Friday, November 20, 2015

The Euro-Weenies thirty years later: They is Us

Back in my college—or university—days, I was pretty hip. No seriously, stop laughing goddammit. Living down in South Florida, I partook of the nascent 80's counter-culturalism, which in Miami mostly consisted of going to dance clubs, being able to handle the drug lingo of the day, praising the awesome realism of Scarface, and mocking the banana-hammock wearing European tourists on Miami Beach. Politically, there really wasn't a hip side, at all. Though that little shed on the far corner of a Homestead Air Force Base runway was a bit contra political.

The Original May 1986 Cover of Rolling Stone
Still, I read the appropriate intellectual material for the moment:  The Wave (soon to become The Miami New Times) of course, The Village Voice, The Miami Herald (specifically for Bill Cosford and Dave Barry), Playboy, and of course Rolling Stone Magazine. And in the last, in May of 1986—almost thirty years ago—appeared a column by P.J. O'Rourke: "Among the Euro-Weenies." I laughed my ass off reading it.

In the piece, O'Rourke uses his struggle to get to Tripoli after the 1986 United States bombings of Libya as a canvas on which to paint a fairly heavy-handed takedown of Europe, Europeans, and European culture. Moving from Paris, to Bruges, to Berlin, to London, O'Rourke mocks almost everyone and everything he encounters. And he doesn't do it by proclaiming how much better America is. Far from it. Rather, his criticisms are specific, if somewhat hyperbolic.

For instance, he says the following about Paris and the French people:
The French are a smallish, monkey-looking bunch and not dressed any better,on average, than the citizens of Baltimore. True, you can sit outside in Paris and drink little cups of coffee, but why this is more stylish than sitting inside and drinking large glasses of whiskey I don't know.
About Belgium:
After I was kicked off the plane to Libya, I went to visit my friend in Brugge, the one who was under instructions from the police to be ashamed. We spent the weekend looking for fun in Belgium, which is an isometric exercise. That is, it's a strain and you get nowhere.
About London:
London is a quaint and beautiful city—if you stick to the double-decker tourist buses. But the CND offices were out in the East End, in the aptly named district of Shoreditch. Dr. Johnson said, "When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." But these days, he might just be tired of shabby, sad crowds, low-income housing that looks worse than the weather, and tattoo-faced, spike-haired pea brains on the dole.
About Berlin:
West Berlin is the city that Iggy Pop once moved to because New York wasn't decadent enough for him. I was expecting maybe Cabaret or maybe Götterdämmerung performed by the cast of La Cage aux Folles. Forget it. We bombed the place flat in WWII, and they rebuilt it as a pretty good imitation of Minneapolis. 
And that's just a small sampling of O'Rourke's caustic observations. But as I re-read the piece today, I started to get an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Fuck. We've become the Euro-Weenies. Maybe not all of us, but enough of us to be sure. Our cities are imitations now of European ones. You can't throw a rock without hitting a sidewalk cafe in any major U.S. city and there are more people lining up in Starbucks on an hourly basis than there are sitting in the corner bar throughout an entire day.

And the shame game, shit. Try some pro-American talk in public or on a social media platform. The self-appointed shame police will be on you in seconds, like fleas on a dog. And rather than stamping on crime or anything—or anyone—else, we perpetually wring our hands with angst, worried about the "message" being sent, about how it will be "perceived." By who? Who knows? Who cares?

About the only thing differentiating Americans now from the Euro-Weenies of the eighties is smoking. For whatever reason, we've decided smoking is the bane of civilization and have largely succeeded in eliminating it everywhere, outside of golf courses and strip clubs, to be replaced by yoga pants and hair product.

And it's this culture of self-important, judgmental snobbishness that must now deal with acts of terrorism.

The Libya bombings in 1986, the ones that had Europe in a state of outrage over the cowboy tactics of the United States, those were in response to a German nightclub bombing that killed one American serviceman. And now, after a series of bombings and shootings in Paris, there is at least one dead American. Our response? Hand wringing angst over the possibility of anti-Muslim sentiment. The French response? Bombing the snot out of ISIS targets. Where is John Wayne from, again?

Of course, our own Weenies don't have the guts to call out the French for such a response. They are even more afflicted with navel-gazing than were their Euro-Weenie predecessors. How's that for a kick in the teeth? We can't even do the obnoxious, self-righteous world-weary citizen correctly. We're stuck looking inward, never outward.

Maybe that's the cost of being the last stop on the Weenie train, though I guess we might eventually have a turn mocking the Chinese. Some day.

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