SHIFTING TO SYMPATHY

Sorry for the long delay in posting. I'm on vacation in the former Austro-Hungarian empire and I'm quite busy trying to enjoy it.

A few people, all older men, have asked me as we've talked casually about where I'm traveling if there is any resentment of Americans in the short experience I've had. The easy answer is No, nobody seems to care. To the extent that there is any resentment to be felt I think it's directed at the Germans for being obviously so much wealthier than Czechs, Croatians, etc.

The more interesting answer is, it says a ton about the generation gap that anyone from the Cold War era still thinks Europeans are envious of or aspire to be Americans. Yeah, they like our shit music and movies. The dominant sense, though, is that they just feel sorry for us at this point. Nobody's crawling under barbed wire to escape East Germany now, and certainly not to get to a country with zero paid vacation days mandated by law and in which people can work full time and have no ability to see a doctor when they're sick. I feel – and maybe I'm projecting – that people in Southeast Europe have lived through a collapsing, failed regime and they know one when they see one. And they feel sorry for Americans today the same way Americans used to feel sorry for Eastern Europeans under communism. Just replace "God, they don't even have toilet paper! They have to wait in line for bread!" with "God, they're all one paycheck from being homeless, and they can't even go to the hospital!"

America's immigration policy where white Europeans are concerned is an open door now. Nobody resents us – they see others (Japanese, German, etc) who are as wealthy as American tourists, and they see the benefits they enjoy for being EU citizens and consciously choose not to trade it for what they could get in the US, which boils down to lower taxes and not much else. They'll continue to buy our Lil' Pump tracks and our Dwayne Johnson movies, but do they want to be us? No. They think we're nuts. Right now we're the Crazy Friend who you like but want to keep at arms length. We're on our way to being the Train Wreck Friend who you actively ignore when the number comes up on the phone.

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16 thoughts on “SHIFTING TO SYMPATHY”

  • This theme, and variations thereof, are the topics of many transatlantic conversations with friends, family, and business associates. The most common response is to express disbelief at the events of the past three years, because they make absolutely no sense.

    It is a bit like that meth head who is your third cousin. He is poorly educated, has several baby mommas, and is always involved in some multi-level marketing scam. Oh, and he believes that his life is shit because immigrants.

    Family conversations often start with, “You won’t believe what Cousin Donny did….”. That more or less sums up a lot of European conversations. It would be funny, except that the fascists on the other side of the water are encouraged by Cousin Donny.

  • I was living in Edinburgh during the election. I just got a lot of sympathy from random people, my IR lecturer even ending class early because everyone was tired and depressed.

    The only time anyone gave a shit of I was American was so that they could tell me about their trips to the states.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    I just got back from a cribbage tournament in Sacramento, where I told one of my opponents, who asked where I worked, that I work at a large, well-known HMO and as a result have top-notch health care at virtually no cost. I said it was almost like being a Canadian, at which point another player interjected that Canadians have to wait a year to get an appointment, a popular but false right-wing talking point. I pointed out that (a) it’s not true; (b) to the extent it is partially true, it’s because they prioritize emergency care over routine care, while we prioritize rich people over everyone else; and the kicker: (c) I’d rather wait for care than wait to be reincarnated as a rich person. Seems like that wait would be a bit longer. At this point, the idiot pointed out that all you have to do is become rich, and there’s no problem. I didn’t bother to mention that the only way to become rich in America is to be born rich, but I did mention that even rich people can’t afford a life-threatening illness at full retail, to which he replied that there was an article in a recent “Cribbage World” magazine about how it’s not nice to talk about politics during cribbage competition. I figure that means I won. :)

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    @Ben: I read “IR” in your post as “interventional radiology” rather than what you probably meant, “international relations.” :-) Clearly I’ve been working in healthcare IT for too long. :-)

  • "At this point, the idiot pointed out that all you have to do is become rich, and there’s no problem."

    I think if it was that easy everyone would be doing it.

    If hard work equaled riches my Dad would be Bill fucking Gates at this point.

  • PrairieBear says:

    Quite a number of years ago, the grandson of a coworker of my partner met a Spanish man online. They fell for each other and the guy went to Spain to meet in person and they eventually decided to get married. This was legal by then in Spain, but not here. A relative born just before the boomer generation said upon hearing about it, "they'll probably want to come live in the United States." I thought, "why in the hell would they go through getting married and then come live where it's not recognized?" but I explained the situation somewhat more politely. He was very definitely of the "America is the best" mindset but understood once he thought about it. Another person, even older, said something like, "they [Europeans] are always looking for the rich American." I think a lot of people are starting to get it, but a lot of even those are in denial at the same time and it's making everybody crazy.

    "At this point, the idiot pointed out that all you have to do is become rich, and there’s no problem."

    Your idiot interlocutor reminds me of Chuck Grassley telling a town meeting back home that if they wanted health care, just get a federal job like he did. And yes, we sent him back to the Senate again after that.

  • @ Major Kong:

    Well, if your dad was a hard worker and he din't get rich, he musta been a commonist or non-christian…

    A mojrim:

    Comment made by non-liberal, anti-abortion and more than a bit racist brother, about 30 years ago–when I showed him photos of people doing stoop labor on vegetable farms near Watsonville, CA.

    "Anybody thinks mexicans are lazy should spend a few hours working with them in that field.".

    @ Prairie Bear:

    Did Chuck also tell them that he was doing what he could to dismantle that same federal gummint?

    OT:

    Does anyone know why all of a sudden I have to sign in every time I come here?

    There's a reason I don't do a lot of "money" shit online, this is it.

  • Scott Nance says:

    This was my experience travelling in the Baltic republics and Finland last month. When people in former Soviet republics feel sorry for you, things aren't good. And my German friends seem almost embarrassed by what the U.S. has become. I thought everyone would be bashing Trump, but they seem to be afraid of hurting our feelings — sort of like a friend not wanting to point out that your father leers at high school girls. Actually, exactly like that.

  • The history books paint Germany as a fairly sensible place 105 years ago, before it spent three decades being crazy, largely the madness of wealthy, influential people, one wonders what the fuck they were drinking in "Schloss Teufel". Now the United States is hip deep in madness, also the result of wealthy, influential types, nursing grievances about the mouthy help, civil rights, the New Deal and abolition and I wonder what the hell goes on at "Mar-a- gargle"? Or wherever the hell they hang out. A madness unique to the master class.

  • @major kong

    I got my German passport before Trump was elected. Probably one of the best decisions I made.

  • @ Major Kong:

    I'm pretty sure I'm not leaving central NY anytime soon, leaving the country? Not unless some porcelain factory is once again using human bone in the bone china.

    "I got my German passport before Trump was elected. Probably one of the best decisions I made."

    A couple of years ago that might have needed an "/s". Sad!

  • In southern France with what seems like the rest of Europe. They're enjoying three of their six guaranteed weeks off from work with pay. In the process of getting Italian citizenship. Wife's grandfather emigrated and had her dad before he became a US citizen which according to the Italians still makes her Italian. We're doing it to retire early and be covered by Italian healthcare no matter which EU country we land in, most likely France. But even if that doesn't work out we may still do it because it's actually possible to pay for health care out of pocket here. The Italian passport is also to give my three kids options. I have a hard time seeing the US dealing with any of our major systemic problems anytime soon and are more likely to become the US of K as in Koch than anything that would be fair for hard working middle-class families.

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