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09 May 2007

Reflections on America

Gallery snapshot. View gallery of Reflections on America

Since this is normally a collective blog, we try to keep a little distance and objectivity. But with Andy T and Tom still somewhere on the West Coast, taking some well deserved time out, I'm left to contemplate our Stateside experience alone. So be forewarned, this is an Andy S blog entry.

I've brought back much more than just a chest infection from America (too many late nights, smoky casinos and too much talking). The reception we got in Vegas and the people we met in both Vegas and LA gave us all pause for thought.

Before we went, we genuinely thought there was a good chance that we wouldn't last the course at the convention. We thought Americans would flip out; that they'd be outraged. We were going to save the orange jumpsuits for the last day, convinced that it was a one-way ticket out of Vegas. We even worked out escape routes should angry mobs form. When we were greeted by unequivocal support, it confused us. OK, this may be the 'safe' environment of a game fair, but the only extreme reaction we got was wide-eyed enthusiasm.

Then in LA, the common response was that people not only *got* the game, but thanked us for making it. Even those who didn't necessarily agree with our tactics - a Vietnam vet, for example, who'd lost both his sons in Iraq - recognised and respected the fact that we had this fundamental right to criticise and satirise and that we were taking the initiative, rather than waiting for others to do so.

It was a pleasing irony that the country that christened this impossible war, now welcomed its ridicule. We saw none of the hand-wringing and nervous excuse-making we've experienced back home. We're not imagining that there will be no frustrations or obstacles in America, but just the fact that we instantly secured US distribution, while in the UK we've been talking to distributors for 9 months and have got nowhere - it makes you think, maybe America is more open-minded than one might believe.

It was at this point that a Media Lens Alert landed in my inbox, criticising an apparently too forgiving Radio 4 series on 'anti-americanism'. I hesitate to comment on things I haven't personally seen/heard/read, so I'll try and avoid talking about the programme directly, but Media Lens's criticism of it seemed to overstretch the point. I have to emphasise that Media Lens is normally vigorous, objective and logical, but in this alert, I got the sense they were going out of their way to undermine America's democratic foundations. Just because the ideals of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights aren't being universally applied today (or even then) doesn't invalidate the sentiment or ideas contained within them.

We may as well throw out our entire philosophical heritage because the Ancient Greeks had slaves and buggered little boys. When they dismiss as "mainstream convention" the idea that America was "forged as a nation dedicated to the democratic ideals of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all" I couldn't help but wonder if the two Davids (who run Media Lens) had read any Thomas Paine or Thomas Jefferson. Those men, and indeed the documents they influenced and contributed to, are truly inspirational. They are, in every sense, revolutionary, progressive thinkers and have contributed much to the notion of 'rights' and also to democratic theory. And to try and negate these ideals, as Media Lens did, by highlighting the simultaneous oppression of the indigenous American Indians is specious in the extreme. We may as well throw out virtually our entire philosophical and mathematical heritage because the Ancient Greeks had slaves and buggered little boys.

Overall, it felt like Media Lens were worried that to admit any beneficial American contribution to democratic thought would in some way negate their other arguments or detract from the magnitude of America's international crimes against humanity. Not at all. But there is a thing called 'anti-americanism' and there is countless anecdotal evidence of Americans being treated unjustly and even violently when travelling abroad. The sins of a government are being visited upon its population and demonising an entire group - especially one as large and diverse as America - is both pointless and dangerous.

Just remember, both the UK and Australia are just as complicit in America's wars. We destroy the environment with equal carelessness (in fact, Australia is reckoned to have the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions of any country in the world). No matter how unilaterally America likes to think it can act, the Iraq war would not have been possible without any international support. We also sell arms to known dictators. We also aid in the illegal transportation of terror suspects. We also detain people without trial. We also practise and endorse the use of both physical and mental torture. But when was the last time you saw a UK or Australian citizen come in for the same flack as Americans regularly get?

I hope that Media Lens - post-eagerness to criticise what America stands for - comes to admit that anti-Americanism does exist and that it's not deserved on an individual level.

The people we met and talked to - and became instant friends with - were uncritical, open-minded and believed passionately in those fundamental rights and ideas which Media Lens mocks as "mainstream convention".

For me, our trip really brought home the follies of assumption and prejudice. How could 250 million people be similar in any way beyond the fact they all live within the same borders? Everyone's an individual and they deserve to be treated and judged on that basis.

 

Posted by TerrorBull Games on 9 May 2007 - 0 comments

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