Well no matter how you slice it, the world is happy that there is soon to be a grown-up in the white house. After eight long years, it is just possible that the US will not be the lone hold-out in world opinion on such topics as ethics, equality, the environment, trade, diplomacy and, well, everything. Okay, okay; to say “lone” is actually a scurrilous exaggeration. Poland sent lotsa troops to Iraq. Kazakhstan did not sign the Kyoto Protocol. Somalia, like the US, has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. And there’s more! Just don’t ask me to look it all up; its too depressing, and right now there’s euphoria in the water, and I don’t want to spoil it by recognizing that there will be puh-lenty of opportunities in the offing to find out just how reprehensible all politicians are, no matter how dignified and generally Atticus Finch-y they might look at first. Perhaps it doesn’t take much to resemble a tall, spreading, sturdy and all-encompassing oak when you’re being compared to – in the words of the inestimable Molly Ivens: The Shrub.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise that the oak won even though it was, since every worldwide poll or mock election favored Obama by a landslide, and any international paper you pick up today positively burbles with glowing, expectant and thankful opinion pages. There’s so many, I’ve stopped reading them. More riveting is the slimy backward-focused gossip about the Caribou Barbie, Sarah Palin. There’s so many leaks about her, I’m starting to think she should call Joe the Plumber, or maybe that she’s behind them all, thinking that no publicity is bad publicity (despite the yellow journalism and obvious grammatical hurdles she tends to cultivate for herself, I hear that when she’s not behind the podium, she’s actually quite smart, so maybe this last bit is truer than you’d like…). I especially like the leak about her answering the door to her minders dressed in nothing but a towel. It was the bridge to no underwear, leading the way to her new lingerie line, called “drill, baby, drill!” Oh, no, that was so crass. I’m so sorry.
But back to the important stuff: a couple of Russians named Boris and Vlad sent a wistful video phonic cry to Mrs. Palin, as you can see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XR9V_aOCga0 . They made a telescope through which they look forlornly across the icy sea toward Alaska, hoping to fly into her airspace, and waiting for just one kind word from her. And thousands of versts in the other direction, President Dmitry sent a congratulatory telegram to Atticus – I mean Barack – but not before he was pointedly silent about the US election in his State of the Nation address on 5 Nov. Its worth noting that that speech had been re-scheduled from earlier times more than once, suggesting that contrary to the actual content of his speech (translated by Boris and Vlad to be “yah-di-dee-dah made into a quadratic equation”) the identity of the new US prez did, in fact, matter. I mean, you schedule and re-schedule your speech to conveniently fall on the day after the US election, and then you say nothing about it. Like the entire world hasn’t been on the edge of its seat. Like the US is, after all, beside the point. It’s like when your cat is mad at you, so it walks into the room, staring right into your eyes and then sits down right in front of you, but facing away.
And then the tail twitches. Dmitry spent a lot of his speech outlining just how the US has screwed the entire planet lately by starting the wars in Iraq (no contest on that one) and Georgia (contest!), and pulling the rug out from under everyone’s economies with its rampant, unfettered and shameful greed. No contest there, either; it really should have been fettered, as it is in Russia…oh, no wait a minute…I meant… no, not there, either. Just where is it that greed is fettered? Iceland? Hmmn. But I digress. In any case, there are lotsa reasons why Russia is placing Iskander missiles in Kaliningrad and signal-jamming stuff that can scramble the US missiles in Poland the Czech Republic. Not that either set of missiles or jammies will solve anything. There’s tilting at windmills a la Iraq and then there’s tilting at windmills a la Eastern Europe. Thank God everyone is so interested in alternative energy sources. Between the hot air and the windmills, we should be fine.
After US forces attacked a Syrian village near the Iraq border, the flow of righteous indignation from Damascus as well as Russia was nothing if not a sirocco. And why shouldn’t it be? Civilians were killed. Iraq was duped and used or complicit, and this after Syria had been (wink) vigilantly manning the border to prevent insurgents from getting into its neighbor’s free-for-all. Syria was so miffed it took its border troops home, saying, with a diplomatic upward flick of its affronted mug; ‘see how you like it when I’m gone. So there.’ It’s that cat again. Had you happened to read the 2 Nov edition of the London Times you might have noticed a report that the Syrians had “agreed to turn a blind eye to a supposedly quiet snatch and grab raid” by the US. But then the snatch got snafu-ed and the grab became a civilian blood bath and by then too many people were involved, so righteous indignation was at that point, de rigueur.
Same thing in Pakistan, where a top Al Qaeda operative was assassinated via a Predator Drone last month (that sounds like a disease, doesn’t it? Predator Drone; sort of like an infestation of wooly aphids or mealybugs. Maybe Dutch Elm Disease.). The Pakis protested quite publicly (no publicity is bad, lets not forget!), but if you believe the Washington Post there is a (not so) secret agreement between the Yankis and the Pakis complete with an approved target list including not only Al Q, but assorted Paki warlords and Afghan Taliban, so the cat and its twitching tail seem to be crying wolf (I just love a mixed metaphor, don’t you?).
The point is – do you remember that joke that goes: If a man speaks in a forest and there is no woman there to hear him, is he still wrong? – has a parallel in politics, international and otherwise. It is that all political speech is at least empurpled, if not a blatant lie, and no spook or wonk shall ever be able to parse out the difference. Thus: the news.