europe, especially Continental Europe, is that young people are offered a much more limited choice of beliefs and belief systems that are considered politically and socially acceptable.
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Aug 31st, 2007, 08:48 AM
  #56
 
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*Warning - these are generalizations* (but so are yours. LOL)
Americans must discover everything themselves. In this way it is still a fiercely isolationist country.
Can you see the US being part of a North American Union? Yet it is partly what is responsible for Europe's rise in economic success lately.
Healthcare is another perfect example - checkout the thread on European Healthcare. LOL
The rest of the world is metric. Replacing small currency with coins is accepted as cost-saving and efficient by most industrialized countries.
"Socialism" is still a bad word in the States.
For the most part, global conservation initiatives are shunned.
Views on sexual preference, abortion lag behind most others.
But as individuals you will not find a friendlier, open, more loyal group of people. As a friend, there is none better. Just don't suggest that something is better somewhere else.
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Aug 31st, 2007, 08:53 AM
  #57
ira
 
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>The rest of the world is metric.<

So is the US. We are one of the founders of the agreement of 1875.

US measures are defined by law in terms of their metric equivalents.

We just never got around to implementing the system.

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Aug 31st, 2007, 09:01 AM
  #58
 
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To name a few topics on which we have heated discussions going on in Germany:

- Should we sacrifice personal freedom and civil rights for the fight against terrorism?

- How to finance our Social Security system in the future? So far it's mostly paid by contributions from the salary of employees - should we change to financing by taxes? VAT increasing?

- Child care. Parents staying at home or giving their kids to public/private Day Cares?

- Privatizing public services (e.g. German Railways)?

- Universities/Colleges are (almost) free so far - should they be allowed to charge their students in the future for investing the money in better quality of teaching?

The topics that you named, smueller, were discussed in the past. We found a consensus and why start again after it works well? Can there be a dissenting opinion on climate change?

It is true that the big political parties are getting more and more similar (CDU/CSU and SPD), but they lose support (and votes) and the smaller parties like the Liberals (FDP) and Greens are getting stronger. Even the Left wings are getting more and more votes. So there is a choice for young people IMO.
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Aug 31st, 2007, 09:09 AM
  #59
 
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>>young people are offered a much more limited choice of beliefs and belief systems that are considered politically and socially acceptable.<<<

smueller, where do you get that idea? Young people (and old) can believe in just about everything and anything and still be socially accepted. I cannot even think of anything that would be socially unaccectable, except maybe joining some neo-nazi group. They can join the communist party if they want to, it is just a party among others. They can join any church or be atheists, and nobody would blink an eye (well, maybe a Polish granny would in the atheist case). They can have an abortion if they want one, and nobody protests outside the clinic. If they have brains they can study whatever they want to, and the tuitition is free up to a doctorate, so they are not dependent of their parents and their parents ideas. They are free to marry or have a family and be unmarried, and nobody thinks they should marry because of the children. If they are gay, they can marry if they so choose. And so on.
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Aug 31st, 2007, 09:11 AM
  #60
 
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You know, you COULD just get some chains and hit yourself in the back for being an American, in the style of those guys in Iran. Just don't ask the rest of us to participate; assist maybe, but not participate.
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