August 28, 2006
I was going to take him over the Brooklyn Bridge and show him the spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline. But the traffic was so heavy, despite the fact that it was after 11pm on Thursday, so we headed into the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel. He turned around to snap some pictures, and I warned him against it.
We hadn’t talked politics yet and I hoped to avoid it. We hadn’t seen each other in 5 years, since the last time I was in Scotland. I didn’t want to spend our limited time together arguing over the Iraq war and I felt like this exchange was going to lead us into that political territory.
I know the pattern–”that’s a dumb way to combat terrorism, don’t Americans understand that you can’t fight terrorism in this way, no I don’t have a better suggestion beyond some vague ‘hearts and minds’ blather, but obviously you see Bush is an idiot, don’t you?, you don’t?, I’m really surprised at you, I thought you were smarter than that, don’t you listen to “Bright Eyes” and “Radiohead”?, don’t tell me you support what Israel is doing in the Middle East, obviously the Iraq war is a disaster, Bush only did it for oil/money/daddy/power, what about what the Americans did in Central America in the 80’s?, well I think it is relevant to prove Americans are power-hungry imperialists who want to keep the brown man down.”
I was exhausted just thinking about it. But he didn’t go there. In fact, he seemed understanding and sympathetic to the fact that we have to live this way now, that a tourist probably can’t take pictures in certain places in NY and that’s the way it’s going to be for some time. And though we hung out for three days, we never talked politics at all. It was such a happy time.
But my nervousness at the course our conversation could have taken got me thinking: I hate terrorists for killing innocent people and I hate them for forcing us to live a life where you can’t take pictures where you please, you can’t carry certain things onto airplanes, etc. But I really hate them for the divide they’ve caused in the western world. I hate hating France and being suspicious of Europe. I don’t see them as the enemy, but I do see them as turning a blind eye to this growing, immediate problem. And I know they see us in the same way–as this bumbling superpower who just can’t get things right. We yell at them for not doing enough, they yell at us for doing too much. It’s every Islamofascists dream. We are completely divided to where I expect a certain amount of hostility from Europeans, not even for being rightwingish, but just for being American. And I assume they’ll all be leftists, more concerned with pc-ness and intellectualism than doing what they must to survive. Even the ones I like and respect.
I don’t know how to get around this, exactly. But if we don’t thaw relations, and soon, then the cliche is true, the terrorists will have won.