Thursday, December 10, 2015

What do the rest of the world think of USA's politics?

Most of this is pretty predictable. As many of my friends and I often wonder, "do people in other countries of the world think we are just f#$%ing nuts?!" And the answer seems to be yes. -SJ Otto

I hope to write this and not offend anyone, though what I'm about to say might do. It's also worth pointing out that the sample size of this response is 1, not 65 million (maybe 2, I think my husband is with me on most of this).
- Donald Trump: we cannot understand how someone with such openly racist and pretty stupid views can be seen as a potential presidential contender. Our parallel version is probably Nigel Farage, who leads the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), whose sole aim is to get the UK out of the EU (which is somewhat undermined as he takes £££ in subsidy from the EU parliament but does not turn up to vote, and aligns himself with semi-fascists in the EU parliament). People vote for him primarily as a protest vote. We haven't had a say on EU membership for 50 years , which is why a protest vote is seductive, especially as the rules have changed substantially in that time. He garnered 12.6% of the vote in the last UK general election but 1 seat in parliament. My fear is that Trump will do a lot better. People in the UK don't mind voting for a joker - and one which sends shivers up their spines if they really think about what's being proposed - because the current system means they'll never get any real power (and the majority of British people don't think the EU parliament really counts in any meaningful way because of the British veto which essentially means we can opt out of most things). If Trump becomes President, expect lower tourist revenues and generally a lot of fear on this side of the Atlantic about what the US really stands for.
- Gun control: really, America, you're on your own with this. We enabled strict gun control after Hungerford (and Dunblane, which created further gun restrictions - thanks to the commenter below for clarifying this) as did the Aussies after the Port Arthur shooting - in both countries, there hasn't been a mass shooting since. We all think - politely - you are a bit nuts on this issue, but understand you have some particular (is hang ups the right word? maybe issues) about how the 2nd amendment was drafted. But virtually everyone I know thinks this is a big problem for the States, and it would appear that your President agrees. Obama: ‘No Parallel’ to U.S. Mass Shootings
- Gay marriage: great. It was a moment of world wide solidarity and happiness when the Supreme Court made the decision. Our government made it too. The most touching version though was #hometovote: Irish abroad return to vote in gay marriage referendum Ireland. We love the fact they had a referendum and loads of people went home to vote, it made it special (and we wish we'd all been able to make such an affirmative gesture too - didn't you?)
- Republicans/Democrats - Democrats look like our Tories, at least the nicer ones, Republicans don't really have a British version. Only about 5% of our electorate would take the Republicans seriously on everything they hold dear, far too right wing for the rest of the country - we're generally built on centrist and consensual politics. Our Labour party also looks like the Democrats which is why Blair did so well (and why Corbyn will fail). Our Liberal Democrat party looks like Bernie Sanders' cheerleaders. The Green Party look like Al Gore's cheerleaders. A multiparty system is much more common in Europe than a duality, and the UK is moving towards one (including UKIP, which looks like a small band of drunken Trump supporters in a corner, smoking, being rude about the Nigerian cleaner after a long piss up and groping the waitress).
- Abortion - ceased to be an issue in Scotland, Wales and England a long time ago, because we have a reasonable record on women's rights. Northern Ireland is a bit different and a totally different topic. We have an NHS and what's left of a social safety net, because we believe that people who are born should also be looked after. Forcing women to have children they don't want, can't afford and won't look after, and then abandoning them without any social assistance looks ridiculous. If only from a cost-benefit analysis to the public purse in terms of the crime, social disorder and mental health issues these children are likely to grow up with. Only 6% of children in care in the UK go to university as opposed to around 50% of those in families which had planned them. Why are you forcing women to have children they can't cope with? The war on women is over—and women lost This links very closely into the next thing.
God - as Tony Blair said, famously (then converted to Catholicism as soon as he'd stepped down, in an audience with the Pope) we don't do God. We might have the Church of England as our state religion with the Queen as its Head, and we might have Bishops in the House of Lords, but our version of Christianity is rooted in humanism and social justice, not the literal interpretation of the Bible (I am one of these Church of England types - we try and work out what that Samarian Jew with nice values might have done rather than take a literal interpretation of what was written, by men, some few hundred years after the fact with a grain of salt). This might make us crap Christians but it makes for more sensible law making in an essentially secular society with people from all faiths and a majority of people with none. I find the religious nature of the American public discourse quite disturbing. Doesn't this anger people from minority faiths? Love thy neighbour as thyself. We're probably less good at the adultery one. Though Clinton, Spitzer and Weiner might suggest you have the same problem.
I am a fan of the US - not the cultural institution, but the hundreds and hundreds of wonderful Americans I've met, loved, laughed with, argued and debated with over the last 25 years. This is not a diatribe about your country, far from it - it's the nonplussed concern of a cousin who doesn't quite get it. I've been to 30 of the 50 states and have spent over a year there in all. Almost every interaction with a friendly and open American has led to a discussion which has given me much more information and in some cases changed my views (the genie out of the bottle argument on guns has had more impact than anything else).

But your politics make no sense to me as a European and a British woman (who would like to retain ownership over her own body, thanks), I remain perplexed. I'dlove to hear your view of us, too.

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