In the aftermath of the recent riots in Baltimore, Karen Attiah of the Washington Post wrote a clever account of the events as if actually reported by foreign press outlets. I enjoyed her satirist execution because it mirrors a similar kind of hypocritical arrogance that western media employ when reporting or discussing the treatment of minorities and ethnic groups in other countries. Americans are always splendid at shining a light on conditions facing West Bank Palestinians, Tibetan Buddhists, or Indian women, as we and others should do. At the same time, however, we also become defensive when foreign governments or journalists point fingers at our own treatment of African-Americans, Native-Americans, border crossing violators, etc. These criticisms tend to be dismissed out-of-hand with a robust response of “Oh, please!” or with a recitation on how their apples are uniquely different from our oranges. Hey, we’re Americans; we’re exceptional. But as a world leader, we really shouldn’t treat every judgment about us as a reason to blow back (i.e. “Freedom Fries”). We should be mature enough to reflect on our image, think about how others perceive us, and not get so agitated by outside opinion.
My own personal understanding of issues around the globe is admittedly weak. Except for my comical and barely passable chanting of Hebrew at temple, I speak no foreign language. I do read articles on international affairs in the Washington Post and New York Times on a daily basis, and my Sunday morning habit of many years now is Fareed Zakaria’s excellent program on CNN. But at the same time, I am also sadly still living off the fumes of finishing Thomas Friedman’s “From Beirut to Jerusalem” way back in 1990, Maziar Bahari’s “And Then They Came For Me” in 2011, and David Crist’s “The Twilight War” in 2012. I am as guilty as most Americans in not paying close enough attention to events beyond our borders.
Last week’s British elections are noteworthy for me not just because Great Britain is an important friend, but also because of what appears to be American involvement in their election by some our own political professionals. I was unaware of this until I read the reporting of the Conservative party’s decisive victory. American political strategists Jim Messina and David Axelrod were hired guns on behalf of the Tories and Labour respectively. Additionally, pollster Frank Luntz traveled around the country before the election speaking with both politicians and voters. This is apparently not a new development. James Carville in 2001 offered his services to then-Prime Minister Tony Blair, and also to Ehud Barak in the 1999 Israeli parliamentary elections.
Nothing makes me more dispirited than to know this. Isn’t it bad enough that we have already exported cultural rubbish like Survivor and Two and a Half Men? Do we have to poison other nations with our own electoral nonsense too? The scene is by now all too familiar: arrange for polling to determine public opinion, create a message of cookie-cutter talking points that remove any possible shades of grey, and then pummel a citizenry with an endless series of negative and exaggerated advertisements to demonize an opponent. It boggles my mind that two prominent British political parties imported the same type of electoral dysfunction under which Americans also suffer. Honestly, they really can do better.
Even apparently something as universal as chocolate can’t seem to avoid creating feelings of ill will, disappointment, and recrimination. Those in the know, and by that I mean the truest and bluest of chocoholics in the United States, have of late set their animus on the Hershey Corporation. Evidently, Hershey is imposing its will on unlawful importers who dare to bring into this country true and authentic chocolates from the beloved Cadbury Company in England. A story in a recent issue of Vanity Fair details how Hershey has been able to legally prevent authentic Cadbury candies from American consumers by virtue of a licensing agreement that allows them to make and market its own version of Cadbury products. British expats living in the U.S., already mortified by the sub-standard quality of American chocolate, are enraged that they are forced to buy imitation and inferior versions of Dairy Milk bars and other favorites. Until I ever again get to travel outside the U.S., I might not be able to experience how one Brit explains what constitutes having good chocolate really means: “It’s an orgasm without the sex.”
Of course, kisses generally and hopefully have been known to lead to an orgasm too. But apparently not a Hershey’s version of one.
I grew up within a short distance of the U.S. and Canadian border. Detroit’s border crossing to Canada is unique in that it is the only southern-entry into that country. My parents regularly took us to Windsor, Ontario to enjoy that city’s restaurants and shopping. It was an opportunity to fetch, yes, those English chocolates, but also non-American releases of pop recordings too. For a short period, for reasons known only to him, my dad would separately take me there for monthly haircuts just for the two of us. We were an unofficial exporter of 1970’s Canadian hairstyles. It seems quaint now, but I recall all these years later how my parents drilled it into us how we had to behave responsibly while we were there. My mother especially used to lecture that we were acting as ambassadors for our country, and as such we needed to be polite and courteous to everyone. “Ugly American” behavior was not to be tolerated.
We are about to head into another long election cycle in this country, and I’m already wincing at how the candidates and their commercials will portray foreign policy. Campaign strategists will write-up short, compressed policy statements that characterize overseas commitments as concise and overly simplified platitudes for a non-engaging public. Like most of the other positions made, they will be quickly forgotten. I trust that British political advisors will probably not be involved in our electoral activities. That appears to be Rupert Murdoch’s domain anyway.
Care for a bite of my Flake?
6 thoughts on “Imports and Exports”
Ohhhhh! I’m such a fan of Hershey chocolate (ok, I’m a plebian). Never was a fan of Godiva but Ghiardelli (sp?) is pretty wonderful. As you can see I had a hard time getting past the chocolate to the real meat of the post. Perhaps it’s because I’m allergic to elections. I can break out in hives from hearing all the parties drone on about idiot things that don’t matter and skirt issues of consequence. They spend tons of money digging up stupid dirt on their opponents. Personally I could never run for office. There are pictures of me wearing white before Memorial Day that I know would go viral.
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Oh, I’m all over the map on that one. It’s my stream of consciousness posting that probably only I can follow. 🙂
Truth be told, I’m really not much of a chocolate lover, except on rare occasions when I pair a really good dark one one with a Cabernet. But that Vanity Fair article tickled my funny bone that people could get all worked up about it.
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Allergic to elections… I love this! 🙂
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Ok, here I am, reading this post and shaking my head at the American arrogance I have come to know all too well. Even after being Transplanted here from the Caribbean 20yrs ago for reasons I will not discuss here, and being called ‘American’ by my family because I have in many ways assimilated into the American way of life (not in every way but quite a few), I still think American arrogance is astounding! With puffed up chests, claims are made that it is the best country ever, while judging the cultures of other countries as inferior without even fully understanding them and ‘think’ they have the power/right to step in and ‘save’ those lost citizens (who have no idea what they want or ‘need’) by imposing American standards, in my opinion, without full consent.
It boggles my mind that they can’t admit that Other countries a far more advanced when it comes to Health insurance, child education and child discipline and even medical research. In addition, the British school system has been predominant in most Caribbean countries and from personal experience is approx 2 yrs ahead of the American system as far as what the kids learn by a certain age (first hand knowledge = I had consistently out-tested many of the other prospective students on college entry exams. This was also reported by many other ‘Transplants’ from other countries).
By the way, wasn’t ex president Carter just observing/monitoring the election in Guyana this past week? Why? He’s 90! I read an article ( http://nyti.ms/1EuwAe3) that his foundation is into humanitarian type projects in 80 countries around the world and that they observe elections as part of that. The full story on the reasons an ex president would need to do such a job is elusive to me at this time, and to be honest the vagueness of the aforementioned article has raised doubts in my mind about the real purpose of all these overseas missions, but that’s another story. If he was invited by the Guyanese government, then (shrug) fine! Who am I to argue? But if he is simply inserting/inviting himself to further his personal projects then I’ve got questions. Seems like he’s using his presidential clout to gain access to places he would otherwise not be allowed (more research on this needed ).
Anyway, enough about politics, I get ‘mental hives’ just thinking about all the corruption and dirty games they play so on to happier thoughts – – chocolate!
I must say that You, sir, have stirred up quite the hornets nest with this post (especially now in the middle of my chocolate cravings)! To tell me my beloved Cadbury treats are potentially in danger of becoming extinct in these here parts sounds a lot like more dirty politics to me and cause for much concern. As a matter of fact, that alone is cause to seriously consider moving across the pond! But alas I have to concede that I pretty much love all chocolate, so uprooting my family to satisfy my Cadbury cravings may cause the American government, in all its arrogance, to consider my actions treason and take my children away (just for spite). After all, they are citizens but I am merely a legal resident. Oh the horror! LOL
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Love this response! Nothing like a little controversy stirring up on my little ‘ol blog. If CBS or NBC comes a callin’ to interview us, I expect you to join with bells on. Fame awaits.
Yes, yes, American post WWII values were ones of exceptionalism and greatness that we’ve never shed. In some respects, it’s been helpful (i.e. Marshal Plan, rebuilding of Japan, assistance to natural disasters etc.). But in other cases, it’s been an utter disaster (Vietnam, Iran in the 1950’s, Iraq in more recent history). As you point out, so many other countries have it all over this one with better health, education, and welfare systems. I do slowly see a realization in American society that we are not, nor do we need to look at ourselves in terms of that illusive “greatness” that has partly blinded our vision for so long. But admittedly we’re a long way off.
In regard to former president Carter. His work with other countries through the Carter Center has been honest, purposeful, and sincere. The Center does more than just help to insure safe and accurate elections. They help to facilitate healthcare, immunizations, engineering projects, agriculture development, etc. They only go when they are invited, and this is especially true in the case of election monitoring. He’s been doing this for many years now. I applaud his efforts– he represents the best of our nation and its ideals.
As to your accusations of my purposely propagating a chocolate class warfare though my blog, I plead GUILTY! Since my personal interest in chocolate is actually quite low (I’m weird like that — I lean more towards the salty than the sweet), I admit to my enjoyment of seeing such unmitigated passion from chocolate lovers!
Thanks, as always, for reading and your comments. I always enjoy them.
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LOL, as do I enjoy your blogs!
Thanks for taking the time to explain the Carter Center and its humanitarian efforts, I learned a lot. Kudos to him and his efforts! And kudos the the times when Americans were actually helpful in other countries that – – all joking aside, I live here and have had many opportunities here that I wouldn’t have had in my own country so I am in no way biting the hand that feeds me, but for once I’d like the US to show a bit of humility. That’s all…
As for CBS / NBC interviews?
Only if I can keep my identity anonymous (my safety is at stake thanks to my crazy ex husband). But what a riot that would be Hahaha!
Absolutely loved this, have a great week!
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