Under the Raydar: Postcard from America

Greetings from Los Estados Unidos. The reminder from my esteemed editor that this column was due came while I am chasing the wispy dream of songwriting success in Nashville, Tennessee. Yes, I am in the American south.

Where traces of barbecue sauce are measurable in blood samples and the giant golden teat of the McDonald’s logo rises hundreds of metres above every exit off the interstate. Where the good ol’ boys proudly display the Confederate battle flag from the backs of their jacked-up compensatory pick-up trucks and the American flag itself shows up randomly draped over virtually every overpass. And Christian cross displays constructed of painted metal plumbing pipe pop up without a trace of irony in back yards

Served with a side of hate
Sitting in any breakfast restaurant on any morning, it is a safe bet that the phrase: “Well, no matter who wins the election, it’ll be better than that n*gger that’s been in there for seven years” will waft its way over to your table. Probably more than once.

To be sure, it doesn’t infect everyone, but there is a deep vein of racism and bigotry here in the heart of Dixie.

So, it was with some trepidation that I opened up my laptop to check on the latest news about the refugee crisis in Europe. I pretty much guessed I would be inundated with hateful, racist exclusionary rhetoric. And there it was …

“No matter how small the quota the government says we’ll take, we don’t want them here”; “They need to be told before they leave that they are not welcome”; “We need fences, walls and patrols on shorelines and highways”; “They aren’t really running from war, they just want to sop up our milk and honey”; and “They will dilute our national identity and our country will be changed forever.”

All of the usual suspects were there: politicians holding up the scary foreign bogieman to further their agendas, angry editorials, and the vox populi expressing its collective fear and disdain.

The NIMBY factor
But before my Danish pals get busy busting your collective buttons about how liberal and welcoming you are compared to them nasty narrow-minded ‘muricans, I guess I should tell you that all of that rhetoric was culled from Danish newspapers and websites: DR 1, Jyllands-Posten, Politiken and, yeah, the good ol’ Weekly Post.

Rather than beer-bellied cowboy-booted Yanks spewing out the ugly, it came from the mouths of well-dressed (in black, of course) wine-drinking, oh-so-classy and sassy Danes.

Oh, there were Americans hammering the same lines, but Danish pals, some of your neighbours and politicos own those quotes.

My takeaway is that it is easy for some of you to sneer at me in the pub about the US’s horrible record vis-a-vis blacks, native Americans and especially Mexican immigration these days, but maybe not so easy to roll out the welcome mat when poor displaced souls start showing up at your door.

Hard times and choices
There are no easy answers to the crisis facing the world at this moment. To be honest, I’m nearly 60 years old and I honestly can’t remember a time when I thought the world was in such shitty shape.

And I indeed wish my homeland would step up bigger and do more. And I hope the voices of the compassionate people here in my adopted home – the vast majority – drown out the haters.

Mostly, I wish it didn’t take pictures of drowned children to move us all off square one, no matter where we come from.