Egged on by Yankee Doodle, I’m taking on the burdensome role of Candid Friend, and putting together some personal reflections on the vexed question of European-American relations. Here is my first spasm.
On my short holiday trips to the Continent [THE Continent being Europe – not
This summer in
The problem is, you see, that to many Europeans, including some of us who have been lifelong admirers and friends of America and Americans, our respective perceptions are now so far apart that most Americans seem to us to be living not merely on another continent, but on another planet.
I began blogging in the summer of 2007 after a long spell in hospital, because I felt so bothered about the direction the world was – and still is- heading. With vivid recollections of my 1930s childhood and WW2 teenage years, I find this first decade of the 21st century even more dark and menacing than the run up to that war. Because in those days, we knew who our prospective enemies were, and where they were, and we knew who our friends were. But now, it’s difficult to be sure about any of those categories. In particular, those whom we assumed to be the ‘good guys’, and who had merited, and received, near-universal global sympathy following the dastardly atrocity of 9/11, have since been following courses which make those of us dedicated to democracy and human rights deeply uneasy and ashamed.
In saying this, I realise that one cannot generalise about a nation of over 300 million people; and that Americans themselves are very divided over these issues. Nevertheless, for practical purposes it is the policies and actions of the incumbent Administration that counts; and this is not merely a domestic matter for Americans, since the actions of a global superpower which aspires to be world policeman affect everyone else in the world.
And this is where my self-imposed task becomes difficult – indeed, delicate. Because I sincerely want to promote dialogue, not a slanging-match, and in the present disgruntled mood on both sides of the
I began my blogging by spending much time reading and posting on the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ site. I have been a lifelong devotee of the Guardian, but this experience has made me less so, because the site did not live up to its name; posts were censored, and sometimes even deleted, apparently for ‘politically correct’ reasons, regardless of the site’s proud title. So – believing that all opinions, however extreme or obnoxious, are healthier heard than suppressed – I voluntarily withdrew and started writing my own blogs and visiting those of others, which is how I serendipitously found Yankee Doodle.
There were, however, some fascinating and informative discussions on CiF. But there were also far too many angry blasts of hot air, billowing noisily past their targets. Three major recurring themes were the
All this struck me as rather a waste of time. I saw no point in returning the puerile insults, though many of course did, and pondered how to persuade these angry and obviously rattled Americans to take a more reflective, introspective look at themselves.
I still haven’t really worked out how to do this – hence the rather rambling nature of this post. However, for a start, let me say that I do not consider it as ‘anti-American’, or a betrayal of ‘our’ values, to reject the nonsensical concept of a blunderbuss “War on Terror” as distinct from a fine-tuned police operation against terrorists; to feel aghast and ashamed at the immoral and illegal practices of torture and ‘rendition’; or to be dismayed by the wanton destruction of traditional civil liberties in both the US and the UK in recent years. While I accept that national interests must be dictated by realpolitik. I do not agree that the end justifies the means, and consider that to the extent that we in the West have lost our moral compass and stooped to these measures, bin Laden has scored and we are the losers. It is the uneasy consciousness of this unpalatable fact that has caused the European slump in pro-Americanism.