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Sun Jul 15, 2018, 03:38 PM

A trip to Europe convinced me the USA is ill

Returning from a vacation in Spain with my son, I had the profound impression that this country is ill.

In Barcelona, Girona and the small seaside town of Cataqués I had dozens of encounters with Spaniards (and Catalans) that were marked by a kind of sweetness in the speech patterns that I almost found incomprehensible. Even the police went out of their way to be helpful, despite my lack of reasonable Spanish.

Now I know that Spain has a high rate of unemployment and cops have motivated a wide array of protests from the Catalan independence movement. But during the entire two weeks in Spain I rarely heard signs of distress such as sirens or raised voices. Frankly, the only real disturbance was that of me and my son squabbling over his (distracting) computer game. The people of Spain had every right to roll their eyes or shout "shut up, stupid Americans, don't bring your technology problems and your abysmal record of teaching manners to your children." But they politely endured us. Interestingly, the profusion of "Llibertad" banners could be called "distressing" but the effect for me was the opposite. Those cloth banners were putting the police and unscrupulous politicians on notice that democracy, not fascism, has the upper hand. This is why I often place handwritten signs across my bumper to challenge the status quo and I encourage every DU member to do the same. It would probably be catalytic across the country. (Handmade, across the entire bumper, beats printed stickers).

NOTE: Many Europeans live in apartments with railings which are perfect for cloth banners. In the US we virtually live in our cars so the bumper is the medium, paraphrasing Marshall McLuhan.

It was on the return that I experienced the greatest sense of what has happened to our country. My very first encounter with a US citizen was with a border guard who was checking passports and those "declaration" cards we had to fill out. I had filled out the card for both me and my son – which we had been told to do (nicely) by a Norwegian stewardess. As I leaned forward to hand over the card, this guard barked "step back!" as if I were a criminal. After managing to get through that hostile welcoming committee – and still shaking – we passed posters with pictures of armed policemen (with machine guns) and a statement along the lines of "if you see something, say something." The usual SS propaganda wihout a hint of concern for how our approach to security is still terrorizing citizens long after 9/11 . While waiting for our bags a large sign could be seen with a list of horrors you could be arrested for. Welcome to America.

But the final straw was on the ride home. I could swallow, grugingly, the $240 pricetag for parking and the almost pre-industrial and supremely ugly parking systems, but nothing but a bottle of whiskey could medicate me for what followed. Every few miles I saw police cars with strobe lights. They lit up the night sky as if the US were a war zone. Some were due to crashes (which seems insane enough). Some were for speeding perhaps. A plethora of overdue infrastructure work might have employed the cop cars as safety lights, effectively militarizing a civilian operation. But the sheer number of cop cars and the intensity of their strobes was astounding. I don't recall seeing – or hearing – a single stroboscopic display of police power like that anywhere in Spain – and Catalonia was going through a virtual revolution.

These barking security guards, gun-flashing security posters, and insidious over-amped police cars (everywhere), is a sign of national illness. I would stake my life on it. I think the Europeans know this. The Norwegian Air flight included many films that addressed fascism, obliquely and otherwise: 3 Billboards, The Shape of Water, etc.

If I were an alien zoologist studying this region of planet Earth, I might easily conclude that the United States is diseased.

People, we must vote like never before on November 6, but we must CONTINUE to change the culture wherever we can. If nobody in the police headquarters says a peep about whether the order of insanely fascist strobe lights, or sports car police vehicles with aggressive lettering is really necessary, the technology is ordered and employed. If no one on the airport security board questions the appropriateness of posters that makes our country look like a militarized shithole, then creeping fascism is enabled.

A culture dedicated to education and moderation doesn't order strobes like that. This is where US "pragmatism" falls apart. Yes the strobes might prevent an accident or two, but I have nearly had accidents due to the same blinding lights. And the psychological effects are withering. The delicate threads of manners, design and culture can add up to a "city on a hill" – or a fascist dump where a grotesque number of citizens are incarcerated – or shot to death – for standing up to unnecessary police power.

So vote we must. And we must come together in each others homes, break bread, drink wine (or beer), and support each other and the country. We have no choice. We must become a thoughful, caring, cultured country or this great experiment in democracy dies. Each one of us must act as cellular antidotes.


ONCE MORE:

So Democrats unite! We must get out the vote precisely BECAUSE our lives are becoming depressing and too many are resorting to opiods to become, in the words of the great Pink Floyd, "comfortably numb."

Resist these asinine, psychopathic Russians and their sick Republican enablers. Vote in November. Get your neighbors to the polls. Encourage every young person you meet to register as a Democrat. And change the culture – and the infrastructure – a little bit every day.




34 replies, 5782 views

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Reply A trip to Europe convinced me the USA is ill (Original post)
DemocracyMouse Jul 2018 OP
ProudMNDemocrat Jul 2018 #1
rickford66 Jul 2018 #15
MyOwnPeace Jul 2018 #2
Pachamama Jul 2018 #3
OliverQ Jul 2018 #4
LisaM Jul 2018 #5
FakeNoose Jul 2018 #11
oasis Jul 2018 #6
bronxiteforever Jul 2018 #7
DemocracyMouse Jul 2018 #23
sinkingfeeling Jul 2018 #8
bucolic_frolic Jul 2018 #9
yonder Jul 2018 #10
Delphinus Jul 2018 #12
DemocracyMouse Jul 2018 #25
spooky3 Jul 2018 #13
DemocracyMouse Jul 2018 #26
BlueJac Jul 2018 #14
rickford66 Jul 2018 #16
pangaia Jul 2018 #18
elmac Jul 2018 #17
DemocracyMouse Jul 2018 #27
miyazaki Jul 2018 #19
DFW Jul 2018 #20
renate Jul 2018 #21
Nay Jul 2018 #22
oberliner Jul 2018 #24
DemocracyMouse Jul 2018 #28
oberliner Jul 2018 #29
jberryhill Jul 2018 #30
melm00se Jul 2018 #31
DFW Jul 2018 #34
RobinA Jul 2018 #32
NewJeffCT Jul 2018 #33

Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 03:47 PM

1. I will be in Australia and New Zealand during the Mid Term election.....



And I will be talking with the people there about how they view Trump. I am sure I will not get good opinions back, as I will explain I am embarrassed for this country in electing such a dangerous man who has the power to destroy this world.

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Response to ProudMNDemocrat (Reply #1)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 05:52 PM

15. They are better informed than Trump's base.

Just the other day I had a long political conversation with my SIL in the North Island. She's not a real political person but knew quite a bit. The only thing that surprised me was she didn't know about the "Baby Blimp", so I sent her a link. Enjoy your trip down under.

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 03:51 PM

2. You were lucky...........

You got into the country with your son.

Back here in the homeland, others have not been so fortunate.

Yes, we do have a problem.

GET OUT THE VOTE!!!!!!

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 03:54 PM

3. America isn't ill - but there are many in America who are....

But I get your analogy.....If the United States a living breathing Organism, we are currently ill and we need to fight it like one would fight Cancer or a bacterial infection so that the organism can be healthy again....

Or else the organism, which in this case is the United States and our Constitution and Democracy, will be destroyed and perish.

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 03:56 PM

4. I'm really upset that I have no way to move to another country (ideally Europe).

 

I prefer European culture, but sadly I never went into a career field that has the means to transfer overseas.

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 04:03 PM

5. I had the same experience in Ireland.

Last edited Sun Jul 15, 2018, 05:08 PM - Edit history (1)

The warm people, the casual conversation, the lack of people with ear buds, no sirens. Blissful. Oh, and no paper coffee cups in everyone's hands. I realized later I had only drunk coffee and tea out of real mugs the whole time....

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Response to LisaM (Reply #5)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 05:09 PM

11. I've been to Germany 7 or 8 times since 1990

Every visit has been a wonderful experience, and I'd say the German people are mostly how you describe the Irish. But I only notice it when returning to the US and seeing how different we are now. Somehow we veered off the normal path and it became noticeable after 9/11. However the younger generation acts like this is "normal" behavior, because it's all they've ever known.

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 04:10 PM

6. Handwritten bumper stickers...yes. Resist....yes. Vote...most definitely.

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 04:24 PM

7. Very moving. Kick and recommend.

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Response to bronxiteforever (Reply #7)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 11:48 PM

23. Thank you!

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 04:40 PM

8. Ever notice how quiet foreign airports are? No TVs with constant "news" and

ads. Of course their news is done in a calm, professional manner, making ours sound like carnival barkers.

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 04:58 PM

9. Russpublicans

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 05:00 PM

10. Thanks for your post

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 05:11 PM

12. This is a telling story.

And I agree and can relate.

It's been a few years, so I can't recall everything in the same way that you relate here, but my husband and I traveled to England and enjoyed ourselves immensely. The contrast between landing in England and landing in Chicago was stark and very unsettling - and this was before the tangerine wankmaggot (am I remembering the sign correctly?) was even on the horizon.

I am grateful for your story - thank you.

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Response to Delphinus (Reply #12)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 11:53 PM

25. Your Ireland experience also very revealing. We, as Democrats, have dropped the ball on our culture.

But we must, and will, do better. The party of progess always learns and evolves.

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 05:12 PM

13. Well said. The customs and border issue struck a chord for me.

There’s no need for condescending coldness but that is what employees apparently are trained to convey to weary travelers.

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Response to spooky3 (Reply #13)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 11:54 PM

26. I'd like to see the memos! They must be trained, like ourpolice forces, to treat everyone like shit

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 05:18 PM

14. very good post, TY

VOTE! & RESIST!

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 05:56 PM

16. Trump's base consists of people that haven't been overseas.

Maybe wartime Vietnam but no where experiencing real life.

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Response to rickford66 (Reply #16)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 06:31 PM

18. Many of them are yet to experience paved roads, or another state - much less another country

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 06:03 PM

17. The USA is in a coma

 

that it may not wake up from unless drastic action is taken. The way things are going I'm not expecting elections to take care of the problem. There must be a plan B. The fascists plan B was to scare president Obama, threaten him, if he interfered in the election by making Russia cyber war public. We need to play dirty, we need to be raise all kinds of hell on all fronts. Get ready!!!

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Response to elmac (Reply #17)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 11:56 PM

27. Are you posting any signs?

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 06:44 PM

19. The big culture shock for me is coming back to the USA

It hits you like a brick after being away for some meaningful amount of time.

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 06:58 PM

20. My wife and I just got to the States. She is German, and we live there, for those who don't know

Last edited Sun Jul 15, 2018, 08:33 PM - Edit history (1)

Also, for the record, I used to live in Barcelona, and speak Catalan, as well as Castilian

Though we have a great many sick people, I wouldn't (yet) call the whole country sick. It seems more to me that the USA is on autopilot right now. As our government agencies are all either crippled (State) or the victims of a downright hostile takeover (EPA), there are very few of them that are functioning as they should.

However, let me relate what happened to us when we landed back in the USA two days ago.

We got off the plane, and though the lines were long, the Boston CBP had greatly streamlined their procedure, and we sailed through. The CPB officer was a sensible, no nonsense guy who only asked if my wife lived in the USA. I said no, and that we both lived in Germany. He then asked how long we were staying. I said I would be here six weeks, and she would be here four weeks. He was cool with that, took our photo thingies and sent us to baggage claim. We walked though the final customs check right out to the taxi to the hotel.

I compare this to a recent landing I had back home in Düsseldorf. I know most of the customs guys and women there, but a new one (not especially young, so probably a transfer) stopped me and asked in a nasty tone, and in English, what was the purpose of my visit to Germany. I responded, also in English, that I had a very good reason for my visit, since I lived there. He then reprimanded me, saying that if I lived there, then I must be able to speak German. I responded that I spoke fluent German. He then switched to German and asked why I didn't speak German from the beginning. I replied that he was the one who had started speaking in English, and it wasn't my place to tell German customs officers what language to use. This stumped him for a moment, but he wasn't ready to give up. He then asked if I had any cash on me. I said of course I had cash on me and emptied my pants pockets of the 150 or so euros in there, noting that Düsseldorf taxi drivers did not transport people for free. THEN he gave up. Stupid jerk, I almost asked him if he trained in Atlanta, or something.

I have never gone up to Cadaqués, so I can't speak from experience there, and while all of my Catalan friends are for LLibertat, none of them are for separation from the rest of Spain. Wise move--who wants to start all over with entry into the EU, the Euro and being cut off from the rest of Europe while the process is completed?

Europe is a place where one can live, but the longer you get involved with their bureaucracy, the more you see that it can be just as idiotic as ours.

It's the social things that get me. Religion is no longer tossed in your face in Europe, even in Spain (as it was when I lived there), and the fascist culture that prevailed when I lived there has gone. Cops are trained not to use weapons except as a last resort, not first resort. What got us in the States to THAT stage, I have no clue, but there we are. There are some countries in Europe, notably France, where many police forces and brigades are so corrupt, they open participate in armed robberies and don't care who knows it. You choose where you live to the extent you can, but no place is a complete and total paradise.

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Response to DFW (Reply #20)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 07:09 PM

21. Thank you very much for that reality check

I tend to idealize life in European countries, especially in the Baltic ones. I know no place is actually perfect or anywhere close to perfect, but it reinforces that understanding to hear it from someone with inside knowledge. Thank you!!

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 08:16 PM

22. We go into shock every time we come back from Canada. It's just appalling.

When we GO to Canada, we breathe a sigh of relief.

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Sun Jul 15, 2018, 11:52 PM

24. What airport?

 

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Response to oberliner (Reply #24)

Mon Jul 16, 2018, 12:01 AM

28. Newark NJ

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Reply #28)

Mon Jul 16, 2018, 01:04 AM

29. That parking fee is outrageous

 

Have you ever tried to get there via NJ Transit? I know that's no picnic, but it's pretty cheap.

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2018, 02:29 AM

30. When was the last time you saw a guard with an automatic rifle at an airport?

 

As one minor counterpoint to that, I'm in France for the month, and the presence of heavily armed military around public gatherings and cultural sites is hard to miss.

Unlike the US, where the military is generally not used for domestic purposes, these are uniformed soldiers with automatic rifles, and not the regular gendarmerie.

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #30)

Mon Jul 16, 2018, 08:00 AM

31. Really?

When I traveled in Europe in the 80's and early 90's, soldiers in airports with automatic weapons were common place.

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Response to jberryhill (Reply #30)

Mon Jul 16, 2018, 11:18 AM

34. You now see that most everywhere in Europe

In Germany, it's not the military, but special Police forces, trained in the use of automatic weapons. Belgium has military all over Brussels, including all train stations and airports and popular tourist destinations. It's a hell of a thing to ask of your own military. If there is a terrorist attack on a crowded tourist destination, and you are armed with a machine gun, you must know that if you use it, you are going to kill some innocents along with the bad guys. Even Austria and Switzerland have machine guns at the airports, as does Spain.

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2018, 08:34 AM

32. I Think It's a Mixed Bag

I do know the feeling. Last year I got back from Scotland, where I was absolutely loving the fact that every square public inch isn't covered with advertising and the fact that most of their national energy goes to solving problems at home rather than telling other countries what to do. They also don't seem to have the nasty culture going on there quite as much. Scotland has no trespassing laws, so there is no, Get off my lawn!!

Then in London this year I watched as a Londoner on a bike and a Londoner in a car got into a screaming match over who had the right of way when they almost collided. Hey, this must be NYC! I knew it wasn't, though, because neither of these enraged gentlemen ever said f---.

In Mexico, however, I saw, for the first time ever, a person hand a policeman money in broad daylight on the side of a busy highway. THAT I could do without.

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Response to DemocracyMouse (Original post)

Mon Jul 16, 2018, 09:26 AM

33. Europe is far from perfect

I've been in the airport in Rome a few times and seen armed soldiers with machine guns all over the place each time. Not scrambling to deal with some sort of terrorist threat, but just on guard.

And, I've visited many extremely busy tourist attractions all over the world (Great Wall of China, Tiananmann Square, Disney World, Las Vegas, the Eiffel Tower, Tower of London, etc) and Rome was the only place where people didn't even make an effort to go around you if you were taking a picture. They'd just walk right in front of you, not caring if they ruined your shot. Heck, I remember going over the border into France and Monaco, and guys in Ferraris and Lamborghinis in Monte Carlo would stop their cars if they saw me taking a picture, giving me time to get the shot - and those are the guys you would think would not care if they ruined your picture. Same thing in extremely busy places like Times Square/Broadway in NYC, Shanghai, Beijing, etc.

Taking the subway/train around the major cities in Europe is an experience as well - you're often crammed into them like sardines playing twister. And, while I would like to think I have a decent butt, I'm sure the hands I felt there at times were searching for my wallet and not groping me for cheap sexual thrills.

On the plus side, the first time I was in Italy, every single train I took was never more than 1 minute past the exact scheduled time - 80% were on time exactly or a minute or two early. The other 20% had the "train arriving" light blinking and coming at the exact time, so pulled in 30-60 seconds late. Then, the day I came back from Italy, I took a taxi from JFK to the train station in NYC and then Amtrak from NYC to Berlin, CT where my father would pick me up - that one train had a 90 minute delay.





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