Phil Gyford


Tuesday 21 September 2004

PreviousIndexNext Andrew O'Hagan on the Republican convention

The current London Review of Books carries a calmly horrifying report from the US Republican party convention by Andrew O’Hagan. Two passages worth quoting, beginning with the opening paragraph, a relentless account of the state of America:

America is now offering lessons in what little wisdom it takes to govern the world. Confounded in Iraq, isolated from its traditional allies, shamed over Abu Ghraib, soaked in corporate corruption and the backwash of environmental harm, sustaining an uninherited budget deficit while preparing more tax rewards for the rich, as dismissive of the unhealthy as the foreign, as terrified of the unfolding truth as of mailed anthrax, it is a society made menacing by a notion of God’s great plan. America is tolerance-challenged, integrity-poor, frightened to death, and yet, beneath its patriotic hosannahs, a country in delirium before the recognition that it might have spent the last three years not only squandering the sympathy of the world but hot-housing hatreds more ferocious than those it had wished to banish for ever from the clear blue skies.

The second passage is a terrifying conversation with one of the conference attendees:

“The Muslims just hate us for our love of freedom,” said a woman from Iowa wearing a cloth elephant on her head. “They don’t have any culture and they hate us for having a great one. And they hate the Bible.”

“Really?” I said. “The Iraqis had a culture for thousands of years before Jesus was born.”

“What you saying?”

“I’m saying Muslims were building temples when New York was a swamp.”

“You support the Iraqis?”


“You support the killing of innocent people going to work? People who have to jump out of windows?”

“You aren’t listening to me.”

“No, buddy. You ain’t listening. These people you support are trying to kill our children in their beds. Where you from anyway, the New York Times?”

This leaves me speechless, and seriously wondering if I can bring myself to visit the country again should Bush win another term.


Steel yourself, try Oliver Letwin uncensored, then you'll have to emigrate. Cuba doesn't look too good at this moment. If you canvassed opinion on the Holocaust in any Middle Eastern capital, bar Jerusalem you'd realise that ignorance is not confined to Republican Party Attendees.

Posted by Richard Hyett on 21 September 2004, 11:42 pm | Link

Deciding to emigrate from a country is a very different matter than deciding not to visit a country. And, yes, I do realise there are ignorant people in the world other than Republicans.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 22 September 2004, 11:32 pm | Link

Many on the left persist in believing that right-wing opponents are either dishonorable or stupid or both; and that if they only understood the situation like we do, they would realize that the anti-war movement was right all along. But the neo-Cons aren't stupid, and left-wing supporters of Blair's actions (such as David Aronovitch) aren't dishonorable. Continue to underestimate the enemy / continue to lose. I forget how many degrees Bush has got, or how fluently bilingual he is, but he ain't stupid.

For what it's worth, I marched with the thousands of others, I recently rejoined the Labour Party, and I see no alternative than staying in Iraq until they have had democratic elections and the country is safer. What's the realistic and honourable alternative, apart from leaving Iraqi democrats (the equivalent of you and me) to be murdered by fanatics?

Posted by Glyn on 23 September 2004, 9:49 pm | Link

I think you're making rather more of my post than was intended. Yup, I would say the woman quoted was stupid and/or ignorant, but that doesn't mean I think everyone who shares her slice of the political spectrum is stupid and/or ignorant.

The rest probably just bring selfishness to new levels, at which point the word seems utterly inadequate.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 24 September 2004, 9:27 am | Link

Then what's your reason for proposing not to visit the USA? Spell it out so there are no misunderstandings.

Posted by Richard Hyettt on 24 September 2004, 9:44 pm | Link

I feel uncomfortable visiting a country whose government is, in my opinion, doing terrible things. I feel that to visit and spend money there is in some way supporting them, although I realise me avoiding a country would have infintesimal effect on it. I remember that after Tianenmen Square, visiting China was frowned upon my many people. It seems only reasonable to feel similarly about a government that is, again IMO, making the world a worse place.

But this isn't to say I think people should leave their home country when they disagree with its government (unless staying there puts them in danger of course). Assuming they can influence things in any way (voting, demonstrations, etc.), running away to leave others to endure things seems like, well, running away, rather than putting in any effort to change things.

I've no doubt there all kinds of holes in this logic, and many examples that could suggest these arguments are less than watertight. But, given "Western"-levels of democracy it seems reasonable to me.

Posted by Phil Gyford on 25 September 2004, 3:32 pm | Link

Deciding not to visit a country because you don't like it's Government is quite different to deciding not to visit because of your opinion about the ignorance of the electors.

Posted by Richard Hyett on 28 September 2004, 5:19 pm | Link

Yup. Sorry if the last sentence of my post was ambiguous on that point. "Should Bush win another term" was supposed to be the deciding factor, not "this leaves me speechless".

Posted by Phil Gyford on 28 September 2004, 5:27 pm | Link

I have already decided that - should Bush win/steal this election - I'm emigrating to Europe. I've already begun the groundwork.

Posted by Kevin Harris on 8 October 2004, 2:53 pm | Link

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