Friday, November 11, 2005

Thoughts

What do I think of the US of A? I'm actually divided.

My earliest memory of the USA being mentioned, was in connection with WWII. The Americans were heroes, along with the Englishmen. And of course, Germans were the scum of the earth, the bad guys, the... Well, you get the picture. For a kid, being part German, this was difficult to understand. I liked the Americans, they saved the world, but at the same time I was ashamed of my own heritage.

The music my mother used to listen to was Elvis, The Glenn Miller Band, Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, The Beatles, Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys, Gerry and the Pacemakers and other american/english artists. We had, and still have, the same taste in music. Once again, the US, and Britain, were on the positive side. Weren't there any German or Swedish artists? Of course, but most of them sang in English. If they didn't, it wasn't rock'n'roll.

I discovered that Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck were not German cartoons but from "America". (At that time I lived in Germany.) Wasn't there anything that the Americans couldn't come up with? Cartoons, Coca-Cola, big cars, satellites... (The Russians were first on that last one but I didn't know that.)

And what was up with this US of A? Was it America or not? And this north and south, what was up with that? Was Brazil a part of America or not? And how the hell was it connected to South Carolina and slavery?

Eventually I got it straightened out. There was South America and there was North America. USA was part of North America and South Carolina was a part of the USA. South Carolina was in southern USA and had nothing to do with Brazil being in South America. I must have been about seven when I figured that one out with the help of a lot of Western novels. In the Wild West, everybody was a hero. Well not everybody, since there were bankrobbers and gunslingers, but it was a bit confusing that bankrobbers (Jesse James) could also be heroes.

On the whole, USA and it's habitants were my heroes and I couldn't wait to grow up so I could move there.

It was also around the age of seven that I started watching the news on my Grandmothers 21-inch black&white television set. I quickly learned that everything was not well in the USA. I especially remember a documentary on the Civil Rights Movement and a film clip from "Bloody Sunday". This was the first time I understood that people weren't treated equal just because they lived in the same country.

And of course there was Vietnam. On Swedish televison a picture was shown where a guy shot another guy in the head. I still remember it very vividly and I think that is was that picture that pushed me towards pacifism later in life. Still, it wasn't an American that did the shooting so even if my beliefs that the Americans would save the world once again had become somewhat diminished, I still believed in the good guys.

A few years later this was shown. I had grown older and somewhat wiser. I actually started to dislike Americans as a people. From thinking that war was somewhat cool, I started to understand that it wasn't all about heroism and larger than life soldiers. Kids my own age could die or become orphaned.

Then I heard about the massacre in My Lai (We call it Song My for some reason) and I became heartbroken. The country that was the home of Batman, Superman and all the other super heroes fell from it's pedistal with a noticable "KA-WHOMP".

During my early teens the Watergate scandal emerged and once again my picture of USA shifted to the worse. The only country that could rival my contempt for the US was the Soviet Union. From being the home of the brave the US, in my very unexperienced eyes, was just a big country filled with murderers, liars, racists and nuclear arms. The more I learned about the US, and about it's involvement in other countries internal affairs: Bolivia, Chile, Angola, the more horrified I got. Was this really the home of all my childhood heroes?

Then I just forgot about the whole issue. I didn't care anymore. The US was far away and I had hormones rushing through my whole body. Who could care about politics when there where women around? I couldn't, I was pre-occupied with things that most teens cherish.

Eventually I got my driver's license and I grew an interest in cars. Not just any cars, oh no. Cadillacs, Chevrolets, Fords and Chryslers. American cars. Cars with rumbling V8's. Cars so big that my mother's Beetle could fit in the luggage compartment. Preferably cars from the late 50's up until (imho) the baddest motherfucking car ever built: the 1969 Ford Mustang Boss.

There were some nice cars built in the early 70's: Hemi Cuda's, Charger 440's, but the Mustang Boss got the power AND the looks of a badass machine. I still want one of those. (See that PayPal button?)

I figured that a country that could build those lovely machines couldn't be all that bad.


And suddenly I was an adult and I discovered that everything wasn't as black and white as I once thought. My interest in history grew, as did my political awareness and my social conscience. I realized that Sweden was among the best countries in the world to live in. Our social welfare system was in most cases outstanding, compared even to other western countries.

I also realized that politicians in many cases just let their ego's rule, instead of common sense. People who had done so many good things became corrupted by their power. We've seen flagrant examples through the last thirty years where the people wanted one thing and those in power carried out their own agenda.

The war in Iraq made this very clear. In Spain, 85 per cent of the people said no. Spain sent troops anyway. The percentage in Britain was about the same. They also sent troops. Swedish politicians? They didn't know which leg to stand on. It wasn't until Germany, France and Turkey refused to support the war that the Swedish government actually opened their mouths. Not that they said anything with substance though...

Anyway, I now have a sort of love-hate relationship to the US. There are those in power and those who are not. Through the internet I've come to appreciate almost every single American I've met. The vast majority of them are very intelligent people, loving, caring, funny... They want the same things as everybody else, raise their kids, education, equality, justice, food, drink and a roof over their heads.

I just can't dislike a whole people, now can I?

6 comments:

Me said...

So funny to stumble upon your blog on the day you write about the good old U.S. of A for I am an American(half) girl!! Hmmm... are there coincidences in this life? I really like your post. I lived in Ohio until i was 20. Inside myself dances the strong and free spirit of an American but other heritages dance along as well. I have the same thoughts and opinions about the States as you do! You are very insightful. Thanks for not hating us!

PissedOffPencil said...

Well, I can't bloody well hate a pretty woman? Who also has kids and a european heritage? :)

(Technically most Americans have that, but what the hell... ) *smile*

Francesca said...

Like most countries, America has a checkered past. The infulence of America is vast and it's government can choose to use its power positively or negatively, both within in its own borders and with other countries.

Oftentimes, our dislike for a country's politics or its government can get confused with its people or it's culture. One would think that they are one and the same since it's the people who put the goverment officials in power, but in practice things get a bit muddied along the way, I think.

Then there is culture. Every culture has it's good and bad as well. Things to be proud of and things to hang heads in shame for. Without a doubt, America has its share of both and I agree with much of what you have already highlighted.

My own view when it comes to America is that it is a wonderful country, but it's government and "some" of it's people are at times embarrassingly arrogant and ignorant at the same time. There is much I would like to see in America shared with the world (notice I said "shared" and not "imposed"). However, there must be a shift in attitude whereas there is a greater appreciation, UNDERSTANDING and RESPECT for those cultures which are different.

I am also not keen on the current leadership in America. I find the approach and attitude not only with foreign policy, but also domestic policy, to be disturbing, to say the least.

I would like to see the American people educate themselves better about the world, in general...and I would like for them to choose leaders who are dedicated to peace and harmony, rather than blatant disrespect and self interest.

Just my two cents...

Me said...

Dear Pissy Pencil (hehe), i just saw on your profile that you like Marilyn Manson. Well, seriously, i want to highschool with him. Class of '87, Canton, Ohio. He signed my yearbook, gave me his phone number, asked me out! Funny, heh?

Piggy and Tazzy said...

Fantastic post! And I also agree with everything that Francesca said.

I dislike most politicians, but especially American politicians. Their arrogance knows no limits, it seems.

As Francesca says, unfortunately some of the 'people' can be just as arrogant. A great pity.

Like yourself, I've made some wonderful American friends through the world of blogging. There are some truly wonderful, caring and supportive people out there.

You're also spot on when you say that most of the UK was against the Iraw 'war'. Personally, I am really disgusted that the British government took part.

Something I will never forgive them for.

PissedOffPencil said...

Francesca: That must have been the best comment I've ever got!

Evangelia: Cool!

Piggy or Tazzy: Thank you!
I think the whole world changed a lot when Mrs. Thatcher came to power. She even inspired some Swedish left-wing politicians!

One positive thing I can say about her though, is that she really seemed to be shaken by Lockerbie. She really showed emotions, not like the absent expression that Mr. GW Bush showed when Katrina hit.