Tonight I saw a news spot on Danish TV. As usual, the topic was Americans and the American election. Denmark has become a bit obsessed with Americans of late. The spot showed a conservative fat southern couple talking about why they believe religion should have more influence in politics. As they praised God and admonished democrats in the plainspoken way that only southern Christians can, they made their typical fatty southern dinner of sweet potatos loaded with butter, rolls, etc., saying things like “this go’ be good” as they cooked. Across the bottom of the screen rolled Danish translations of their viewpoints and enthusiastic eating. As I watched, I imagined the good Danish statsborgere sitting at home shaking their heads and thinking, “yes of course, this is the way americans are. Fat, conservative and religious. This is what we’ve always believed and it is true. Micheal Moore told us and so does TV2.”
The Danes get their stereotypes confirmed, so they can now happily line up with the American liberals (and with the rest of the world) to throw stones back at the American conservatives who will then throw stones back at the liberals, joining the fight from a safe distance, and thinking that they are superior when actually they are no less mean or brutal than the stone throwers themselves.
I don’t have much to say to non-Americans. I don’t think that their opinions are much more interesting than those of a thirsty mob watching a boxing match.
But I do sometimes wonder about us Americans. This election seems to be the most mean-spirited and divisive of any election I’ve seen in America. It’s like both sides have lost track of national pride and identity and are just trying to defeat each other. Sometimes when I look at the various maps of “Bush” and “Kerry” states it makes me think of the days before the civil war, when states banded together against each other and eventually split.
I think the questions that we hear on the news – Who can protect us against terrorism? When will the war in Iraq end? Was it wrong to start the war in the first place? Environment vs. development? – are not very interesting. These are just issues which come and go. The interesting question is – Aren’t we, divided so evenly and irreconcilably between liberal Kerry and conservative Bush supporters, forgetting something as we race towards the election – that we are all Americans? Has Osama bin Laden made us forget or have we done it to ourselves? What do we need to do to get unified again?
I think the answer to this last question is easy. After the election, no matter who wins, we need to start listening to each other and working together in a respectful way. We need to realize that America is not two different colors because it’s not. There are going to have to be compromises just as there always have been, and I think that there will. We are, after all, a democracy. Perhaps I am worried for nothing. Like I said, I’m on the outside looking in these days.