I just read a post by Philip Van Hoof discussing his decision to not travel to the US. Having read many of his other politically-oriented post, I’d say we have quite similar political views. I take issue however with this last post however; not because of the political views expressed but rather the action (or lack thereof) taken.
First a little background. I left the US in 1999 largely due to my discontent with the American system. Bill Clinton was President at the time. I lived in Berlin, Germany until very recently and also spent quite a bit off time in the Sweden. Ironically, I moved back to the US at a time when the worst President in history is in office. The system and the President have only gotten worse. So why am I back. Basically just to get my education.
Actually, what I wanted to mention was the experiences that my wife, Annika, had when she told friends she was applying for a greencard to the US. Most of her friends responded with open disapproval. They couldn’t realise why someone like Annika would want to go to a place so backwards and with such a militant regime in power. Most all of the people who responded like that had never been to the US. Those who had been to the US where much more understanding of her decision.
A nice parallel when I hear people take this line is to ask them if they’d go to Italy (this was when Belesconi was in power). Most would answer positively and many admit that they had just recently been there. When you ask these same people if they thought Belesconi was more or less as bad as Bush, they’d mostly agree. There seems to be a double standard. Also with this logic the UK should be a no-go zone as well.
Another thing is that the US has a very large progressive community. Bush does not have the support of the majority of Americans. Nor does he or his regime give even a small picture of the US. It’s the diversity in the US that I longed for when in Europe. I believe you are only doing yourself a disservice when you cut yourself off from a full understanding of the US. For all its fucked-upness, I most admit it’s a very stimulating place.
To close I’ll quote, as well as I can remember, what an Iraqi who had asylum in Sweden said to me when I apologized to him for my countries bombing of his country. He said to me, “You know, it’s not about what those in power do. It’s us the people like you and me talking now. You have nothing to apologize for.” I still felt like I needed to apologize but what he said is exactly right. We can’t let the politics, no matter how fucked up, or lines drawn in sand separate what should rightfully be united: People. Polorization plays right into the hand of the neo-cons.
That said, if you want to refuse to come into the because of the finger-printing eye-scanning mumbo jumbo, I’m all with you.