reede, aprill 13, 2007

Greetings from Boston

I am here in Boston, the cradle of the revolution, and it is raining. The past two days have been sunny yet cold. My room is an an old brownstone in Brookline, a neighborhood to the West. I took the "cheap room" which means my bathroom is located outside my bedroom. Our house is old here and I am afraid that some sort of poltergeist may choose to cross my path as I make a midnight sojourn to relieve myself. No ghosts so far.

Boston is special, or at least, at one time Boston was special. It was "the" American town. New York was home to mercantile sissies. Virginia to gentlemen planters. But in Boston? Take your tea and drink it with salt water, limey bastards. The British are so gentle, so verbose, so refined, yet somehow having the gumption to stick a bayonet in the lot of them over some taxes seems bold. It seems obscene. It seems dirty. In a sense, it is American.

Sam Adams, the revolutionary, who had to borrow suit to attend the continental congress in 1776 in Philadelphia because he was such a rotten, filthy, dirrrty scoundrel -- he's an American. We are a people who take pride in being unrefined. A glorious thing to be. This is the land of "Girls Gone Wild" lest thee forget. And who are we? Heathen.

'Tis this principle that makes Estonia a trusted party you see. Heathen. Unruly democrats. We feel you Estonia. We really do. People here know you too. They tell me you are a "happening place" -- can you imaginme! Meie Eesti a "happening place"?

Yet who are the least faithful? The Western Europeans. For so long the prime example of how superior they were lay to their east (or in Finland, to their south). Yet suddenly the easterners are more interesting. Denmark? Zzzzzz. Estonia? A happening place.

But I am here all alone in my lonesome. My wife is in Tartu. My daughter is in New York with my folks. And I am alone in this clean, red brick city where they like baseball too much. I keep an eye out for someone to talk to, perhaps Matt Damon or Ben Affleck on the T. But, alas, no one here but me and some young Irish people in khaki pants.

America is such an interesting place. Here we are, arguing over Don Imus and his racist comments for disparaging the curly haired, tattooed ladies of the Rutgers basketball team as "nappy headed hoes." Pick up the Wall Street Journal. The shamefulness persists. "Affluent liberals" are to be despised. "Wealthy conservatives" are to be respected. So if you get rich and pat yourself on the back, you're a great person. If you mention the poor? You're engaging in "class warfare" and, oh, by the way, you like the French, loser!

Meanwhile, somewhere between Endor and Tatooine, our troops are fighting in Iraq, or is it Eye-Rack, and Afghanistan. Oh well, whatever, nevermind. It's times like these that make me think the British are lucky. They exist just because they exist. They have no mission other than to sup tea and make more comedy programs (and palatable pop records, I might add).

Us? We have some sort of idealistic mission statement. Which means that we are damned to make mistakes.

32 kommentaari:

Anonüümne ütles ...

hmm. This is becoming more and more like good gonzo journalism. Kinda Vonngegutish, don't ya think? I lke it. Keep at it, Justin. Keep that fire lit. Rage is good. It's American.

martintg ütles ...

We are a people who take pride in being unrefined.

Interesting that you should say that. The BBC is doing an examination of anti-Americanism and why the French hate you. Apparently is is because Americans are basically ordinary, to quote: "(they) celebrate the pursuit of small-scale happiness - in families and communities - and that is what the anti-Americans can't stand."

You can read the article here:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6547881.stm

Flasher T ütles ...

Actually it feels a bit like Giustino's been hitting the fine Irish single malt out of loneliness. :)

LOL at the cradle of revolution reference, and as for the old house - how old? :P

Kristopher ütles ...

...proving you have to go into a real self-imposed exile to arrive at true satori about one's native country.

Kristjan ütles ...

and as for the old house - how old? :P

Whatever the age of the house in question, I'm willing to bet my last pair of socks that there are dozens and dozens of houses in Tallinn that the Germans built that are older.

Which proves once and for all that the Estonian civilization is older than the American, and thus superior. :P

Giustino ütles ...

LOL at the cradle of revolution reference, and as for the old house - how old?

It perhaps dates back to Woodrow Wilson's time. By the way, no ghosts last night!

Martasmimi ütles ...

Kristjan said...
and as for the old house - how old? :P

Whatever the age of the house in question, I'm willing to bet my last pair of socks that there are dozens and dozens of houses in Tallinn that the Germans built that are older.

Which proves once and for all that the Estonian civilization is older than the American, and thus superior. :P
***************************
Nah, Nah....
My Country is better then your Country....

What was that book now?????
"Everything I ever needed to know I learned in Kindergarten"

Kristjan ütles ...

MartasMimi,

How wrong you are!

1) My country is better than your country. :-D

2) That's not one of the books I've read!

3) I was, in fact, being sarcastic of self.

:-D

Live well, and prosper. ;-)

aivar ütles ...

Aw. All countries suck (today in the news: Wolfowitz ... Ansip. Blehhh!). Politics sucks.

The only consolation is that that there are still some good people left here and there.

Less so, but still.

Or so I wish and hope.

This week another wise soul left us.

And so it goes.

Goodbye, Kurt.

It's getting lonely out here without people like him.

Kristjan ütles ...

Aivar,

Why the pessimism? :-) I don't think there is reason to believe that there are less good people around than there used to be. Or is there?

As for countries, I rather like the US, it must be said. Been there once too, to Colorado. Very pleasant, reminded of home somehow. Except that everything was 1.5 times bigger. And the landscape was far more mountainous. :-)

The US is a young country, similar to Estonia in that respect. Idealism and feelings of mission are usual for the young, are they not? And there's nothing wrong with it, and there's much right with it.

But it's always very important to choose your leaders well. This is "the bucket" that the Americans have recently stepped into. Twice in a row...

Kristjan ütles ...

PS. When England was a similar age, the English kings couldn't help but crusade for Jerusalem, etc. ;-)

Kristjan ütles ...

PPS. ...with equally catastrophic results. :-P

Kristjan ütles ...

PPPS. I've made myself sad, now. :-(

Martasmimi ütles ...

Kristjan said...

MartasMimi,

How wrong you are!

1) My country is better than your country. :-D
***********************************
"No I'm not...."
read on "Trekie"

All I Ever Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

- by Robert Fulghum


Most of what I really need to know about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in Kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sandbox at nursery school.

These are the things I learned: Share everything. Play fair. Don't hit people. Put things back where you found them. Clean up your own mess. Don't take things that aren't yours. Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody. Wash your hands before you eat. Flush. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you. Live a balanced life. Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work some every day.

Take a nap every afternoon. When you go out into the world, watch for traffic, hold hands, and stick together. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the plastic cup. The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even the little seed in the plastic cup - they all die. So do we.

And then remember the book about Dick and Jane and the first word you learned, the biggest word of all: LOOK . Everything you need to know is in there somewhere. The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation, ecology and politics and sane living.

Think of what a better world it would be if we all - the whole world - had cookies and milk about 3 o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankets for a nap. Or if we had a basic policy in our nation and other nations to always put things back where we found them and clean up our own messes. And it is still true, no matter how old you are, when you go out into the world, it is best to hold hands and stick together.

Kristjan ütles ...

What's the point?

And I'm not a trekkie.

Martasmimi ütles ...

Live well, and prosper. ;-)

Perhaps I'm wrong ..
I thought this was a Star Trek
saying....Spock??

The point is or was that I thought you were saying that your country was better ..so I sent along somewords to live by...
I must have mis-understood
your point : (

Kristjan ütles ...

MartasMimi,

I wasn't actually implying that my country was better. It was just a sort of a toothy (if that is, indeed, the word I'm looking for; hambuline, you know ;-)) joke that, I guess, you need to be Estonian to get. :-)

"Live well, and prosper" is, indeed, the farewell greeting of Vulcans in Star Trek, but to the best of my understanding, the word "trekkie" is used as a description of a person obsessed with Star Trek or a similar phenomenon.

Which I am not. :-)

But never mind. That's inter-cultural relations for you. There are bound to be some misunderstandings. :-)

Kristjan ütles ...

Or was that "live long, and prosper"? :-)

Anonüümne ütles ...

America at large doesn't have a sense of mission. It's a bunch of economic migrants, zealots, deserters, escaped indentured servants -- shady, but without Australia's homogeneity as a nation of excons.

America is those people, most of them now domesticated by hormones and supersized portions, plus a few overeducated, wild-eyed or bewigged guys at the top spouting off about City on a Hill or Freedom this and Liberty that. Just like the Russians need a "Strong Hand" in charge, the Americans need the "Rhetoric Guy" who provides some language to elevate their shopkeeper lives -- quasi-English rhetoric, televangelical drivel or advertising ad jingle on one of the following themes: We are #1, We are Different from Anything That Has Come Before in History, We are the World's Supertroopers, We are God's (New) Chosen People.

Interestingly enough, my take (based on a very limited reading) is that the colonies would have happily stayed property of George III as late as 1760, the only problem was with Parliament. In other words, they would have forgone representation, too -- as long as there is no taxation. Ditto everything else since then, except for the Greatest Generation, who were a bunch of marching saints.

Kristopher ütles ...

But Kurt would have said it with gentle humour. To myself at least, I just sound bitter...

aivar ütles ...

hey, anonüümne, kes sa ka ei oleks, you put a big resigned smirk on my face with your tirade. Well done! Thanks.

Goes well with todays weather we have here Washington area. Goes well with a glass of red wine and a the melancholy of Sidney Bechets clarinet on my stereo ...

Ah, America, what greatness! What utter waste ... Like the rest of humanity. All good ideas like a noiseless fart in the endless expanse of the universe ...

Damn it, I miss Vonnegut!

Anonüümne ütles ...

I hear asians/blacks are harassed, taunted, and made to feel uncomfortable (usually at night, by some skinheads / occasional drunks) in Tartu.

Is that true?

Anonüümne ütles ...

Blacks are totally safe in Estonia. They do not carry Don Imus there. Never did.

plasma-jack ütles ...

Well, I went to Tartu the other day and felt quite uncomfortable myself, being a white Estonian and everything.

Anonüümne ütles ...

sometimes it's just tight underwear.

Anonüümne ütles ...

An African-American student studying in Tartu, Estonia has told a local newspaper that he is considering leaving the country before his semester ends because of constant harassment and threats from skinheads, according to the April 28, 2001 issue of Molodyozh Estonii. Tony Sessoms [name as transliterated], who is quoted as saying, "My safety is more important than my studies," adds that he never walks alone in Tartu.

Two local skinheads are quoted in the article saying that they target dark-skinned foreigners because, "Estonia should not become a place where the races are mixed. My grandfather fought for freedom, not for this." The older of the two, a 30 year old named Hanno, is quoted saying that he meets with his friends at night and they wander the city looking for targets.

Last year, a female African-American student left Tartu before the end of her term of study because of similar harassment, while a woman from the Middle East reports being threatened and spat upon by skinheads, and was also forced to leave the country early.

Police estimate that there are around 50 skinheads in Tartu. The mayor of the city has made public statements about the threat these violent youth pose, but he adds that there are insufficient funds for an adequate police response to the problem. Nevertheless, police have taken some action: Two skinheads received administrative warnings after attacking a dark-skinned teacher, three others spent two days in jail for threatening American military personnel, another was fined for spitting on an American soldier, while yet another three skinheads were fined for screaming threats at a Japanese man.

Giustino ütles ...

I have seen several baldheaded men in leather jackets wandering the streets, but I fortunately did not draw their ire.

What do you do about 50 guys in Tartu? What do you do about motorcycle gangs in Denmark? What do you do about skinheads in East Berlin?

Do you arrest them all? On what charge? Do you pump the school curriculum full of multicultural fare and hope the next generation turns out right?

There were skinheads in my junior high school on Long Island when I was growing up and I did not like those guys one bit. But you can't stop someone from shaving their head, and the only thing you can do to those who assault people is punish them for those actions.

Kristjan ütles ...

Do you pump the school curriculum full of multicultural fare and hope the next generation turns out right?

Yes. Education is nearly the alpha and omega of nearly everything in a modern society, I think.

And it is true that the Estonians - ethnic Estonians and Russians alike - are quite intolerant of different races, and rather homophobic. Me among them, whenever I switch my brain off and just feel.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Arresting them is useless.

Fight fear with fear.

If I was a black guy in Tartu, I'd only walk around armed, ideally with an electric shock tactical police baton and combat knife.

If I got jumped, I could probably beat down at least 2-3 of them before they got me.

If they are armed as well, then all bets are off. Use the knife to maim/kill.

es ütles ...

That article was a few years old. I believe there's a lot more than 50 now. And as long as there is this shrug and "what can you do attitude" it only grows.

What bugs me about central/eastern Europe is not the skinheads, but the general complacent / can't-be-bothered attitude from the rest of society. These sort of guys are in Western Europe, too, but the difference is there are strong societal reponses which make it clear that their behaviour is unacceptable. When the skinheads go on a March in East Berlin, the next day you get a march twice as big in opposition. When 1 in 5 French voters choose Le Pen, the other 4 hold their nose and vote for a man they can't stand (Chirac) to keep the fascist out.

I just think people in the new democracies are quite happy to take the superficial trappings of democratic western society, nice phones, cars apartments, but very few people want to take on the social responsibilities that come with it.

plasma-jack ütles ...

an interesting piece of history (Estonian language only) by a member of a member of a student corporation:
http://www.vironia.ee/materjalid/traadik_laskurkorpus.html

the first two paragraphs read:

In the end of the 30s, the dark clouds rose to Estonian sky and one could smell the fume of war drawing near as the clatter of great and merciless war chariot was growing louder and louder.
And the fears came true: September 1, 1939 began the World War II which was forced onto Adolf Hitler, the Chancellor of Grosse Deutchland.


City of Good Thoughts

plasma-jack ütles ...

(I doubt there are any skinheads in Vironia)