Sunday, January 04, 2004

Here's some more La Vanguardia (from Monday, December 29) red meat for all you right-thinking folks out there. The author is Lorenzo Gomis and the title is "Imitating Bush". I think it's supposed to be satirical, although it's hard to tell sometimes.

I don't know whether to confess. I, sometimes, imitate Bush. I don't do it secretly, behind closed doors. I do it in the street whenever I remember to. I don't know whether anyone notices, but I must admit it gives me a certain satisfaction. Then I can look at the horizon without fear. I feel optimistic. I advance with no fright, convinced that what I'm going to do is right, that it's good for the world, although maybe not everyone recognizes it.

My imitation, I must say quickly, is not political. I don't like Bush's politics. And this isn't new. I went out on the street with many neighbors, probably with many readers too, in order to say that we didn't think it was right to go to war against Saddam Hussein without even a majority on the UN Security Council. There were many of us of all kinds saying no to that war. I even saw a couple of professor friends of mine floating among the crowd, each one on his own.

We managed to get Bush the elder to speak about Barcelona. The Bush family didn't miss the fact that there was a lot of skepticism here about what they said about Saddam having arms of mass destruction and that in three quarters of an hour they could blast us with them if we didn't get thim first. He was able to convince such important statesmen as Blair and Aznar and tell them anecdotes in the Azores, but he didn't convince thousands and thousands of us Barcelonese. Me among them.

So I am anything but a fan. I don't like it, either, that he doesn't want to sign the Kyoto protocol, or that ke keeps world trade so unbalanced on his side, demanding that others open their markets and maintaining barriers on his own part.

Why do I imitate him, then? I discovered Bush's secret when he reappeared after September 11th. He wasn't in the White House. He wasn't at his ranch in Texas. No one really knew where he was. Maybe in a barracks or in a camp, well-protected and looking at maps. And, suddenly, he reappeared.

I watched him on the screen to see if his face said anything to me. And I saw him marching gracefully, elegantly, confidently. He stuck his chest out. As he stuck his chest out, he pulled his rump in. He breathed. He looked up discreetly. And above all he walked. He set his pace solemnly, feet straight forward, not too slow, moving his arms firmly, his elbows a little out from his torso. He saw some admirers off to the right and waved to them with his arm, moving his fingers happily. Lifting his arm allowed to stick his chest even farther out, looking at the cameras. Maybe it was the cameras, or the cameramen, who he was waving at. He smiled at the world that watched him in fear. Bush's gait gave out so much confidence!

Since then, every time I see him on the screen, and he's on it a lot, I observe him. He sticks his chest out. He walks martially. He waves at the people whom he always sees, looking off to the right. He smiles, almost grins. As he smiled, not long ago, on Thanksgiving Day, at Baghdad airport, when he said he was looking for some hot food. Then he held up, like a flag, a plastic turkey, and he handed out personally a little real meat to two or three trusted soldiers who were near him, admiring the apparition.

His politics might be bad, but his gait inspires confidence. It fills you with security in him. And I, hearing people say I am beginning to walk bent over*, with my back inclined and my head a little bent, thought: What if I imitate Bush? I haven't achieved anything in particular, I fear. I can't stick out my chest like him, but I come close, I stand up taller, move my arms, mark a pace. And with such small results, I already note that I breathe better, I see that the world is an agreeable place, I feel optimistic, I think I will do something to benefit other people very soon.

I owe all of this, you see, to the president of the United States, who, although his policies are bad and dangerous and scorns world authority and the smaller countries, knows how to advance, walking around the world in an optimistic manner. There is nobody who you can't learn something useful from. It's a question of observing and finding the good side, as photographers do.

I, like millions and millions of human beings without an American passport, would like to have a vote in the United States when it's time to elect the President. It is a democratic principle that those who are affected by the decisions of an authority should have a voice and a vote at the time it is elected. Even though it were a few tenths or hundreds of the vote. Then I promise I will not vote for Bush. But that doesn't mean that walking is not stimulating, awakening, imitable. Check out those who are told they walk bent over, shrunken, indecisively. This makes them much older. Then I murmur the mantra. The mantra is Bush. And I stand up taller. You can learn something from everybody.

Just a few comments: 1) I don't think anyone in the Bush family particularly cares what a bunch of political illiterates do on the streets of Barcelona. 2) We had a 14-0 majority on the Security Council, and, anyway, who cares what the Security Council thinks? The only times we ever had their approval for anything we did were Korea, Gulf War I, and the Balkans. I don't think anybody else ever bothered to get UN authorization before invading his neighbors. 3) In 1997 the US Senate voted 95-0 not to ratify the Kyoto treaty. (Thank God.) That's what pretty much put the kibosh on that one, not anything Bush ever did. 4) I agree with Mr. Gomis on the American hypocrisy regarding both free trade and government subsidies to producers. I just read somewhere that the US, EU, and Japan spend $230 billion of taxpayers' and consumers' money per year on ag subsidies. That's repulsive. I do commend Bush on ending the "Steel War". Which he himself started. 5) Note that Mr. Gomis perpetuates the plastic turkey meme yet again.

Also note the underriding themes: Bush has style but no substance. He is foolishly optimistic. These are common European ideas about Americans in general: poorly educated, ignorant, arrogant, naive, innocent, superficial, blindly Christian. Useful stereotype for Americans to use regarding leftist Europeans: poorly educated, ignorant, arrogant, corrupt, cynical, paranoid, blindly Gnostic. Not to mention dishonest. And lousy writers, especially if they're Spanish. Or, for that matter, Catalan.

The comment about voting in American elections made by Mr. Gomis is a common European braincramp. Most of what is decided in American elections are, of course, domestic matters. What Europeans might know about that is nothing. And why should anyone who holds no loyalty--and pays no taxes--to the US be able to vote in a US election? Also, if we let you vote in our elections, does that mean we get to vote in yours? Finally, of course, the "democratic principle" cited by Mr. Gomis is a principle that operates WITHIN independent states, not AMONG them. I don't recall the Athenians giving the vote to the Spartans.

*According to my Larousse Spanish-English dictionary, a pretty good paperback edition, the verb "to bend over" is "encorvarse". Mr. Gomis spells the past participle "encorbado". This is a major spelling error. Mr. Gomis is an idjit.

Interestingly, in US high schools, if I remember correctly, misspelled words were penalized but didn't mean instant death from a teacher. Punctuation, however, was major, and if you had a run-on sentence it was all over. I think this is because English spelling is damnably difficult, while punctuation follows a set of rules that can be memorized. Even English teachers occasionally make spelling mistakes, but they had their punctuation rules down. In Spain the emphasis seems to be the other way around; Spanish spelling is very regular (what some erroneously call "phonetic") with only a few exceptions, so if you make a mistake like Mr. Gomis did, it means you're ign'rant. Native Spanish teachers kill their students for spelling errors, but don't do so for punctuation mistakes. This is why every goddamn Spanish kid insists on putting a comma after the subject of a semi-longish sentence because he doesn't know the difference between a defining clause and a hole in the ground.

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