Friday, May 30, 2008

Only in America

There are times when I’m sure that America has gone absolutely insane. When I lived there, ordinary people would see something silly in the news, shake their heads, chuckle, and say, “only in America!” Now, that phrase seems to be attached mainly to truly bizarre American behaviour. Two bits from the recent news:

Dunkin’ for Terrorists

Celebrity TV cook Rachael Ray was at the centre of a right wing attack when she appeared in an online ad for Dunkin’ Donuts wearing a scarf that the frothing right said implied support for terrorists. (cue rolled eyes)

The main perpetrator was far-right commentator Michelle Malkin who complained that the scarf looked similar to the kaffiyeh, a traditional scarf worn by Palestinian men. According to America’s CBS News, Malkin wrote that the scarf “has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad. Popularized by Yasser Arafat and a regular adornment of Muslim terrorists appearing in beheading and hostage-taking videos, the apparel has been mainstreamed by both ignorant (and not-so-ignorant) fashion designers, celebrities, and left-wing icons.” (cue to roll eyes again).

I’ve been blessed by not ever having to endure more than a minute or two of Malkin’s spewing, but I’ve read plenty of things she’s said, and she’s often beyond the extremes of extremism. So I could easily dismiss her complaint as the delusional ravings of an attention-seeking far, far-right nutcase.

However, Dunkin’ Donuts was so worried about it that they immediately caved and pulled the ad campaign. From a business perspective, they probably had no choice, but this shows how a small number of people at the extreme fringes of society can dictate what happens in America. “Left wing media bias”? Hah! The right wing—the far-right in particular—always gets its way—always.

Shootin’ fer Jesus

Meanwhile, BBC News reported last week that a car dealer in Missouri is giving away a free handgun with every vehicle sold. The dealer had only two buyers pick a petrol voucher instead, and for the rest he recommended a gun that, he said, was "a nice little handgun that fits in your pocket". (cue dropped jaw)

The car dealer’s motivation? "We did it because of Barack Obama.” Then, without a hint of irony, he went on: "He said all those people in the Midwest, you've got to have compassion for them because they're clinging to their guns and their Bibles. I found that quite offensive. We all go to church on Sunday and we all carry guns."

We all know that most Americans would find these two people to be, at best, a little odd or even downright crazy. But when people overseas hear about things like this, they have no idea that it’s not common. They see the far-right dictating everything and gun nuts looking to promote their guns at every opportunity. Add that to the disaster of the Bush-Cheney regime, and is it any wonder that America is no longer respected in the world?

In November, Americans have a chance to get rid of the cabal that’s been running America, and take back the nation from the far right ideologues. Whether they do or not will determine whether the phrase “only in America” will be attached only to the merely odd or to the truly insane.

Update 31/05/08: The Dunkin’ Donuts story was added to the New Zealand Herald’s website, which published a story from the Independent. Interestingly, this version claims the campaign started among wingnut blogs. Obviously wingnut blogs frothed mightily over this story, but this is the only place I saw this version of events reported. In any case, it just goes to show how this is the sort of thing that people outside the US see, which is why foreigners have a distorted view of America. It is distorted, isn't it?

Once again, thanks to fellow blogger Dawn for sending me stories she knew I’d have something to say about!

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