Thursday, October 14, 2004

I'm back in Barcelona and Iberian Notes is ready to come back full-blast. Everything sure is small here. And the streets are really full of people.

The big stink around here is utterly symbolic. October 12 is Spain's national holiday, the Día de la Hispanidad, commemorating of course Columbus´s first voyage. Every year the Army has a parade because it´s also Armed Forces Day. The more politically correct among us like to call it "el Pilar", since October 12 is also the day of Our Lady of the Pillar, Aragon´s patron.

So, anyway, this year they rather pointedly decided not to invite the Americans to participate in the parade, as they had done the past two years. The Americans rather pointedly had the ambassador blow off both the parade and the King´s reception afterwards. La Vanguardia made a very big deal of this, from the rather surprising perspective that the Zapatero regime needs to be somewhat more solicitous of the US government.

Meanwhile, somebody had the geniusy idea that they would invite both a Spanish member of the Leclerc division, the allegedly French military formation that allegedly captured Paris in 1944--there were a good few Spanish Republican refugees in France, and some of them joined up with Allied forces as they passed through--and a member of the División Azúl, the allegedly volunteer force of 18,000 Spaniards that fought as part of the German Army against the Soviets on the Eastern Front. Both. At the same time. Brilliant plan. That'll prevent controversy.

Pasqual Maragall showed up at the parade for the first time for a Catalan prime minister. Jordi Pujol had always blown it off. The Republican Left, the Communists, and Convergence and Union all had a great time booing and hissing Maragall for attending such a show of support for the evil rotten Spanish army that so brutally oppresses us all.

Foreign minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos and party bigwigs José Montilla and Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba threw a snit about the American ambassador´s absence from the big fiesta. They looked like third-graders.

The problem here is, when you get right down to it, symbolism such as this shouldn't really mean a crap. The best way to deal with such a thing is to do the minimum necessary without standing out either for your enthusiasm or your indifference. Somebody has a ceremony? Show up, smile for the photographers, shake hands, go home, and jack off. Don´t make a big deal about it. It´s that simple.

The Vangua is not escatimating on the coverage of the US elections. Today there´s a story titled "Xenophobia against the Hispanic invasion" from Arizona--this is a drum that Spanish journalists love to beat on, claiming that Hispanics are mistreated in the US. They've got an op-ed piece by one Jeremiah Purdy, who if my memory is correct is a former child prodigy who wrote a book about how we were all too ironic and didn't take things seriously enough, calling Bush a poophead. (If we don't elect Kerry, "the country will be drawn toward an ultraconservative society that, we must fear, will be like Brazil: divided, unequal, and frightened.") Andy Robinson, of course, has dredged up a weirdo who claims he´s an ex-porn addict who´s now leading Jesusheads for Bush or something and is using him as an example of how Americans are all a bunch of religious nuts, Andy´s pet theme. Andy, this technique is called "pointing out the extreme example and framing it as the norm".

Yesterday they dug up James K. Galbraith, whoever he is, with a bad economics piece about how the Federal Reserve is wrong when it predicts a 2004 economic growth rate of about 4% for 2005, it's all Bush's fault, and Kerry and Edwards should win the election and then "sit down at a table with the real leaders of business and labor in order to seriously examine the real situation we're in and the policies we should adopt." No, I think it would be better to sit down around an oil drum with a fire lit inside it with the homeless guys down by the waterfront and seriously examine the real situation we´re in and then shake down everyone for a quarter apiece to get another pint of Mad Dog. Eusebio Val had a piece on how the Indians are discriminated against, and there was a story on Bruce Springsteen and "Rock My Head" or whatever it´s called.

Oh, yeah, the current stink involving gays is that some Italian guy who's up for European Commissioner said that homosexuality was a sin, so there was a big foo-faw. This gentleman´s name? Rocco Buttiglione. Sounds like Sylvester Stallone´s character´s name in "Party at Kitty and Stud´s". Then some guy named Mirko Tremaglia, who sounds like the actor who plays the dude who always carries the ammo until he´s the first of the good guy's squad who gets blown away in a Jean Claude Van Damme flick, said that it was too bad the majority of Europeans are "culattoni", which is apparently Italian for "rump rangers". The Perenially Indignant are, of course, all indignant, and we must admit that Mirko might have gone a bit too far when he claimed that the EU is dominated by the homosexual lobby. (Insert Greek Army joke here.)

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