The Friends of California Libre...

10 February 2003

The Great Game

Greetings, friends,
We are rapidly approaching a defining moment...not just for us, but the whole world.

NATO is straining at the seams, and but for our financial strength and overwhelming military power, how many countries on Earth still have any respect for our democracy? Israel, England...? We're provoking a war in the Middle East, rightly or wrongly, we've challenged some of our oldest allies (including the country without which the United States would not exist, France), and we've created friction with our immediate neighbors (Canada: threats against legalizing medical uses of marijuana; Mexico: ignoring a decision of the World Court staying the execution of Mexican citizens by the "Republic" of Texas). The Russians and the Chinese are only too glad to take advantage of this weakness and oppose us. There is an unspoken current rippling around the globe...fear of the United States.

Why not be afraid? "The game is over", Saddam's playing the "same old game", and yesterday I heard a soldier say he was sorry to leave his family but "it's time to play". These people make mass murder and death seem like a joke.

Watching PBS makes you naive...we accidentally caught some of "Nightline" a few days ago, with Ted Koppel mapping out "The Coming War". It was the sickest shit I've seen in ages. We might as well have already gone over, blown the country to bits, marched in and planted the flag on the ruins of Ur. It really is a game to some.

I know every person receiving these e-mails and know that all of you are capable of taking some kind of stand, even if it just means talking with others, at work or at home, trying to increase the volume of the voices protesting this insanity. Some of you will come out to demonstrations (i.e. this Saturday), and a few of us might conjure up the demons of our youth and try something stronger...but for most of you, I hope you will at least speak up. We have served as a role model for the world for so is embarrassing to travel abroad and listen to our fellows humans think that we've gone mad. First we had John Le Carre browbeating us, then Woody Harrelson, and now...Nelson Mandela! Oh God, say it isn't truly embarrassing to be pissing EVERYONE off. This is a man that I personally stepped up for, putting myself right up there with the Man (and having fun, admittedly) at Berkeley to free him...this hurts, friends. - Mandela: U.S. wants holocaust - Jan. 30, 2003

General Powell would be glad to rebut Mandela's opinion...but he's not going to do it in front of this painting (thanks, Miles):
Yeah, they strategically repositioned some flags to cover the copy of Picasso's mural in the UN Security Council...didn't think the General's war talk could be convincing in front of screaming women and dead children.

Some of you in Los Angeles will remember Michael Ventura's column in the old L.A. Weekly. He's still at he compares our times to the late 1930s in Berlin as described by William Shirer...nasty (thanks, Mark).

Here's what a genius our Secretary of "Defense" is; he's not satisfied with insulting the French and the Germans. He compared Germany to...Cuba. Brilliant.

Oh, and guess what: Iraq doesn't get to keep any chemical weapons, but we're still free to use them (in violation of...surprise!...another treaty we signed before we "won" the Cold War.) (thanks again, Mark)

Okay, let's take a break from this immutable darkness for a little idiocy. People are going mad all over the world!
In British Columbia,
College Cafeteria Features Lard Eagle

In Italy,
Smoking Weed on School Trip Not a Crime
Foreign Fast-Food Gives Italian Diet Heartburn

In Brazil,
Mayor Safe After Brothel Drinking Spree

In Wales,
Men Who Don't Shave Have Less Sex, More Strokes

In Japan,
Tokyo Professor Working on Invisibility

In Turkey,
Istanbul Launches 'Escaped Bull' Hotline

But there's no asshole bigger than an American one,
PETA Decries Poor Housing for Pardoned Turkeys
Student Sues to Change A to A-Plus

Take a break and enjoy a little game (better if you have broadband)(Thanks, Miles),

For those of you interested in theatre, here's a "worldwide theatrical event" of readings of the Lysistrata on 3 March. This is a play by Aristophanes; after years of war (eventually 30 years) between Athens and Sparta, the women of the warring states agree to abstain from sex until the men declare an armistice. I have a lovely copy of this play illustrated by Mr. Picasso (of Guernica fame above) and will participate...though sadly I think the war may well be underway by 3 March. The amazing thing about the Lysistrata is that it was actually produced during the war between Athens and may be one of the first great acts of anti-war protest (thanks again, Mark.)

Here's a great article about relations between the United States and friends across the "pond" will especially enjoy this one. I'll just add this...until I first went to Europe, I thought this way as well.
Europe? Frankly, America doesn't give a damn...The 'cowboys' in the White House were raised in an anti-European culture
Todd Gitlin
Sunday 02 February 2003
The Observer
Across the vast and tangled expanse of the United States of America, these days it isn't hard to spot disdain and contempt for that reputedly miasmic entity known in Washington as "Europe". Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld brought these sentiments to a boil recently when he dismissed the anti-war climate of "Old Europe", meaning the French and German governments. "Old" in his lexicon means loser: not virile, not vigorous, incapable of defending itself against marauders. Old Europe is a museum of that wretched and bloody "history" which Francis Fukuyama famously declared to have "ended".

Rumsfeld's disdain is as old as America, an extension of Europe, which in a certain sense founded itself as the anti-Europe - democratic and neither royal nor aristocratic, vigorous and not effete, pragmatic and not committed to hidebound tradition. In one long strand of American opinion, Europe meant culture, while America meant either nature or God or a combination. But still, America needed Europe - its ideas, its investment, its markets, its unwanted "huddled masses yearning to breathe free", at times its cachet.

Beneath the disdain sparkled the green-eyed monster. The cultural side of anti-Europeanism has a long, thick history. Throughout the 20th century, American culture defined itself as the fundamental against the complex, the bold against the hesitant, the redskin against the paleface. Against the opera, there was Buffalo Bill's Wild West show. Against symphonies, there was jazz. Against Proust, Joyce, and American wannabes like Henry James, there was Hemingway, with his Old Testament cadences. (Never mind that he was an expat too.) The European movie talked, the American movie moved. Arnold Schwarzenegger could become an American icon, not despite his limited facility with the American language, but because of it. "I saw a Rohmer movie once," says a character in Arthur Penn's Night Moves (1975). "It was like watching paint dry." And this from one of Hollywood's most sophisticated directors.

Still, today's anti-European cliches coexist with the Americanisation of sorbet, Heineken, merlot and, for that matter, "The Weakest Link" and "Survivor". As American television reduces its high-culture imports, public radio and television stations play the BBC news. For America's university students, study abroad (largely in Europe) has never been more popular - at least as of September 10 2001.

So what exactly is this American anti-Europeanism of which so much is heard these days? It is the corollary to a distinct political style - which happens to be the style that rules from Washington. The anti-Europeanism in circulation now is an accompaniment to the messianism of the administration in power. It is heavily regional - a product of the Sunbelt, which consists of the old Confederacy plus the mountain states and the prairie, counting roughly half the national populace. Texas is its heartland. Oil is its definitive industry. The heartland of anti-Europe was Reagan's America and now, minus California, it is George W Bush's. This Sunbelt imagines itself ruggedly self-sufficient. It likes to think of itself as six-shooter country. Diplomacy means follow the leader. Watching UN-mandated inspections is, well, like watching paint dry.

All the American elites agree that what changed politically in the 20th century was that Europe needed America. The interrupted Thirty-one Year War of 1914-45 shattered European claims to an exalted place at the heights of western civilisation. In the eyes of America's Atlanticists, Yankee indispensability in the second world war extended into the cold war. The proof of America's leadership of the "free world" would lie in its ability to bring Europe along. For men like Dean Acheson, Clark Clifford, McGeorge Bundy and the recently deceased C Douglas Dillon - the "wise men" of the Truman, Kennedy and Johnson administrations - esteem was not a zero-sum game. If Europe had proved not only decadent but dependent, a rejuvenated America had as one of its central missions the revival of Europe. The problem was to make sure that Europe was up to its new role as willing but subordinate partner.

When Bush's America disdains Europe, it also sneers at the American north-east. To them, "Washington, DC" is an insult, and "New York City" is where Europe begins. This counter-elite rules today as fervently and exclusively as in Reagan's 80s - more so, since they control all the branches of government. Rumsfeld is from Illinois, but his plain-spoken disdain speaks for the whole cowboy elite. And not only for them, but also for their constituents. During the 2000 campaign, Bush's America - 544,000 votes smaller than Al Gore's America - was not uncomfortable with the prospect of a president whose curiosity about the world was nil, who had barely been out of the US and didn't seem to mind. Indeed, Bush's lack of acquaintance with Europe or anywhere else was, for some, a recommendation. Because all they wanted from the rest of the world was oil and cheap labour, they didn't mind Bush saying during one campaign debate: "We must be proud and confident of our values, but humble in how we treat nations that are figuring out how to chart their own course."

In their hearts, if they thought about Europe at all, they doubted that Bush was the humble sort. September 11 reignited their paranoia - and bluster. The al-Qaida massacres, and the Democrats' inability or unwillingness to fight Bush, gave a minority president the gift of a Republican Congress. In part because the Senate is disproportionately skewed to rural, his party now rules all branches of government. But given the opposition's weakness, it is all the more striking that American public opinion fails - or refuses - to be enamoured of cowboy unilateralism. After months of war talk, Bush's bravado has not swept the country beyond his immediate base. Contempt for Europe - or any other continent - is simply not popular. Neither is contempt for the United Nations. For months now, public opinion polls have registered the conviction that war in Iraq must have Security Council sanction. Even in the Republican heartland, Bush's constituents are not saddling up. Even after his messianic State of the Union address, Americans at large are unconvinced of the need to rush to war. There's no evidence either that Americans overall enjoy riling Europe, Old or New. Just as John le Carre was wrong to declare recently that "88% of Americans want the war", there is little reason to fear that most of America sneers at the Kyoto protocol; or at the International Criminal Court; or at most of Europe's commitments - or, indeed, at Europe.

Finally, my boss (Thanks, Helene) sent me these excerpts from David M. Bader's "Zen Judaism: For You, a Little Enlightenment."
> Be here now.
> Be someplace else later.
> Is that so complicated?
> Accept misfortune as a blessing.
> Do not wish for perfect health or a life without problems.
> What would you talk about?
> Let go of pride, ego, and opinions.
> Admit your errors and forgive those of others.
> Relinquishment will lead to calm and healing in your relationships.
> If that doesn't work, try small-claims court.
> There is no escaping karma.
> In a previous life, you never called, you never wrote, you never visited.
> And whose fault was that?
> The Torah says, "Love thy neighbor as thy self."
> The Buddha says there is no "self."
> So maybe you are off the hook.
> If there is no self, whose arthritis is this?
> Wherever you go, there you are.
> Your luggage is another story.
> Do not let children play contact sports like football.
> These only lead to injuries and instill a violent, warlike nature.
> Encourage your child to play peaceful games, like "sports doctor."
> Though only your skin, sinews, and bones remain, though your blood and flesh dry up and wither away,
> yet shall you meditate and not stir until you have attained full Enlightenment.
>But first, a little nosh.
>The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single Oy.

And if you made it this far, you deserve a picture (Thanks, Joe).

P.S. Happy birthday, sister, Geri and Ronna,

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