Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Go Home Yank

So many Australians of a certain age are anti American. I don't think it is not particularly directed at American people, rather the governments they elect. I am a creature of my time. I am not so sure I hear this in young people who have grown up with Americans as their dominant media and cultural role models. Perhaps that is what really gets up the noses of people my age.

Is calling Americans Septic Tanks so very different to how we disparage Ireland where so many of us came from? Not me mind you. I come from everywhere except Ireland.

How far back does this business go? Certainly back to World War II. Australian men felt great antipathy to American soldiers who were here on R and R. Over sexed, over paid and over here, the saying went. The smartly dressed GIs with lots of money stood poorly against the less well paid Aussie soldier in his slouch hat and baggy woollen pants. At times they even went the biff, as if they were enemies. The whole Aussie war bride thing where Aussie lasses married US soldiers and went to live a new life in the US with their new husbands has been well documented and is quite fascinating. Of course this added grist to the mill with accusations of 'them' stealing our women.

Back in the 1940s our Aborigines knew there place, that was 'out the back', not where decent white blokes were drinking. Black US GIs seemed to think they had the right to frequent all public areas. Oh dear, more biffo.

You may well try to correct my thoughts, but for people my age, it is the Vietnam war that really did it. While I may speak as if I was part of the anti Vietnam War movement, I was actually a bit too young. We hated the war. We hated our government that got us involved in the war but most of all we hated the US who's war we were fighting. Post loss of the Vietnam War, our passions and self righteousness grew until it took on an extraordinary self righteous life of its own.

Australia and England have had their fair share of dodgy Prime Ministers, but did we ever have such a blatantly corrupt leader such as Nixon? Did we ever have such a figurehead do nothing such as Reagan. A lot was done his name, but I doubt much came from him personally. He wasn't terribly bright was he? Was there ever what seemed to a bumbling war monger such as George Dubbya? Surely he must be clever underneath? Surely.

It is queer thing, but only the oldest Vietnamese have issues with the US over the war. For most, it is a bit of history which they know about but so long as $US flow in to the country, they don't have issues.

But we who marched with Dr Cairns in the Vietnam War moratoriums will never forgive the US for what she got Australia into. Ah, but as I said, I was a bit too young.

Now the US is in a dilemma. Problems in Egypt, who they support and the usual problems in Israel. This is what happens when you control the world.

(I wrote this post a long time ago, updated it, and saved it to get it into order, polish it and make it nicer and not offensive. I have not done that. Below is a current addition)

Apparently a Greens Party senator in NSW has called for a boycott of Israel. A boycott of Israel is not Greens Party policy. One Tory politician, Andrew Robb, who perhaps happens to have the largest number of Jewish constituents in Australia called her as anti Semitic. Regardless of my own thoughts, why is it that if you have issues with the government of Israel and its policies, you are called anti Semitic? For the record, every country in the Middle East is crap. Just call me racist.

I hope I have always illustrated that I hate all religions, without fear or favour.

And even later I added to it, polished it a bit, but never really got it right. I wanted to write a salient post on why Australians seem to be anti American, instead it got all ranty. My first sentence should have be that we aren't, or are we? Original date 28/01/11.

Ok, I'll go for a summary. Australians are very anti Bush. Good that he has gone. We can't understand why there isn't some sort of universal health coverage in the US. While people like Palin and Trump are taken seriously, we just don't get it. Minimum wage of $5.70? California is is one of the richest places in the world, so how come the state is broke?

I say this with the knowledge that Australia is absolutely perfect.

(I don't know how old this post is. I have played with it so many times. Originally it was a response to Dina about American and Australian relations. I recall her saying she looked forward to reading it. Some years later Dina, for what it is worth, here it is.


  1. And here's my two cents worth.
    Having issues with the Government of a country does NOT mean you have issues with the people, their nationality or their religion.(99.9% of them are just like us, raising families, trying to make a decent living). It simply means that you don't agree with what their Government is doing and how they're doing it.
    I do agree that we shouldn't have been dragged into the Vietnam war, but what's done is done and cannot be undone. Learn from it and move on.
    I'm also appalled that minimum wage in America is $5.70. No wonder they're so reliant on tips over there. People here in Aus. are starting to believe we should be tipping for services too, but I don't agree, our people earn a better minimum wage, about $15+, and while it's not a lot of money, accepting tips to earn extra seems wrong. Perhaps if their Government raised the minimum wage they could use the taxes from this to then bring in some sort of universal health coverage like our Medicare scheme. I've heard of cases where people presenting themselves for treatment at clinics and hospitals are asked first if they have health insurance and get turned away if they don't. That's the saddest, cruellest thing I know.

  2. River, you have put the point perfectly: Having issues with a country's policy is not the same thing as having issues with the people of that country.

    To believe otherwise would be like suggesting the current Labor government represents Labor voters.

    "All the way with LBJ" was a despicable sentiment. We came home from WWI with an Australian identity but, after the invaluable aid of the U.S. during WWII, a succession of PMs seem to have handed over our identity as part payment for our debt of gratitude. Well, the debt has been paid and we want our identity back.

    I think lingering anti-American military sentiment reflects our adolescent desire to make our own mistakes, not keep sucking up to some other government for fear of being abandoned later when it's scary.

    The trouble is, regardless of how much or how little support a government has amongst voters, what is done in our name is something we must own. Soldiers who went to Vietnam did not deserve to be vilified, it was the war that was the problem. Ditto Afghanistan.
    We cannot blame US policy if we blindly suck up to it.
    We can only express our frustration by seeing American presidents for who or what they are, just as we see through our own leaders.

    Any ANZUS type actions should now be assessed on the What's In It for Australia principle - not just in terms of security but moral integrity.

    Afghanistan is nothing but a modern Vietnam - without conscription. The Taliban thrives not just through brutality but because when life sucks people clutch at the chance of certainty.
    No one can take sides, even as a "peace keeper", when the enemy is unidentifiable. No one can kill an idea with a gun.

    When we imposed boycotts on Sth Africa over apartheid, it was clear we were dealing with an issue that was, if you pardon the expression, very black and white. I doubt the boycott trickled down far enough to hurt people who had nothing to lose. [We just wanted Sth Africa to be as perfect as Australia - whether this was a lot to ask is for others to decide.]

    As for the Middle East, what should be the statute of limitations on invasion and dispossession? Our 224 years, or something like Israel's 64 years?
    What on earth is the single black and white issue with Israel that would allow us to take the moral high ground?
    The UN, for what it is worth, is the forum for pursuing change in the Middle East. Guns can kill people but they can only reinforce ideas.

    As for Greens Party Policies - let alone some of that Party's crackpot members - where would I start?

  3. And back in the USA the Negro soldiers would not have been allowed to drink in the white bars as well - but they were fine to send to war - have a photo of my uncle who was with a burial detail in ONG during WW2 alongside with big grins are two aborigines - back home they would not have even had the vote.

    Am with you in what you say re Israel - they were none too sensitive when they turfed out the Palestinians from their homes hundreds of thousands of them had their homes stolen and many kept their door keys thinking they would be allowed back...

    and re the US and us - Please its Z rhyming with head not Zeee rhyming with free...as well the new US takeover of our spelling - its Hospitalisation not hospitalization and all such similar words we do it with an S I have a 1950s dictionary and its with an "S"

    just a few little additions of annoyance

  4. My father was a soldier in WW2 and was very grateful for American intervention in our part of the world. The yanks might have charmed single women here, but it was only with USA support that the Australians could inflict its first defeat on the Japanese Imperial Army (1943).

    That said, by the mid 1960s my generation was constantly protesting against America's murderous intent in Vietnam, and Australia's dismal caving in to American pressure. My own husband and brothers were all subject to conscription :(

    You know I am Jewish, so now I am as concerned for Israel's obliteration as I was for Vietnam's in the 1960s. More so.

  5. I staying right out of this political mine field :-).

  6. I think there is an element of love/hate in the relationship just as there is between siblings - being an only child, I am naturally an expert on that subject :) - so we see similar attitudes between Australia and New Zealand and between NSW and Queensland etc. Big brother and little brother (sisters) I imagine go through similar tensions.

    Is there a perfect Government anywhere at all? I think not. We might prefer to be isolationist and rely on our own wits but the reality is we need help and support etc from others. So we all get drawn into situations against our better (wiser?) judgement.

    In the case of USA it perplexes me that it's Presidents seem unable to learn from history venturing into impossible situations like Vietnam, Afghanistan, the Middle East generally and that time and time again they try to impose systems and structures that are an anathema to those targeted.

    My comment is all over the place but your post triggered an interesting range of thoughts.

  7. Hi Andrew,
    at the risk of becoming unpopular I need to put forward some alternative points of view...

    We (Australians) would be speaking Japanese were it not for the US and TODAY the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea, is proof of how very close we came to being taken.

    I lived in the US for 12 years and I can assure you that nearly everyone there would be appalled to be referred to as a "yank" for a start it is an abbreviation of "Yankee" which really only ever applied to the New England states. Certainly anyone from south of the Mason-Dixon Line would be outraged!

    It isn't fair to judge the past by the standards of today people were simply doing their best within their frame of reference... all we can do is remember and learn to do better.

    No one can police the world alone and the US has certainly tried, with ethnocentric superiority to impose their beliefs on other parts of the world and we have always been there at their sides. I don't believe they (or we) are right in these actions but we are vulnerable and exposed... we need friends in powerful positions because we are very big and very underpopulated... we are at risk constantly without an ally like the US.

    There you go -- shoot me down!

  8. River, the problem is that we didn't learn from the Vietnam War and we keep getting dragged into wars in other countries.

    Clearly the US has chosen a different path, in my opinion a wrong one, on wages. For all Australia's faults, thank goodness we don't have to tip staff so that they earn some sort of decent wage.

    There are just so many horrendous stories about the US health system, along the lines you mention. Even before Medibank started in the seventies here, I don't think anyone did not get decent medical treatment, even if they had no money.

    FC, exactly as I started the post. It is the governments and what the people are offered. I pretty well agree with the rest of your comments.

    MC, that is quite true about the negro soldiers in their own country. I believe in the right for Israel to exist, but I do have issues. Anyone in Australia who uses zee and is not an American or did not learn American English, should have their face slapped. Yes, for us ise, not ize.

    Hels, I am not convinced that Japan was really so interested in Australia. We represented something to them.

    The US would never allow obliteration of Israel. Generally the world would not either. There are faults on both sides, but I see stopping the settlers as being a clincher towards peace.

    Probably a wise decision Windsmoke. Perhaps I should have.

    Victor, undoubtedly there is a love/hate r'ship. We can't absorb US culture like we have and then dis them.

    I don't suggest that we should be isolationist, but I do think we need to look more to our own self interest.

    A cynic might suggest the US goes to war at the drop of hat for political advantage, to stimulate the economy and give a good return to arms producers' shareholders.

    Displaced, I don't agree that we would be speaking Japanese, but even we were, Japan is not a bad place now.

    Yes I am aware of the sensitivities of the word yank, but here it is how people here of a certain age referred to Americans. At times it was even affectionate.

    Judging from today's standards might have me much more critical. The essence of the post was historical, although clearly it drifted.

    Maybe I am naive, but I don't believe there is a threat to Australia at all anymore, apart from terrorism perhaps. Our only threat is ourselves.

  9. It's a tough article to write, Andrew, but you make your points clearly and well. More famous (and pompous) intellectuals would take at least 10,000 words and the cover of The Monthly magazine to say far less.

    River is spot on: "Having issues with the Government of a country does NOT mean you have issues with the people, their nationality or their religion.(99.9% of them are just like us, raising families, trying to make a decent living). It simply means that you don't agree with what their Government is doing and how they're doing it."

  10. Interesting post.

    As for the Israel boycott....

    It's a bit hypocritical to boycott Israel for their treatment of Palestinians when white Australia has been so awful to the Aboriginal people of Australia.

    The same goes for Americans who boycott Israel. Who are we to talk?

    People act as if Israel is the first government to occupy a nation. And in Israel's case, it wasn't one group of people living there while another popped out of nowhere and took over. Both groups were already living there.

    I often wonder what Australians and Americans would do if the native people of those lands began bombing buses and having violent protests. Would they act differently than Israel?

    Let's say I boycotted Australia because I didn't like how the Aborigines were treated. Yet I didn't boycott my own country. I didn't boycott Israel. I didn't boycott New Zealand. I didn't boycott any of the other country with peoples who are treated like second-class citizens.

    How could I do that and NOT be seen as Anti-Australian...not just against their government, but against the people in general?

    As for the other stuff.

    Yes, there's a lot wrong with America. And there's a lot wrong with Australia.

    Australia ends up hearing an over-excessive amount about America. It's no wonder they continue to hold a grudge for various things, and will probably do so for eternity.

    And just to clear something up. Palin and Trump are probably laughed at here more than their taking seriously.

    Should I now judge Australians based on people like Clive Palmer and Rupert Murdoch? How about Pauline Hanson?

    I definitely agree with you about the health coverage. And I would have also mentioned lack of paid parental leave.

  11. Wanted to add: I think people who say "I believe in the Israel boycott, but I'm not anti-Semitic are very similar to the people who say "I don't think gay people should get married or be able to adopt children...but I'm not homophobic or anything."

    From what I remember reading about the Israel boycott, it's connected to a group that IS pretty much against the existence of Israel. They don't say it outright and explicitly. But if you read between the lines....

    One thing you have to remember about the existence of Israel is that it is dependent on a minority population having the majority of power. If that's taken away, then it's unlikely the Jews will have a homeland.

    AND the Holocaust and the entire world's response to the Holocaust is a good indication that Jews DO need a land to call their own.

  12. what River said. loathing a nation's government does not mean loathing all that nation's people.
    POMs, Septics, Kiwis, Canucks, Paddys, Taffys, Wops, Wogs and Frogs ... and as M. Poirot has to say a lot " I am not a Froggie I'm a Belgy"

  13. Thanks Kath. I consider it a bit all over the place, but I hope my points came across. All who have commented seem agreed on the point that it is the government, not the people.

    Dina, while I am not sure people used the same reasoning, valid in my view, I don't think many people had much feeling for a boycott.

    Because we invaded, yes, we can hardly stand on a soap box. However, just because we breach human rights with our indigenous people, does that mean we have to stay silent when others do so?

    Before the the dominance of American culture, it was a dominance of English culture. Now the two seem to battle it out, with English culture perhaps losing. Anyone I know who has been to the US has always returned and said what a wonderful country it is, as they mostly do about here I suppose. But as a tourist you don't tend to see the worst, although obviously you are very well informed about Australia.

    Clearly Palin and Trump are not game to put themselves to the test of an election. They even doubt their own popularity. Sadly, I can't immediately think of anyone for you to judge us by. There must be someone......

    I would have to give some thought to believing in a boycott and being homophobic. I think people can express an opinion that gay people ought not get married or adopt children but I am not sure if that is homophobic or not. While I hope I have made it clear that the suggestion of a boycott of Israel is absurd, what if Israel went to absolute extreme measures and many people in many countries called for a boycott? Would that be anti Semitic? I wonder what those who think Israel should not exist propose to do exactly?

    Ann, you left out Skips.

  14. I don't think complaining about Israel's government or participating in a boycott is necessarily anti-Semitic.

    However, the boycott we've been hearing about in the news...the one at Max Brenner, and I think it's the same supported by the Green Party? It's run by an organization called the BDSmovement. They want to make changes to Israel that would pretty much do away with the whole Jewish homeland thing.

    I think that organization IS anti-Semitic. So if someone participates in their activities, I would assume it's likely that they're anti-Semitic too.

    Noam Chomsky who is known for being a very vocal critic of Israel is against BDS, and thinks it's anti-Semitic. So that definitely tells me something....

  15. Dina, what does please me is that even local people in Israel are prepared to be critical of their government and also that people do not want extremism among their own.

    I never really understood that Max Brenner matter. I assumed it was extreme left radicals. I doubt generally many here took much notice.

  16. Andrew

    Going to one of the Max Brenner shops was one of the most dangerous things I have ever done in Australia. I love chocolate so I would have gone, even Brenner was Christian or Hindu. But the Nazi chants and the death looks on the boycotters' faces made me wet my pants from terror.

    I know how the German Jews felt after 1933. Thinking "it could never happen here" but still having the police on speed dial in the pocket.

  17. Interesting point Dina about singling out Israel then claiming not to be anti-Semitic.

    Never heard of BDS or Max Brenner, and shall have to investigate. Back to the Greens... oh darn, where would I begin? Psycho-ceramics, most of 'em.

  18. Look Hels, I can't imagine what it is like to be Jewish and being in the face of such ugliness and hatred, but for all Australia's faults, I would really like that Australian Jews did not feel the need to have to protect themselves or have such overt security as is seen in many places of worship and education. It may well give people a feeling of security, and if you feel you are under threat, that is what you need, but is it really so necessary? I don't know. I know of individual instances of problems, but a general security problem?