Monday, November 06, 2006

On the first international page of today's edition of La Vanguardia, Beirut correspondent Tikrit Tommy Alcoverro calls Saddam "the overthrown (derrocado) president of Iraq" rather than, say, "ex-dictator," which would seem a little more neutral to me. Tikrit Tommy goes on to play up wacky conspiracy theories that claim that the death sentence was timed to influence the US midterm elections. Quote: "Since the beginning of this controversial trial, it has been reiterated (se ha insistido) that political motivations are behind it, and that it has not conformed to correct procedure."

Speaking of the US elections, the latest polls have the Republicans closing the overall vote gap with the Democrats.

Zap went to Montevideo for the Ibero-American summit meeting and things didn't go too well. Supposedly King Juan Carlos is going to "facilitate" talks between Argentina and Uruguay, who are not getting along particularly well. Sounds like a big mistake to me--the King can only lose prestige. Zap agreed to cut back interest payments on Argentina's €800 million debt to Spain. Evo Morales called Zap a hypocrite on immigration, which he is, and Alvaro Uribe dressed Zap down for making a stupid comment comparing the alleged threat to the environment to terrorism. The US border fences with Mexico were roundly condemned; of course Spain has border fences up at the Ceuta and Melilla land frontiers with Morocco, at which thousands of desperate African illegal immigrants are piled up trying to get across somehow.

Around here there have been repeated complaints about strict airline security. Eusebio Val in Washington points out a difference between Spaniards and Americans:

The stoicism and patience with which, in general, American passengers behave when faced with the discomforts of airports, are surprising: long lines at the checkpoints, taking off shoes and jackets, taking computers out of their cases, and other operations which, when in a hurry, can become very irritating. It is very unusual for someone to protest or raise his voice because he feels mistreated or loses his nerves.

So far, so good. Note the comparison Val makes with the way Spaniards behave in such situations.

This acceptance is possibly due to the fact that here there is more respect for authority--and fear of punishment--than in countries with a Latin tradition, along with greater acceptance of civic responsibility in that the antiterrorist struggle demands sacrifices from everyone. Perhaps pragmatism also has an influence: why argue if it doesn't change anything?

I'll agree with the "respect for authority," because I believe most Americans respect authority because they feel that authority is legitimate, that authority is responsive to their concerns and listens to their voices. The situation is not the same in Latin countries, especially not in countries that had dictatorial governments well within living memory. I don't think fear of punishment is a factor--they can't put you in jail for getting pissed off and acting like a jerk. Good manners is a factor, and so is other people's opinion; there's an unwritten American law that says you don't bother strangers with your problems, you suck it up and deal with it. Also, if you lose your temper and start acting like a three-year-old, everyone will think you're a dick, and most people don't want to be thought of as dicks.

Americans' experience in traveling, their knowledge of weather problems and air traffic saturation, make them very understanding in situations that would cause a collective riot in other latitudes. Instead of protesting noisily, they choose to rapidly find a solution to their individual problem.

I think that's called "maturity."

I remember Val writing something on this subject a couple of years ago. Val's sympathy for the individual American is a bit unusual among Spanish correspondents.

Just to clear up a misunderstanding that some people had: A former FC Barcelona soccer player named Sergi Lopez committed suicide on Saturday by throwing himself under a train in his hometown of Granollers. Lopez apparently had serious marital problems, and had recently left his wife in Argentina and returned to Spain. He is the older brother of Gerard Lopez, former Barça and Valencia player currently with Monaco.

Lopez was not a particularly well-known player, participating in some twenty matches with Barça's first team between about 1989-91. I didn't remember who he was when I heard the story, and had to be reminded.

Anyway, though, the player who killed himself is NOT the much-better-known Sergi Barjuan, known footballistically simply as "Sergi," a fine left fullback for Barça and then Atletico de Madrid, and a regular on Spain's national team, between about 1992-2002.

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