American Views Abroad

Friday, June 27, 2008

Almost daily there is another anniversary being remembered in the media: the start of the Cold War as well as the Berlin Airlift 60 years ago, Prague Spring and the 68 Student Movement 40 years ago. Spiegel International has a Cold War interview with ex-Chancellor Helmut Schmidt in Both Sides Were in the Grips of Insanity .....Things have not changed.

Schmidt: The greatest strategic challenge in the 21st century is not terrorism but rather the population explosion and the growing cultural conflict between the West and the Islamic part of the world. These problems could produce mass migrations and possibly even wars.,1518,562315,00.html

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The shopping spree can begin. The 2008 economic stimulus check the US Treasury is sending out to citizens arrived in the mail this morning. After deducting the fee it will cost to cash it here plus the exchange rate, there won't be too much left over for luxuries. Perhaps a few good books can now be ordered or a few magazine subscriptions paid for. Just how to go about aiding the US economy here is the tricky part. Perhaps scouring through supermarkets looking for US products might serve the purpose.

Nice populist touch sending citizens money just like that. Of course, if one took the whole sum sent out and decided to do something for the common good, like rebuilding bridges and roads, investing in research and education, providing some sort of health care for all citizens, the money would have been far better spent. Instead each individual gets to pay off debts or at most use it for energy costs. Nothing solved and next to nothing gained.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The long shot candidate, the one who appealed to all citizens and who took all states, not just swing or larger ones seriously, has captured the nomination. It's good someone coming up and out of nowhere-- as far as the political or media landscape is concerned-- gets the prize. The last month spent in a hospital and rehab center and out of touch with the internet, international newspapers and surrounded by other people's illnesses and stories provided a down-to-earth reality check. It was good to have a respite from relentless headlines focusing only on the item of the day, a political horserace. Interestingly too was how being the only American around, others were very careful about not bringing up politics or the war. There seemed to be an unwritten law that separates US policies from individual citizens, particularly if that citizen can converse in their language and present the appearance of adapting to another society. Yet one remains the American or an American, no doubt about it. Somehow part of them, somehow distinct and different.

If nothing else, hospital stays provide ample time to envelope oneself in a few good books. Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson showed how one individual can indeed get out and change the world. His mission of providing schools for girls in faraway places that became pivotal after 9/11 when according to his experiences US officials in various departments in Washington hardly had a clue what was going on in such remote places. This was followed by three very New York novels: The Sorrows of an American by Siri Hustvedt grapples with the past of main character's boyhood times and his father's experience in WW II and the present day in NYC and was at times almost magical in its themes; The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud which gave a social portrayal of pre- 9/11 days in the city and Falling Man by Don DeLillo which is relentless in recalling the days and emotions immediately following that day. It was the most difficult one to read.

There was of course the drama of listening to other people's problems getting over illness and struggling to come to term with life in general. It was also a vast relief knowing health insurance does what it is supposed to do, covering everything required without demanding large sums to be paid out of pocket.

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