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May 11th, 2007


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08:40 pm - Update from Williamsburg + general musings on the US
Because it's my dad's 75th B-day, as well as the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown (the first successful British settlement in the US), and because keeping on good with my (ugh) parents is of significant financial use, I'm now in Colonial Williamsburg with them. Thankfully, the visit consists of 3 days in Williamsburg, with a day in DC on either side, so it's blessedly short. Predictions were that both Jamestown and Williamsburg would be over-run with visitors this weakened, but Williamsburg is largely deserted (the emptiest I've ever seen it, which makes it sort of odd. I am annoyed that there is no internet access where we are staying (one of the restored colonial houses), but the nearby fancy hotel has free Wi-fi, and hence I am now on-line.

My reactions to Jamestown are odd and complex - the Governor of VA gave a speech and he seems to be a pleasantly liberal Democrat who gave a well-done speech of the sort no Republican would ever give (talking about the history of both religious freedom (including several explicit mentions of the freedom not to worship anyone or anything) and about the growth of racial, ethnic, gender, and etc equality in the last century. Definitely good things to hear from a politician, especially after some of the national political rhetoric that occasionally goes around. Also, the archeology is quite fascinating, and new discoveries are being made regularly.

However, considering the early history of this nation only makes me more certain that I have at best an only slightly disgusted dislike of the US. Now that things seem to be improving in the US, and seem likely to do so even more in 2008, all talk of moving elsewhere has been abandoned, since teaotter has no interest in leaving unless things become truly dire. However, as I occasionally read news like this from the EU, or consider the vast commitment Germany is making to renewable energy, or the fact that increasing amounts of stem cell research are being done outside the US, and of course the increasingly catastrophic US trade deficit, I increasingly feel like a resident of a third world nation - backwards, repressive, ruled by a dangerous thug, and generally inferior to actual first world nations. It very much feels like any supposed greatness the US once had is in the past, and all we have now is a vast military and a dubious economy. In any case, I'll be back in Portland on Monday, and back on-line more regularly Sunday night.
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative

(27 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


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From:keyake
Date:May 12th, 2007 04:18 am (UTC)
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If you have time, the yorktown battlefields are a pretty interesting walk. I live a fair 15 minute drive from Williamsburg, so I know it well. I like our new Governor - I am rather glad he won.
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From:antayla
Date:May 12th, 2007 04:22 am (UTC)
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I LOVVVVVE (er hate?) that demented new icon of yours.

No, you should stay in Portland. *Especially* if things become dire :P.
After all, I ain't leaving. I swore to make Portland my home, and I won't leave it for negative reasons of political manufacture. I flat out refuse to leave over fear. That would let the terrorists win >:P.

The ideas of democracy, no taxation without representation and freedoms of speech, religion, person et al. were fantastic innovations for their time. It is tragic they happened on a backdrop of hypocrisy and frontier butchery. Getting the idea across that these rights belong to more than just people of European decent, property owners and/or men has taken practically the entirety of the U.S.'s history.
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From:jonathansfox
Date:May 12th, 2007 06:06 am (UTC)
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But we've come a long way, and most of the egregious offenses have been resolved. Even issues like gay marriage are less black and white than the original problems we've managed to overcome. We're still working on a lot of things, and we probably always will be, for generations of human societies. Just when we think we've figured out the solutions to all our problems, we'll look at a younger generation and see all the new problems they're complaining about. But it'll be alright, because we'll always be maturing and growing as societies of good people, debating our values, sifting through ideas, and selecting the ones that we want to keep. In the long run, despite bumps, pitfalls, and even huge and ongoing stagnations at times, still we see that time and time again, the good seems to always win out in the long run. I somehow believe that it always will.
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From:jonathansfox
Date:May 12th, 2007 06:19 am (UTC)
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I guess another point is to say that for all that it's take a huge amount of American History to learn some of the basic morals we value today, someday they will only look back and say that it took the US "the first 150 years" to learn those things. But then, by that time, they'll have figured out how to provide cheap healthcare to everyone without the lines and compromise in service that we expect from national systems today, and they'll have it so that nobody is ever in poverty or struggling to support their children, and kids will think it strange that people ever had to pay for higher education. It won't just be our economic values that change... but our entire economy will grow and advance and move forward, with new technologies making our current debates obsolete. They'll look back on our wild, barbaric times, and our terrorists and insurgencies and wars, and they'll think of us as people living the middle ages. I believe this. :)
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From:heron61
Date:May 13th, 2007 03:03 am (UTC)
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I flat out refuse to leave over fear.

I utterly disagree. My comfort and safety and the comfort and safety of my loved ones matters vastly more to me than abstracts like any loyalties to nations or other locations I might (but generally do not) feel. If the US starts heading towards right-wing dominionist domination again, I will (as I did before) strongly consider leaving and do my best to convince teaotter to leave (amberite is thankfully no more eager to stay in such circumstances than I am). I'm no longer considering leaving solely because it very much looks like things are improving (plutocracy is bad, but it's very much of an improvement over plutocracy + theocracy) and because leaving the US is difficult.
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From:jonathansfox
Date:May 12th, 2007 06:01 am (UTC)
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My sociology teacher has a PhD in Ethnic Studies, and a concentration in African-American Studies. She immigrated from France to the United States in order to get her education, and she's stayed and considers herself to be an American. Her field of study considers one of the areas of greatest tension in America, and she teaches future generations about different racial and ethnic groups, about stereotypes, hatred, and the darker history of America. But she doesn't do it because she hates America -- she loves America, for the same thing which initially drew her to it.

As she grew up in her home town in France, America was portrayed as that land of opportunity, of economic freedom, the place where you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps, and if you worked hard and did something important, your efforts would be rewarded. She wasn't worried about ensuring that the security of the welfare state was preserved, or anything like that -- she was an achiever, a hard worker, someone who could perform in society and play her role and contribute heavily, and she wanted to be recognized. In America, she found that her initial perceptions were true, but she also learned about social stresses and strife.

It wasn't that hatred or stereotypes were some kind of uniquely American thing, or that she was treated poorly because she was French -- that never happened, and her real awakening was discovering the prejudices she brought with her. In France, her family had told her, quite seriously, about being careful of the Jews, how greedy they were, don't shop at their stores. And this was accepted. She never was told that there was something wrong with that, she thought that was just how it was. Nobody in France explained that this was a hateful stereotype. It wasn't until she came to America, and discovered, partially through the school year, to her mixed shock, that her roommate and good friend was Jewish, that she was forced to reflect on that attitude she'd be taught.

Now she has put much of her effort into teaching young Americans about the diversity of their society -- to appreciate American literature, not just Huckleberry Fin, but literature drawn from the full depth of American society -- Invisible Man, Donald Duk, Eat A Bowl of Tea -- and to ensure that younger generations don't forget the mistakes and hatreds of their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, so that they can go on and build a more peaceful and tolerant future.

To her, current politics is exciting. It's not Iraq -- who is excited about that anymore? America has turned on the war en masse, and the reign of neoconservatism has been short and highly undignified, with their President elected just in time to allow complete the public revulsion at their policies. No, it's the democratic primaries. Barack Obama versus Hillary Clinton? As a democrat herself, sensitive to social issues, and excited at this race, she sees history in the making.

And I look back to her home country of France, these days, as news comes back from the elections. The Socialists will remain out of power even longer, as a man who looks up to the United States as an economic and philosophical model comes to power promising that France will always be there for the superpower when it needs her. But! he warns, they can still disagree strongly, as a caring friend and ally, about America's warmongering, and about America's resistance to action on global warming. Promising longer work weeks, less job security, and closer friendship with the United States, he identifies all the weaknesses he sees in his country, and leads it towards the strengths he envisions it happening.
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From:jonathansfox
Date:May 12th, 2007 06:01 am (UTC)
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As Democracy continues its course in France, responding to the internal social stresses and the deep and long term employment issues, so it carries on in the UK, where the Conservatives are surging as Labour sinks. Tony Blair, with his front line support for the Iraq War, is denigrated even in the United States as a pet of the extremely unpopular George Bush. In both France and the UK, former global colonial superpowers whose empires collapsed in time, immigration and race relations are major issues. The UK even faces multiple nationalist minority parties seeking to break off from the union.

Elsewhere, in Germany, the right-conservative coalition composed of the Christian Democratic Union and the Christian Social Union of Bavaria, has elected the country's first woman Chancellor. Emphasizing faith, German nationalism, and libertarian economics, they seek to resurrect Germany's struggling labor economy through careful destruction of certain aspects of the country's heavy labor regulations, and protect the environment and Christian ideals.

Why do I say this? Because you are simply cynical. And you would probably be cynical anywhere you went. Conservatives have taken power in Canada, France, and Germany. They probably will soon in the UK as well. All of these countries are trending to the right, as is the general first world trend these days. France and the United Kingdom also have very large current account deficits. Immigration issues are sweeping much of Europe. Many European countries have unemployment rates that would seem horrifying to one accustomed to American unemployment "crises". Canada over 6%. Germany over 7%. France over 8%. Everybody has their problems, and their victories. All in all, the entire first world, America included, is a symbol of human development and progress. They can debate issues like global warming and gay rights, but look at the trends over the past years. Just look at the way things are going. Things will turn out alright.

Militarily? The UK is little better than the US right now. France and Germany have it right. But America is the angry child of imperialist oppression. She hates imperialism. She doesn't want to be evil, and she hates it when that's how she looks in the mirror. Just look at the state of domestic politics, and the awkwardness of it. Things will turn out alright.

And yes, in the spirit of Joe Conason's book, yes, It Can Happen Here. But it hasn't yet, and over the course of over two hundred years of American history, this country has only become far more free, not less. With some of the deepest ideological entrenchment against authoritarianism in the entire world, and a complex system of checks designed to weaken the power of the government, the United States is unlikely to become the dark evil at home. Abroad, it blindly thrusts its weight around, unchecked. But even the conservatives have been stunned by the realization of how stupid this policy is now shown to be. When Bush came to power, he advocated a lighter military, designed to fight a new kind of war, to dispose the dictator and leave, not to stay and occupy. Look now at how destroyed this policy is -- it feels like Vietnam all over again. Will we ever stop repeating our mistakes? Yet that's just it. America's heart isn't in this war. There are not enough soldiers to secure Iraq, yet no draft is instituted. America is learning, as it always has. We are always growing and learning. Our societies have come a long way, and are always maturing. In the long run, far more good is coming than evil. Really. Things will turn out alright.

You'll see.
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From:heron61
Date:May 13th, 2007 03:17 am (UTC)
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America was portrayed as that land of opportunity, of economic freedom, the place where you pulled yourself up by your bootstraps, and if you worked hard and did something important, your efforts would be rewarded.

As the first world nation with the highest percentage of its population living in poverty (as well as by far the highest percentage of its population in prison) and the greatest (by almost an order of magnitude) gap between rich and poor, I see the result of this being a land of "opportunity" to largely mean that the US is a place where people are "free" to fail economically, where they can be to be reduced to utter poverty by accidents, unexpected medical expenses, lay-off, or similar issues that have vastly less affect on residents of the EU or any other civilized nation.

For me the fact that people are allegedly more free to succeed economically here is of little consequence, and it in no way remotely offsets the fact that people have far less of a social safety net is for some reason they do not succeed. Greater wealth for some is balanced by far greater poverty for many more and I find the entire concept that this might be considered a positive thing to be utterly vile. OTOH, I'm a socialist.
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From:jonathansfox
Date:May 13th, 2007 06:09 am (UTC)
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This is why I feel you'd be frustrated even if you went to the EU; Socialism is in decline there as many countries with high unemployment rates move to the right. The UK, site of the gay rights news story, moved to the right economically under Margaret Thacher, and is currently trending to the right. Germany, which you praise for environmental steps, is presently led by a coalition of conservatives whose party doctrine is unite Catholics, Protestants, and other Christians to uphold "Christian values". Even in France the Socialists have been out of power for a long time, and lost by a significant margin in a huge turnout election to a pro-US conservative who looks to the United States as a model. None of these are extreme right wing groups; even in Germany the CDU has become the country's largest party by shifting more to the center than they were twenty years ago... but you still would not like them.

Even if the United States is the model of evil in your eyes, I don't think you'd be much happier elsewhere, because even as the US foreign policy and domestic social policies are under significant pressure to move to the left -- which I'm sure you consider small steps toward positive change, notwithstanding the current government's unpopular and highly controversial wartime pressures on liberties -- most of the first world is generally following economic policies that move to the right, which you would consider negative change.
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From:heron61
Date:May 13th, 2007 07:50 pm (UTC)
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It's declining less than you seem to think. Since Thatcher was defeated, Britain has been far more liberal than the US, and doesn't show any signs of this changing, and despite the current PM, Canada doesn't look much different either. The fact remains that in both nations, as in all of Scandanavia, and in Germany too for that matter. Work hours are shorter, healthcare is state funded and generally superior to that available in the US, poverty is far lower (especially in the EU, Canada is intermediate in poverty between the US and the EU). Regardless of what their governments are calling themselves, eurosocialism is thriving.

I've been hearing conservatives in the US talking about how the various eurosocialist nations were abandoning socialism for the past 25 years, and it hasn't happened yet and doesn't look likely to, no matter how much the continued existence of these policies might offend the sensibilities of US conservatives. I have no idea about France, and many of these nations have gotten more right-wing in their foreign policies, but (unlike the US) these nations all treat their citizens like people, not disposable commodities, and have been doing so for decades.
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From:jonathansfox
Date:May 13th, 2007 09:07 pm (UTC)
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While I'm liberal, that's measured by US standards. I'd be considered conservative if I were in the EU, just as I no doubt seem conservative to you, so I don't really think of it as a decline. I do agree with you that European style socialism is hardly on its death knell, however; I don't mean to imply that it's on the verge of collapse. Even the conservative parties in power are more like American democrats than Republicans. The UK is more liberal now; they even finally instituted a minimum wage. Certainly more than the United States. But Labour moved right to gain power; British Socialism, as it was, has never been revived, and now the Tories are in strong position again. I've discussed socialism enough with you to know that your attitudes are to the left of even the highly successful Scandinavian models.

The work week in the EU varies widely, and this is to the detriment of those countries which consider full time to be less than 40 hours. France and Germany, bastions of the 35 hour work week, are both suffering from long term high unemployment rates (which the shorter hours are supposed to be fixing, by increasing demand for extra workers), and are now moving toward increasing the work week to attract businesses. The Scandanavian governments have already found reducing labor protections to be highly effective at encouraging business.

Of course, until the United States can settle on a solution to its badly designed employer-based healthcare system, Americans will always be working long overtime hours, as employers will hate hiring new workers due to the problem of expensive benefits packages.

The grass is certainly greener on the other side of the Atlantic. And I'm not even suggesting that this is a misconception, as it is greener, at least by your standards. I'm not saying that there's no difference; I'm saying that the EU is still well to the right of your views, and its general trend is only to move further from there, not closer. Even if you fled from the United States, I don't think you'd be pleased with those governments either, for their economic and foreign policies only look good to you because you're comparing them with the United Staes. And while they are moving left on certain civil liberties (reactions to migration issues not included), the United States is moving to the left on those issues too. Support for same-sex marriage, for example, is broadly only about five points higher in the polls in the EU than the US, with variations by both country and State.
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From:lyssabard
Date:May 12th, 2007 10:04 am (UTC)
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You are nearby, right, if you need a rescue/want to meet up....

*HUG* Can't wait to see you!
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From:helen99
Date:May 12th, 2007 01:03 pm (UTC)
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> I increasingly feel like a resident of a third world nation - backwards, repressive,
> ruled by a dangerous thug, and generally inferior to actual first world nations. It
> very much feels like any supposed greatness the US once had is in the past, and all
> we have now is a vast military and a dubious economy.

There seem to be two USAs. One is as you describe, and the other is progressive. I turn on the radio and hear about the repressive USA, and it sometimes sounds like they're referring to another country that has nothing to do with where I live and who I am. Occasionally, it even seems that they're talking about another world and another race of beings altogether. I know that's not true, and it's probably a form of denial, which I'm trying to work through.
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From:heron61
Date:May 13th, 2007 03:06 am (UTC)
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You and I live in progressive pockets. However, most of the nation is a serious mess and laws passed on a state or federal level can affect our pockets of freedom. Thankfully, the likelihood of such laws being passed is considerably lower than it was a year ago.
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From:tlttlotd
Date:May 12th, 2007 08:16 pm (UTC)
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If you need to escape, ping Lyssa or I and we'll extract you.
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From:heron61
Date:May 13th, 2007 03:08 am (UTC)
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Thanks muchly for the offer my friend, but given timing, it looks unlikely, since returning from Williamsburg is followed no long after by leaving for Oregon. However, I am very much looking forward to seeing you both in just over 3 weeks!
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From:rhiannasilel
Date:May 13th, 2007 12:58 am (UTC)
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I find it really ironic that my surnames in Ireland actually run a multi-million dollar construction company. It kinda makes me wish that this side of the family hadn't left, especially considering the economic boom the Republic has undertaken since joining the EU. Granted, Ireland is behind in other respects, but citizenship in one EU country grants work ability in all EU countries so a move to the UK or another country would be quite easy. This is really tempting when supposed "serious" debates about intelligent design and prayer in schools are all over the media.
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From:onyxrising
Date:May 13th, 2007 02:11 am (UTC)
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You'll be back, and I haven't seen either of you in far too long. Wine+Brendan= good thing
Oh, and I've been working on my plum pudding recipe. If I've extra left over, I should perhaps enlist you as a taste tester.
And there's wild boar at the farmer's market again. They aren't wild for *legal* purposes, hence why they can be sold. Basically, the exotic game rancher there leased 300 acres of land for them, and then imported some Russian wild boars to run around and do their boar thing on said land. The thought of eating regular old pork now makes me a sad, sad kitten.
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From:heron61
Date:May 13th, 2007 03:10 am (UTC)
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Is the plum pudding dairy free? If so, I'd love to have some. IIRC, you are coming over on Wednesday, right? If so, dinner will be Chinese chicken with fried taro root, so pick wine accordingly. I must definitely consider cooking with "wild" boar this summer, and you will definitely be invited.
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From:onyxrising
Date:May 13th, 2007 03:31 am (UTC)
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A dairy free edition can be made with but one substitution.
Of course I can come Wednesday, if that's when y'all want me. I'm not sure anything had been firmly cemented with the others, but I *think* something was pending. When you say Chinese chicken, what kind of spices/sauce are you using?
And the wild boar comes, thus far, in ribs or sausage. There are options. The vendor also has yak, elk, etc.
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From:heron61
Date:May 13th, 2007 03:42 am (UTC)
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I thought Becca had said Wednesday, although frankly Thursday would be better in that it would give me more time to recover.

The chicken with taro root is a remarkably simple dish, the spices, such as they are, are ginger, scallion, soy sauce, shao xing cooking wine, and scallions.

I'm not much on ribs (tasty, but more effort to eat than I'm using interested in, but they might well be worth the effort if the meat is really good), but I love good sausage and have many uses for it. Now I'm definitely going to get some.
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From:onyxrising
Date:May 13th, 2007 03:45 am (UTC)
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Just lemme know whether you guys settle on Wednesday or Thursday.
Okay. White wine it is, then. We can do that.
And $6.50/lb isn't a bad price for wild boar meat.
I do have to wonder how he gets them to the slaughterhouse, though. Russian wild boars can't be an easy animal to pen up. Perhaps they resort to trapping?
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From:heron61
Date:May 13th, 2007 04:38 am (UTC)
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$6.50/lb for sausage, dear gods, that's less than Wild Oats far less interesting (if still quite good) sausage. I'm definitely picking some up. Or, if you are going there tomorrow, pick up a pound and I'll pay you back when you come over.

I'll have Becca call you about coming over.
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From:onyxrising
Date:May 13th, 2007 04:53 am (UTC)
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Market was today, not tommorrow.
There's another one Wednesday, though, and the boar guy will be there- care to join me?
And why aren't you going to the farmer's market already, if Wild Oats charges that much? There's a guy that does free range (and I believe Organic, but I'm not 100% sure) sausage for for even cheaper- $6/lb, or 2 lbs for $10. It's also probably the best pork sausage I've ever had. Oh, and he does bacon, too, for the same prices. We bought a couple pounds of bacon and a couple of sausage from him today, too, in addition to the boar sausage. Today he also had regular old cuts of pork available.
You know you want to come with me Wednesday? The wild boar guy will be there, although I'm not sure the pork sausage guy will be. Either way, there's plenty of good stuff.
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From:heron61
Date:May 14th, 2007 06:26 am (UTC)
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You know you want to come with me Wednesday?

I think I'll pass this week, I'm flying on Monday, likely going to the airport with Becca's mom on the bus (to help her navigate the Portland bus system) and will likely be little interested in excursions on Wednesday.

Also, I have two choices for possible food. I just picked up some excellent shredded Virginia country ham. Virginia ham is both different than and vastly superior (for me at least) to all other ham. So, would you rather have Chinese chicken & taro root or a Spanish omelette (aka a frittata) with yukon gold potatoes, shredded country ham, + fresh thyme and rosemary and a hint of both garlic and shallots? I'm leaning more towards the second if you are interested. I'm guessing that this would change your choice of wine somewhat, since a red sounds best with that one.
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From:onyxrising
Date:May 15th, 2007 01:27 am (UTC)
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Spanish Omelette it is.
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From:onyxrising
Date:May 15th, 2007 02:05 am (UTC)
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Oh, and I must beg you for your foccaccia recipe again. I've lost it, and Silver is desirous of it.

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