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Monday, September 07, 2009

Laboring to Put Together A Coherent Blogpost

This blog post started innocently enough, just noticing how different the United States is than most other places. Many countries have Labor Day in May, but we have it in September because of an event in our history; fair enough.

But what's with our resistance to the metric system? And don't use medicine or track as examples; they were more or less required for international competition. You COULD mention the ubiquitous two-liter bottle, but what else has cut through?

I asked Nik, an expat from the US living in New Zealand the difference between the two countries. On the plus side for the US: "friendliness (I find Americans, while they can be loud, are more open-hearted sometimes)."

I found this troubling, because I'm finding Americans a pretty unfriendly lot sometimes, biting off a finger, shouting down a lady in a wheelchair, pulling their kids out of school because the President's going to "indoctrinate" them, etc., etc. One guy heckling the wheelchair-bound woman said he did so because he didn't want to hear her opinion on health care. I can only wonder what he thought his own position was; the "facts"?

Letters of comments have gone from expressing differences of opinion to becoming bile-infused rants. Jon Stewart joked recently that we used to feel apologetic to the rest of the world for our President. And now it's our President who must apologize for us.

Oh, sure, the crude behavior doesn't represent everyone. But I can't help but wonder how we went from being a country that would watch Jerry Springer on TV to one that has brought Springer-Show tactics to the public debate. Perhaps race is part of it, and that GQ got it right.

WAIT a minute...GQ?

Well, specifically Jim Nelson's editor page comment: Remember a long, long time ago - it almost seems like a recession and a half ago - when Barack Obama first came (via Kenya, of course) to power? Remember how certain hope-doped commentators predicted that his election would finally allow Americans to have a frank discussion about race?

Something different and less hope-inducing has happened. His presidency has allowed us to talk around race, to talk about it constantly and subliminal, without ever truly discussing it. And by doing so, we’re proving how much distance we have to grow up.

And my favorite:

"Everywhere you look, people keep making bats***-crazy comments about race and ethnicity, stream-of-consciousness-style, as if the election had unleashed some Freudian anxiety in the cultural air."

And how did #uknowurblackwhen become the leading trend on Twitter yesterday? For every interesting note, there were five dreadful ones. Well, as far as I know; I'd read 20 and 75 more would be waiting.

Again, I know it isn't everyone - I'd vote for the Roberto Clemente award for MLB community-minded players if it didn't take so long to load - but I get the feeling that the fall will be as disheartening as August was.


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