Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Three things about America that I just don't get

  • Why do toilet doors always have gaps between the door and the wall?
  • Why do Americans always burn their bacon to a crisp?
  • Why, when the country is in a financial, military, environmental and health care mess, with educational standards slipping, unable even to deal properly with a flood disaster like Katrina, would anyone still consider voting for a president of the same political party that governed them for the past eight years?
Honestly, I'm not being facetious: the rest of the world really, really doesn't get it.

6 comments:

hrugaar said...

1) - or those 'saloon doors' on toilet cubicles that barely screen the area between your knees to your chest and anyone can just look over the top.

2) - a lot of people cremate bacon here too. Unfathomable. :S

3) - perhaps because that party throws the most money at the election campaign? (I don't much like party politics anyway)

Jo said...

1) Not exclusive to the States, I remember doors like that in the UK. Particularly in the Borstal (juvenile prison) where I used to teach where someone had scratched "beware limbo dancers" on the inside of the door, I thought it was hilarious.

2) I love bacon like that, but not everyone does it in North America.

3) Politics I don't know about.

Peter said...

1) If enough people order crisp bacon, it gradually becomes the norm and part of the culture.

2) So people can easily find a vacant cubicle (and check for dead bodies).

3) I think you need to have untaited eyes and ears and be outside the US to be objective enough to see through the fog of parochial patriotism and hubris.

Anonymous said...

Re: your third question -- I'll take a stab at it.

First, a full disclosure: I'm an independent voter. I've voted both Democrat and Republican in my life, and have yet to be completely happy with a candidate from either party. The political parties here are dedicated to the extreme positions on just about any topic, which, in my opinion, is bad for nearly everyone.

There are several reasons why someone might vote for McClain (or might not vote for Obama, which is not necessarily the same thing) and some are better than others. I'll highlight a couple of the ones I think are the most well-thought out, whether or not I completely agree with them.

You listed a number of ways the country is in a mess, the assumption being that the Bush administration must necessarily be responsible for all of those things. But a close examination shows that not to be the case. Let me be clear that he and his administration are certainly responsible for Iraq, not to mention the negative way the rest of the world views us (particularly in respect to the climate crisis.)

But Bush isn't actually responsible for the economic situation. Most agree that the economic crisis has its roots in the sub-prime mortgage lending fiasco, and it's not difficult to trace that situation back (via public record) to pressure the Clinton administration put on banks and mortgage companies all through the '90s to 'relax credit requirements' for lower class and minority borrowers, so they could buy homes.

I'm not opposed to anything which makes it easier for anyone to buy a home, but I'm not so sure that that was the way to go -- at least not without more government oversight to make sure the lending companies didn't use the legislation to justify making loans to anyone, whether they could repay them or not -- which is just what happened. And it happened on the previous administration's watch.

If Bush is guilty of anything in respect to the economy, it's that he didn't make an effort to push through more government oversight, but in the boom days of the housing bubble, when banks were making money hand over fist, it would have been political suicide for him to do so. Some Republicans apparently did try to get some oversight legislation passed two years ago, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac successfully lobbied against it.

And for what it's worth, Obama has always been a supporter of those policies relaxing credit requirement for lower class and minority borrowers. Does this make him evil? No, no more so than it does Clinton. Naive, perhaps, but well-intentioned.

And that leads to the second reason people may vote for McClain: Obama is a very charismatic and intelligent man, but have you noticed that in his speeches he always talks about the future, and change, and not so much about what he's accomplished in his years as an Illinois senator?

I'm from the state of Illinois. Obama is one of my senators. And I can't think of a single promise he made while campaigning for senator that he's been able to keep.

Maybe that's not his fault -- a lot goes into policy and legislation, and it's no doubt possible for people in McClain's state to make the same accusation (though he's been in politics long enough that he probably has managed to do at least some of the things he promised, or he wouldn't have been re-elected so many times.)

But the truth is that Obama doesn't have much experience, and doesn't have much of a track record in accomplishing his goals.

Whether that changes or not when he's elected (as I believe he will be) will probably depend in large part on the makeup of Congress (which has been controlled by the Democrats for the past two years, though that may not be the case after next week, since people are as likely to blame the current Congress for the economic mess as they are the president) and the people he seats on his cabinet.

I don't think Obama as president will be all bad. I think it could be good for us to have a black man in the office. But my choice would have Hillary (even given my comments about Bill Clinton's policies being responsible for much of the economic mess). She annoys me on any number of levels, but has experience and a track record of getting things done that Obama doesn't have.

Voting for change is fine, if you really know what you're getting. People voting for Obama largely don't know. They're voting for charisma and someone offering them hope, and I can't blame them. But there are those who understand that Obama's economic policies line up neatly with those that put us where we are, and that he *is* inexperienced -- that's not just a Republican insult, at least not to the people of Illinois.

But those are some of the reasons someone might not vote for him.

glenda larke said...

Anon - thanks so much, that was very interesting.

I actually agree with you about Hillary, and I think I would have voted for her had I any kind of vote in the first place for the same reasons as you...

I was actually thinking that the reason for McCain having any kind of chance at all had more to do with the US constitution and the rather (to us with more UK-designed constitutions)odd way of selecting your government.

Prime Ministers head the political party that has the most seats in parliament, so they are much more closely associated with the ruling party - who gets the blame for whatever goes wrong - and it is much more difficult for a PM or a prospective PM to disassociate themself from the current administration.

Even the most brilliant new leader of the ruling party would find it hard to be Prime Minister after a financial meltdown during his party's reign of the kind that has just occurred in the US - even if he was not heading the party at the time. It seems much easier in the US to disassociate oineself from what went before...

So I found your explanation interesting.

I'll tell you another thing that has sort of left me shaking my head - once again, a different way of looking at things in our part of the world - I don't think "spreading the wealth" is an insult or an indication of some kind of extremist communism or wicked socialism.

In Australia anyway, and in many parts of Europe, we think it is A Good Thing. Some folk would say a good Christian thing. People may grouse about the percentages, but spreading the wealth around is basically seen as a noble ideal.

Malaysians tend to think of the West as an entity. Or course, it is not...any more than "Asia" or "South-east Asia" is an entity, and the differences are fascinating.

We watch the US election here with as much interest as any American.

Once again, thanks...

Jo said...

We have a few billionaires around in Canada, not as many as the US of course, and I figured if one of them, listed as having around 19 bil. would spend one of his billions he could give every man, woman and child a million apiece and still have 18 of his billion. That's spreading the wealth. Only trouble with that is, for a while, until they had spent it all, no-one would work. Well maybe he could just give me a million, and Matt of course.

There used to be talk of selling Canada to the States for around $33 million which would give the US a cheap country and all of us would get $1 million a piece. Same would apply though, no work.