Us and them

Dearest Reader,

I’m not usually one to talk politics. This is mainly because during my training as teacher, I was advised not to touch on topics that easily divide people, like immigration, scientology, and pork.

Having said that, although I live on the opposite side of the world, it is virtually impossible to avoid hearing and reading about the US presidential election, in all its Americanness. The first thing I must say is that being European, I find America and its citizens fascinating. I’ve spent my whole life observing, watching their TV shows, listening to their music, dreaming about living in New York. It’s for sure the culture I know most about without actually belonging to it. I love how different things are over there, even if I sometimes don’t understand them, and I am generally impressed at all the new exciting things that come to us from there.

One thing I enjoy observing politically are the eternal references to the US constitution which undoubtedly nobody has read in full. It’s a little bit like the Bible, there’s a lot of hearsay going around, but few bother to read the original because it’s just too darn long and weird. In Europe, what unites us is not a constitution, or the Bible for that matter, but a rich archive of jokes about the French which we have carefully collected and agreed upon over hundreds of years. It’s mainly endearing, and we certainly wouldn’t want to be without the French. If they left us, who would provide the amusement?

The other thing I find astonishing is the way they approach crime. If the US were a candidate for entry to the EU, their approach to law and order would certainly raise most of the red flags – legalised guns, death penalty and torture islands are all quite frowned upon over on the old continent. But of course, it’s America. The Wild West. I enjoy watching these kinds of debates simply because they would be impossible in today’s Europe, debates like “should teachers get guns, too”?

Semantics are also different. You can start a sentence by saying ‘This is America!!’ and by saying that you mean ‘I can do whatever I want!!’. If you just said ‘This is Sweden dammit!!’ people would just look at each other, confused. No declaration involving a European country means freedom. The only thing that would be universally understood would, again, be something like ‘Ah you know… The French!’ And we would all know what that means, chuckling.

Finally, there is of course the circus that is the actual election for the leader of the country. Undeniably, any kind of US election has become an incredibly surreal soap-opera-style phenomenon with all the things you, dearest reader, and I want – sex scandals, trophy wives, backstabbing, secret babies, classified emails and all the -isms you can imagine: racism, sexism, elitism, and islamophobia…-ism. Out of all countries in the world, in the most influential one, Austrian gym enthusiasts can become governors, and business owners with virtually no social skills can compete in a presidential election to represent a nation of which they openly hate half of the population.

Yes, it’s social porn and we love to indulge in watching adults say things that we thought you could only say in the privacy of your own home. In addition, we shiver in pleasure as the ignorance of the uneducated washes over us, and their furious fists go up in the air, howling at the easiest explanations for their misfortunes and disadvantage.

And in Europe we are guilty of the same fun politics too, like Silvio Berlusconi who has entertained us for decades with his sexual escapades with teenage girls and by investing most of a once great nation’s profits into his monthly hair gel supply. And only recently we have also applauded the British for taking democracy to a brand new level by disregarding any political and economic experience available among the leaders, and instead letting the misinformed masses decide on things they enthusiastically googled afterwards.

But this, at the very least, has resulted in them becoming the new French in popular European joke-making, and has created many new amusing puns that rhyme with the word ‘exit’.

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