They’re all out to get you…
On the possibility that I may be heading over to the US in a week or so I started looking into the new requirements for UK visitors. Luckily the visa waiver program is still in place, meaning we can go over for up to three months without a visa – something that would otherwise cost us a fair few pennies – but now we get to be fingerprinted and photographed for ‘added security’. Sigh.
Over the past few months I’ve come to realise that I miss living in New York a lot. Melbourne, Australia is a great town – but there’s something about Williamsburg, Brooklyn that still has first place in my heart. Of course, all of this emotional attachment is based on my time in the city pre-9/11 and a lot has changed since then by all accounts. People throughout America are now very aware that some people around the world don’t like them a lot as a county, in fact to some people the fact that the rest of the world a) exists and b) would attack them has come as a nasty shock. In response America has unsurprisingly decided the old saw of “Good fences make good neighbours” is the way forward, as opposed to the more New Testament “turn the other cheek”. Increasingly the place that once prided itself on being “the land of the free” is now the scene of increasing personal rights intrusions, all in the name of safety and pushed forward on a strong current of fear – the same fear that Michael Moore believes big business relies on to keep us behaving in a consumer frenzy and hence filling the rich folks coffers even more.
Conversely a lot more people around the world no longer believe America is a “good” superpower. The old days of the Cold War, with its easily defined good and bad guys are long gone – a much more ambiguous threat exists. It was sad when I was travelling that whenever you found out someone was American the conversation would immediately turn to the obvious topics. Sad because these Americans are the ones who have actually made an effort to find out for themselves about the world, rather than believing what the fear fuelled media would have them believe. They’ve chosen to make their own opinions and good for them. People often find they are the same as other people all round the world when not involved in a mass frenzy of angry mob nature. A one to one meeting that Israel’s current efforts to build a wall will help prevent, and in my view cause more suffering between those two nations.
So where does that leave Williamsburg? It’s still in the same place in my heart (and on the map) that it ever was, and I’m going to enjoy going back to visit when I get the chance. However I believe that I can’t live there again until America has a new, less fearful and commerce driven outlook on the world – whether that involves just voting against President Bush or something else I don’t know. Sad but true. Now I just hope they let me into the country after saying all that!
As a quick footnote here.. I noticed something about a presidential brief the other day from Bush about the current instability in Iraq. As I half watched I saw that Bush’s mannerisms have become increasingly like our own Tony Blair’s! The open necked shirt in a jacket, the hand movements, the pauses and turning of the head slightly to one side… Very strange indeed.