Monday, October 24, 2005

Amerigance, Part 2


Let’s face it; Americans are weird. To start with, the nation began with a revolution, which is not all that unusual, except that the revolutionary government has continued in something not unlike its original form, to such a point that the Constitution enacted shortly after the government was put into place, is the same one we are using today. While most of the world boasts peoples, cultures, and nations which are older than America, our extant form of government has endured longer than anything else in place, and has thrived under the notion that government is derived by the consent of the governed, and that people have rights which cannot be denied.

But if that is not strange enough, there is the little matter of American cultural dominance. A wallet full of American money is likely to be accepted, and cheerfully so, at most businesses around the world; even in Communist China and Vietnam, U.S. dollars are valid for many transactions. You can find a McDonalds of Burger King in virtually every city on the planet, to the horror of the French. You can absolutely find a Coca-Cola machine in every city. You can watch an American movie in every city which has movie theaters, and you can hear American music on radio stations around the globe. And that’s not touching the impact of American clothes fashion or jargon. There is not a language in the Industrialized world which does not include American phrases in it.

And then there’s the politics. It shows my age I suppose, but I can remember when the councils and juntas would simply present the single available candidate, whose “election” would be announced before the votes were counted, if indeed they ever were. Now, how different are things, where Iraq and Afghanistan have not only held free elections, but millions of people in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, even in Iran, have publicly demonstrated for the right to hold what they themselves call “American-style” free elections, with multiple political parties and candidates. Even the worst totalitarian regimes put up the pretense of a free election, as the last go-round in China shows. Of course, that all began with Ronald Reagan, and found new strength in George W. Bush.

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