Europe: Enemy, Lover, Friend, Mother

I can’t stand this indecision
Married with a lack of vision
Everybody wants to rule the world
Say that you’ll never never never never need it
One headline why believe it?
Everybody wants to rule the world

— “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” Tears For Fears

“During the campaign it was absolutely something we heard regularly,” said David Binder, who conducts focus groups for the Obama White House. “The imagery of the president being well received . . . is something that makes Americans feel proud again — that we have a leader who is well liked and respected throughout the world.”

Democratic Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell said of the trip: “He looked like a leader, he acted like a leader, and he was a leader. Whether there were any great substantive accomplishments remains to be seen. But the perception of him moving in the community of nations was great for the country.” (Los Angeles Times)

My fair Hopey McChangey (“Change We Can Believe In” posters included) went to Europe and got a welcome worthy of Julius Caesar returning from the Battle of Munda. Or you’d think that’s what it was from the panicked reactions of the paranoid pundits.

(And yes, paranoid pundits, I realize the irony of referencing the Battle of Munda, of which Caesar returned to Rome, disbanded the Republic and became Emperor for life. I was mocking you.)

Por ejemplo:

(More after the jump!)

That evening, Fox News’s Sean Hannity truncated Obama’s speech, cutting out Obama’s criticism of Europe’s anti-Americanism. Hannity was apoplectic that Obama would “blame America first,” declaring the president was just like the Dixie Chicks. What’s more, he insisted, the speech was proof of Obama’s “deep resentment” of America:

HANNITY: You know, I’m going to — I resent this. When you consider…all we have done just in the last century alone to save Europe from themselves. I resent this. I think it’s outrageous, the media’s ignored it. But don’t you think this is like the Dixie Chicks? […]

HANNITY: But didn’t we see all of this in the campaign? As I was bringing up — didn’t Reverend Wright give us a little insight into his thought process? Didn’t, you know, Michelle Obama, America is a downright mean country. … But I’m thinking, didn’t we get some insight? When you sit on a board and give speeches with Bill Ayers, didn’t this — Do you think he harbors deep resentment that he just hides? Because I believe he does. (Think Progress)

Really? Cheering an American president means Europeans hate America?

While the fearful, confused and perplexed longed for the warmth you can only feel from an American flag on the cinder at an anarchist rally, I saw a different picture. I saw Europe embracing their bastard child of their centuries of international doodling (finally) as their own.

I’ve never quite understood some on the Right’s apprehension to all things European considering these are our allies. Haven’t we spent billions protecting them. Aren’t these are the people we’ve promised Armageddon for decades if the USSR so much as gave West Europe the stink eye? (May I suggest “Watchmen” for a refresher course on Cold War paranoia?) Europe isn’t some united, homogeneous, socialist backwater. To cheer our president is a “good” thing. Unless you’d rather get the Vlad the Putin reception? And some protesters showed up just because we still represent war and globalization, so seriously? Why the long faces, Sean n’ Co.?

These are our friends, accomplices, lovers, enemies and mothers.

We owe our name to Italian Amerigo Vespucci.

We owe our apparent “discovery,” to Christopher Columbus, an Italian working for Spain.

We owe our language and a great deal of our culture to mother England.

We owe our Democracy to the French.

We owe our Representive Republic, Congress, to everyone from the British to the Romans themselves

We owe slavery, that helpful free labor that built this country, to the French, Spanish and English who found that the Natives they were massacring made horrible chattel.

America was once part of the vast British Empire, which at one point was larger than the Roman Empire and many dreamed would last twice as long.

It didn’t.

We make a big deal about our revolution from the mother country. I don’t even know if they teach it in British history considering they’ve got from the Magna Carta to the Tudors to Churchill to get through. But the rulers of our country weren’t happy with simple independence and taxation without representation. In the world’s most famous Oedipal complex, we would not be happy until we had replaced our dear Mother England and had our own Empire the sun could never set on …

Only we wouldn’t call it that. We, saviors of the world, were just here to help.

Sort of.

How do you describe a relationship as multifaceted as the one Europe and the rest of the world has with the United States of America? Take France, for example.

We couldn’t have won the Revolutionary War without France. France sold us New Orleans and a good chunk of America for cheap in the Louisiana Purchase. For years we’ve practically had our tongues down each others throats, groping each other just to piss England off.

“Look it us, mom! We’re totally doin’ it with your mortal enemy! And it feeels soooo goooooood!

There was some hot and cold moments, but then came WWII and we liberated them from the Nazis and there was such an orgy of freedom that even the black soldiers got laid that night.

The black soldiers.

And now, for the past 40 years we’ve done this hot, steamy “I hate you! I love you! I want you! I need you! You captivate me! You disgust me!” dance ever since. I mean, can we just marry France already? Was Freedom Fries and things like “cheese eating surrender monkeys” even necessary when we all know we’re just going to call France up for a booty call a month from now, drunk, going “Baby,

President Obama tried to address this, pointing out past mistakes coupled with the rampant Anti-Americanism that often blames the US for having a hand in everything.

The accusations I always found the most humorous were the ones regarding racism.

The US has a very “open book” history on racism. It’s in escapable. Proof of the shame is literally walking around in every shade, living out their daily lives amongst the white masses, intermarrying, living and working. During Katrina, I listened to international coverage and while I appreciated the sympathies of these various countries who poo-pooed the historical racism that left blacks living in the worst, low-lying land in New Orleans, on the other hand, I knew how Africans and West Indians were treated in these same countries.

I knew how during slavery abolitionists like Ida B. Wells. William Wells Brown and Frederick Douglass went to Great Britain and spoke on the horrors of slavery. The British, who’s since abolished slavery, tut-tutted their American cousins. The trio were all well received. But when it was time to pass around the hat to get those runaways and victims out of those chains, the money was often not there.

People liked looking down on those backwards racists, but to get involved in the mess was an entirely different matter.

This would continue, in perpetuity, with blacks moving to post-WWII France to escape Jim Crow and lynching. And the French, like the British were excellent hosts. But when a West Indian or African from the colonies came to the “mother country” for work they weren’t treated much better than black Americans were at home.

There is a sort of ambivalence you develop when you realize this. When you watch Europeans go into pique over a half white American, half Kenyan who if he’d come to Great Britain on his own mettle back in the 1970s would have received the same treatment of many Kenyans. That he wouldn’t be special. That there wouldn’t even be the same room for advancement.

I have a lot of complaints about racism in America, but at least it’s a constant work in progress fueled by the belief that your background need not be your fate. Europe, largely a class based society, still has issues questioning whether a German-born Turk loves Turkey.

Is it even a question when a Mexican-American happily dances around with both a flag for the homeland and Old Glory?

So black Americans, like Obama, have often found the love they always longed for in Europe they couldn’t get here (although Obama isn’t exactly suffering from lack of blind devotion in the states). And other members of the Diaspora have looked at the US as both land of opportunity and land of contradictions. Like the conservatives who bemoan “European Socialist values” and fear “the frogs,” we in the Diaspora fling the same stereotypes at one another as if it made us feel better to be the one with the boot and someone else under the heel.

The Diaspora is an enemy, lover, friend, mother. We fight. We intermarry. We are friends in kind. We all share the same motherland. It’s natural.

It’s illogical (the fighting part), but natural.

Just as I always hope black Americans and West Indians will stop giving each other the stink eye, I hope Sean Hannity, whose family obviously immigrated from Ireland unless he’s an Incognegro — which would still make him Irish, just a black person — who stop the fear mongering over Obama’s European lovefest.

As Jon Stewart said last night on Obama’s International Man of Insane European Popularity … it’s not tyranny. It’s losing. And stop saying such mean things about mum. You never write or eat your kippers anymore.

8 thoughts on “Europe: Enemy, Lover, Friend, Mother

  1. Everything you’ve said about racism in Europe is on point. The reason I think the USian right foams at the mouth so much about Europe is on many levels they are FAR more open minded and liberal than we are on many issues. Particularly those that challenge the white, conservative, xtian agenda. They also still cling to the whole manifest destiny/greatest power in the world mindset that is evolving and draining their control and delusions of world leadership.

  2. Americans are so scared of having a one-world government. This fear has been indoctrinated in us forever. We’re afraid of the world being united, terrified that a leader will emerge to allow us to look past our differences. We have been schooled since infants to see ourselves as different (even above) from the rest of the world. Although Americans think these false ideas will save them in the end, it may ultimately destroy our government.

  3. omg Snob, I don’t even pay attention to the right wing insanes anymore….they are acting like the country did not just ELECT Obama….as in Hannity is right on one thing, yes, Obama during the campaign SAID he would be one to compromise, and admit fault…and that is exactly what he did in Europe (as well as admitting European faults to as to their anti-Americanism), and you know what, PEOPLE VOTED FOR THAT!!! So Hannity needs to stop being a sore loser, and get over himself!!!Secretly though, I want people like Hannity, and O’Reily to stay in the limelight, and for them to keep drowning out the rational Republicans that would actually fairly represent the right’s viewpoint, because they are just isolating themselves, and the middle will move further and further away from them (MORE VOTES FOR OUR SIDE!! WOO HOO!)

  4. Great post Snob. I remember listening to a story on NPR a while back and they were talking about projects in France (not far from Paris if I remember correctly) that were predominantly inhabited by Black people. I forget most of what was said but I remember coming away thinking that it sounded like they are currently experiencing Jim Crow and virtually sanctioned segregation over there. That’s pretty crazy.

  5. But when a West Indian or African from the colonies came to the "mother country" for work they weren’t treated much better than black Americans were at home. There is a sort of ambivalence you develop when you realize this. Not so much ambivalence, but realizing in many settings my American accent /passport etc gives me a privilege that an African immigrant / asylum seeker would not have. Yet when I’m back in the states some of our diasporic/ distant relatives really playing up the ‘immigrant’ model minority thing to make sure no one mistakes them for an black American in the old school way. I love the USA warts in all, and I think we mistake/under estimate how much our actions in a very real way influence the very quality of life other’s may have, & the vested interest other people may have in decisions made by our politicians. Everything is relative, "HANNITY: But didn’t we see all of this in the campaign? As I was bringing up — didn’t Reverend Wright give us a little insight into his thought process?" Poor Dear; Barack and Michelle flossing all over Europe, giving the world walking /talking proof of the S L O W death of "white [American] privilege", at a time of The Rise of the Rest, its got to be a hard pill to swallow.Missed you Snob! Glad you’re back

  6. "But when a West Indian or African from the colonies came to the "mother country" for work they weren’t treated much better than black Americans were at home. There is a sort of ambivalence you develop when you realize this." This issue is far more complex than you’ve made it out to be. The history of the black population in Britain doesn’t fit into the black American template, and it’s infuriating when people try to massage it to make a political point. For instance do you know that a full 20% of white english people have black ancestry from the time of the slave trade in the 1700’s , that none of them know about. It was discovered during DNA studies and reported in a BBC documentary a few years ago. How did it happen? Slaves from Africa stopping off in British ports on route to the Americas were sometimes dropped off in England and became servants, yes servants not slaves to the weatlhy and subsequently intermarried with whites in large numbers. This happened because the philosophy of white supremacy wasn’t being diseminated in Britain at that time. There was no use for it until the desperate battle for the abolition of slavery in the 1800’s when slave traders and owners brought forward the idea of slavery being justified by racial inferiority, sponsoring books, debates and newspaper articles to argue their case. This completely changed the public view on blacks and though the abolitionists won the war of words, the british public’s attitude towards blacks had changed for the worse. Abolition of course also shut down the influx of Africans into british ports and the next great black migration wouldn’t happen until the 1950’s when blacks from the Carribbean were invited to come to ‘the Motherland’ to build up the ailing British postwar economy.

  7. Hannity is ridiculous. Does he believe the things that come out of his mouth.America is only 6% percent of the world’s population. We need to get over ourselves. I think the President has the right approach. Nobody, esp. after Iraq, eight years of Bush and this global financial mess, is interested in lectures from the USA. We have to work with our allies, not talk down to them.

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