Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The French Think We Are Nuts

The French!!

And the Germans, the Chinese, the Spanish and even the Pakistanis.

Well, ok...not so much nuts as reactionary, oafish, threatened, extreme and bigoted, respectively.  Kinda makes you wish they actually thought we were just nuts, right?

Foreign Policy brings us this analysis of how foreign media view our "tea partiers", and it is certainly but the merest representative sampling of what the international community must collectively regard as us catapulting ourselves clear over the rabbit-proof fence.  Even in this small selection, we come face-to-face with reactions from three rather important areas of the world:  Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

The Europeans, for their part, have been there, done that.  Theirs is one big rolling of the eyes.  They are no strangers to revolutions or extremists -- except their agitators always showed up in their big-boy pants, wreaking real havoc and horrible destruction.  We Americans, by contrast, look more like a Disney-esque pack of Goofies in our tricorne hats with teabags a-dangling.  This, of course, is a good thing -- I'll take silly over fascist any day -- but it does tend to provoke ridicule.  They know socialism; socialism is a good friend of theirs, and Obama is no socialist.  Der Spiegel writes tea partiers off as "blue-collar workers with posters of pin-up girls in their lockers" worried about losing their manhood ("privileged position") to some wussy "European social model".  Ouch.  Le Monde predictably gets in a dig at the Brits by dismissing our loonies as "Anglo-Saxon, conspiracy-theor[ists]" threatened by the loss of American prestige and power.  Fair enough.  The Spanish seem to be a little more alarmed with El Pais writing "We don't know if we feel more profound horror or more profound pity."  Join the club, bub.

As for the Middle Kingdom, well, it's all about them.  Trumpeting its view of being the last remaining economy capable of driving a global recovery, it sees tea partiers as emblematic of American embarrassment and lingering we're-number-one-ism.  China Daily writes "China's greatest danger is that US policymakers face economic and national security crises they cannot solve."  True that, especially considering they own a great deal of our debt.  If we don't get our act together, China's portfolio suffers.

And, finally, Pakistan.  You know things are dicey when a country you routinely fly predator drones over is worried about your welfare.  As one might imagine, they take the more bigoted, anti-Islam strains of the movement to heart, lamenting "right wing zealots" with their "venomous discourse".  Pakistani newspaper Dawn has taken note of this summer's dramatics surrounding a Muslim community center in Lower Manhattan and a Florida pastor threatening to burn a Quran and concludes that American Muslims are the latest in a long line of targets to receive "the treatment meted out to...scapegoats in American history" -- a line that includes such American low-points as our treatment of Native Americans and the stain of slavery.  Pretty damning stuff.

In an election cycle where most Americans can be forgiven for a certain amount of navel-gazing, it's important and instructive to remember that others are watching -- many, with concern and even alarm.  What some Americans may write off as buffoonery, others see as the rumblings of something more odious.  (And they should know.)  In the end, what happens here -- to one degree or another -- affects them too, so it shouldn't surprise us that they're paying attention or have opinions on the matter.

Here's hoping we're just a little nutty at the moment...for all our sakes.

[Image via Foreign Policy.]