Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Why can't we all just get along?

The Canadian ambassador to Finland made a guest appearance in my class on transatlantic relations today. I was quite disappointed that she didn't wear a flannel shirt or bring a box of apple fritters to share with everyone. But she talked about important things. Not about the cancelled NHL season or the delights of moose-watching, but rather on Canada's essential role as a bridge between the ever-widening chasm dividing the US and EU. I personally take umbrage to the fact that the 51st state imagines up to itself that it's better to be similar to the Europeans than to the cradle of civilization... you know, the US of A. But besides getting offended at the realization that even the Canadians don't like us anymore, I learned the following things:

Bureaucrats' speeches in any country are still high on image, and low on content. Just listen to any State of the Union Address. I'm sure somewhere in the US constitution it must be implied that this is a time designated for collective back-slapping among the President's party, and collective nose-crinkling among the other guys. It's tradition. It's expected. But it sure is tedious. And if applause is any measure of speech quality, then every sentence in one of these babies knocks the socks off anything Cicero ever said. Then again, he probably wore a Toga, and who listens to grown men dressed in a table cloth? But back to the Canadian ambassador. After spending an hour talking about how great the EU is (she certainly knew her audience, I can give her that) she opened the floor to questions. I raised my hand and asked: because the US, Canada, and Europe cooperated in supporting Ukraine, perhaps this influenced the recent regime change in Kyrgyzstan, and does this provide an arena for future cooperation in encouraging democracy in Russia or other former Soviet regimes? She spent 5 minutes talking about how there's a big Ukrainian diaspora in Canada. It would have been more fun if she talked about a lot of fluff AND wore a toga. I think I should be a diplomat. I'd sure improve things. No one takes me seriously, anyway.

Americans and Europeans don't like each other very much these days. The good ambassador did come armed with a few statistics that didn't seem to have much to do with Canada. But like I've always said, make hay while the sun shines, and there's juicy stuff going on between Europe and the Great Satan these days. For example, she quoted the following survey:

Europeans who had a positive attitude towards the US:

  • French: 63% in 2002; 37% in 2004
  • Germans: 61% in 2002; 38% in 2004

Americans who had a positive attitude towards:

  • French: 78% in 2002; 33% in 2004
  • Germans: 83% in 2002; 50% in 2004

So what can we learn from this? Absolutely nothing, because these people's opinions are completely irrelevant. Just kidding; people's opinions matter, but it seems that this precipitous drop in regard for each other has more to do with, say, my graduation from college (class of 2003, folks) than it does with Dubya's election. I mean, this is obvious, guys. Dubya was elected in 2000, hello. But I do wish people weren't so fickle. Americans aren't THAT bad. If I could have a hybrid SUV with 3 million horsepower and 40 mpg I'd be all over it. But we realize the limitations of reality. You just can't get 40 mpg. You can't. I think if Dubya could articulate this better to the nations of the world, we'd all get along much better. So I'll grudgingly admit that in addition to my diploma, our President has played a role in declining worldwide opinion polls.

But what does this have to do with Canada? Nothing. And that's the point. All their vehicles have like one moosepower, because they go to work, school, and the apple fritter cafe on moose(s) (... not sure about the plural on this one). I'm serious. Go to Canada, you'll find out. But I THINK the connection is (I'm really grasping here, folks) that the Ambassador feels that if Euorpeans don't like Americans very much, Canadians can feel themselves pulled in that direction too. But she also said that Canada shouldn't have to choose between the US and the EU. They can have their crepes and eat Big Macs, too. At least I think that's what she was saying.

Finally, I learned that the entire world thinks that the US has become a complete theocracy and is ruled by a bunch of religious whackos. The Canadian ambassador feels that religious mania has fundamentally altered the United States, as well. It's interesting to hear the religious folks' side of the story, but I might write about that in a more serious blog later on. Am I the only one who doesn't see the smoking gun connection, here? I mean, Kerry lost the presidency by less than 2 percentage points. The demos are the first to criticize Bush for assuming that this victory margin gives him a mandate, yet in the same breath they ponderously whine "how did we get beaten so soundly?" Where do they turn for The Answer (and I'm not talking Allen Iverson here, folks, though even HE would be more reliable)? an election exit poll suggesting that a plurality of voters felt that moral values were a key issue. You know all democrats seriously trust exit polls, anyway. I'm not even gonna go there. So suddenly the United States is in the grip of conservative religious fanatics. Forgive me if I'm not buying it. It seems to me that politics in the US are a lot more complicated than the Europeans, democrats, or (gasp!) Canadians want to admit. I think they're just calling names because the

a) Europeans are upset about Iraq

b) Democrats are upset about losing the election

c) Canadians feel like they're Europeans

I'm not saying that these aren't good reasons, but let's cut the ad homonym attacks, and I'm right with them on a lot of issues. Come on guys, you don't win any friends by calling names. I THINK that's my real point. Don't tell the Americans they're a bunch of right-wing fanatics. Even if they are, they don't think they are. But I'm pretty sure they're not, just like I'm moderately certain Canadians don't ride moose everywhere they go, and that Europeans aren't half so ammoral as Americans make them out to be. I hope no one is.

And there I go, talking about serious things when I was so convinced I wouldn't for at least one blog. In closing, I should make it clear (for those of you who don't already know) that I am not a Republican OR Democrat, I'm most certainly not a European (though I certainly enjoy hanging out with 'em) or by extension a Canadian. What am I? I'm an American who gets confused by all the wind people blow at each other. And by the way, I sure called the presidential election... check it out.


Anonymous said...

ad homonym? I thought that was another way of saying what you already said!
The plural of moose is mice. Didn't you learn that in second grade? We did in the Great Satan (confused by your analogy).

Jeremy Little said...

Ad hominem? My latin spelling could use some work. I understand that it means fallacy by irrelevantly insulting someone. It's a ploy that I think people use pervasively without realizing it... Upon further investigation of the website of a later post, I realized that ad hominem has a slightly different application (ex: Don't take him seriously because he dresses in a table cloth). On the other hand, when people call republicans "religious whackos" it's merely the "being a jerk" fallacy. I certainly learned that in 2nd grade, and I'm still trying to get over it. Apparently others are too.

The Great Satan analogy: Ironic that no one likes the US... either Europeans or repressionist Islamic regimes. They might sequester themselves in a corner of the UN General Assembly hall and say mean things about the US in the dark.

Anonymous said...

I remember that article you wrote --there's a lot of good lines in there. You are a prophet!