Another day, another rant lalala - Tactical Ninja
Sep. 29th, 2010
10:56 am - Another day, another rant lalala
So someone left a comment in my post about the letter regarding the American privilege debacle, that went like this:
"What got me is the fact that Americans were lecturing someone from a country they'd dropped bombs on less than 15 years ago on the subject of white privelege trumping American privelege."
Because yes, that was actually happening. I went back there yesterday for the first time since the whole thing happened. It's up to 770 comments, and a lot of them are doing exactly that. And it got me to wondering about the similarities between the viewpoint of the writer of the list and my own, and how those might have developed given the different histories of the two countries and the different ways our relationships with the US have played out.
Why someone living in Belgrade might have a gripe with the US.
An American visits Belgrade in 2010 and experiences the attitude of residents firsthand.
Two international chess masters, one in the US, the other in Belgrade, correspond briefly about the bombing.
Why New Zealanders might have a beef with the US. Pay particular attention to the bit at the bottom, where the US Assistant Secretary of State for this part of the world, in 2006, stated that the nuclear-free issue (which is still a point of pride for many Kiwis) is 'a relic'. Also note that the US is still attempting to link any free trade agreement between our countries to a repeal of the ban on nuclear ships in our harbours - even though ANZUS is supposedly a military alliance and nothing was overtly done to hurt us economically, the US made it, and is still making it, about trade and economics when NZ didn't back down.
Here is a US viewpoint on the disintegration of ANZUS, written in 1986. Most notable to me in this is the vague threat carried within the words. "We could destroy you, but we won't. You don't matter but we'll make an example of you to save face with those who do matter."
And here's a section of a speech from Murray McCully (Nats MP for East Coast Bays), made on the 20th anniversary of the passing of our nuclear-free legislation:
"There is acceptance on both sides, I believe, that a cost is attached to the maintenance of the legislation. That is a simple fact of life. The presidential directive of 20 years ago that responded to New Zealand’s nuclear-free legislation with restrictions on the access of New Zealand forces to US intelligence, technology, and joint training opportunities remains in force today. New Zealand does not have a free-trade agreement with the United States, unlike our nearest neighbour, Australia, which, 3 years into the implementation of its free-trade agreement, will provide an increasingly powerful magnet for New Zealand capital and skill. There is a cost associated with the New Zealand policy. It is a cost that New Zealanders are, in the significant majority, happy to bear, but it is also a cost they look to their political leaders to minimise through skilful diplomacy, forceful advocacy, and the exercise of good judgment.
So the retention of this legislation that is called iconic, and that is symbolic of our independence of thought and judgment in international affairs, is not in question. What is in question is how we might best deal with the challenges that remain as a consequence of its somewhat tortured history, and how we might best re-establish the relationships, especially in the vital areas of trade and security, that a country with our heritage, our language, our history of shared sacrifice, and our outlook should be able to have with those who were once our allies and who are nominally—but not quite yet in the fullest operational sense—our very, very good friends. That is the unfinished business of the nuclear-free debate.
For those reasons, the National Party has sought to work with the Government to improve our relationship with the United States."
I guess we don't see it as a relic, then. Our relationship with the US is still strained, because we have not changed our minds and capitulated to the demand that we allow their military to do as they please in our country. And whether we like it or not, those of us who have grown up here have this strained relationship as part of our identity (even if we don't know how it started), along with pretty strong views about remaining nuclear free. And the Assistant US Secretary of State's dismissal of our national identity in such a way is not helping improve the relationship, from the perspective of those of us who live here.
Dunno about you, but I'm seeing a similarity between the stuff about the then Yugoslavia and the ANZUS thing. No, we didn't get bombed. Instead we were isolated. No, we didn't have a leader like Milosevic who needed to be stopped (apparently without exploring peaceful options first) - instead we had one that listened to the will of his people and did so in the face of extreme pressure from much more powerful nations. The only thing these two examples really have in common is the arrogance with which the US used its power to make examples of nations that 'don't matter' in order to preserve face with those that do, and the way that has affected the view of the US among local people.
I wonder how many countries have a 'strained' relationship' with the US because of this arrogance?
So is it really surprising that people from countries that have experienced these strained relationships feel that these issues are important to discuss? And is it really surprising that having those issues dismissed or ignored in favour of navel-gazing denial by citizens of the nation that perpertrates it, will make the relationship more strained?
Disclaimer: I am aware that many people in the US disagree with the actions of their government. But you know what, many white people disagree with actions that perpetuate racism, and many men disagree with actions that perpetuate sexism. That doesn't mean they get to deny it exists or deny that they benefit from it. And if they ignore or silence people who talk about it, they're being arseholes. Sorry - I know this stuff is hard to read, and pretty much all of the US people I know are lovely lovely people - but it needs to be understood that every time you make a post asking how autumn is going for everyone, or assume that we just know what you're talking about because 'everyone does', or talk about movies/technology that have been released in the US but nobody else gets to see for another month (if ever), or mention things that you can do there because you have access to more resources than everyone else, or link to a site that doesn't allow access from outside the US, we feel excluded. Because we're not part of the 'everyone' you're thinking of. And the ability to unthinkingly forget that lots of people exist and have lives and customs and seasons different from yours, is a tiny reflection of the same power that makes your nation able to impose its will on less powerful ones, and make examples of those that don't capitulate.
And we see that.
On a similar note, it seems my letter of complaint to the mods of that community will be ignored, despite having followed up with a request for a response - which I did after becoming aware of just how many other kiwis were incensed by that post. The letter hasn't been acknowledged after 48 hours. They are probably busy. I'd like to think they're discussing how to address it, but it's seeming more and more likely that it will simply be allowed to drop. This has a certain irony, no?
I have also made the post in which I ran the letter by you all public, in case someone drops by and wants to see the discussion from our perspective. If you commented in there and fear the anons, please feel free to delete - I will understand. Personally I don't give a crap what the anons think, and reiterate the invitation to have it out here by name instead.
And yes, I will let this subject drop eventually - at the moment I'm exploring (a la beagl) exactly why I have had such a visceral reaction to this whole thing. Because navel gazing is fun! And I've learned a lot about a whole lot of other stuff too, thanks to you all commenting.