Friday, September 14, 2012
i'm from the government, and i'm here to --
On Thursday, while Mexico was celebrating the patriotic myth of Dia de los Niños Heroes, a group of American expatriates were getting a concentrated dose of government spin.
The American embassy sent a couple of well-informed staffers to Morelia to brief Americans in the area about some of the embassy's services.
I did not expect much of the meeting. Over the decades I have attended (or participated in) similar meetings in several countries. The embassy staff usually play variations on the old bureaucratic game of "that's not my job."
What I thought we were going to hear was a brief discussion on passport renewals and absentee ballot applications. And nothing more.
I was pleasantly surprised. The first staff member could have been the press officer for a political campaign. Not only did he give an excellent briefing on passport renewals, citizen services, the embassy's web page, and absentee voting, he fielded questions far outside of his job title.
He could have been a candidate for office. Except, he actually answered questions. And he artfully deflected one right into the lap of a local volunteer. It was a joy to see a professional at work.
The staff member in charge of federal benefits was not as skilled in the ways of political spin, but he knew his material. Both of them offered helpful information. To the degree that the embassy can be helpful in Mexico.
As so often happens in meeting of this nature, their audience was not as upbeat. We older Americans can be a bit cranky and self-centered.
And we were. Or, at least, a few members of the audience were.
Despite all the chirpiness of the staff members, the solipsists peppered them with questions about customs duties imposed by the Mexican government. Concerns about border crossings -- by Mexican officials. Very specific questions on visa denials, social security benefits, address issues with absentee ballots, and the impact of Obamacare on Americans in Mexico.
Plus a few more. All of the questions outside of the jobs of the embassy staff at the meeting.
But, we are Americans. We had representatives of our government in the room, and we were going to milk out every last drop of interest and discontent in our concerned crania.
There are plenty of countries in this world that do not recognize the American belief that political rights and power arise from the people, not from the government.
The same morning I received news that the American ambassador and three other embassy staff were murdered by a Libyan mob upset over a video produced privately in America by an American citizen, I read a newspaper article with a similar spin concerning Red China.
Apparently, the Red Chinese government is pressuring the city council of Corvallis, Oregon to order a Taiwanese-born American businessman to remove a mural on his private property -- in Corvallis.
The mural depicts the ironically named People's Liberation Army committing violence against Tibetans, and also depicts a scene of Taiwanese defiance against the communist regime in Beijing. In a manner, according to the masters of the mainland Chinese that causes "strong resentment from the local Chinese community and Chinese students studying in the U.S."
We would call the mural a depiction of the news. The Red Chinese consider it dangerous. No need to put disruptive thoughts into the minds of Chinese students.
Commies hate criticism of their actions. And they know how to deal with it. In China, the aforesaid People's Liberation Army would liberate the wall of its mural and the businessmen of his liberty.
But Corvallis is not China. We have a tradition (and a First Amendment) that lets us criticize our government -- and the governments of other nations -- as much as we like.
And that is how the Corvallis city council responded to the Red Chinese. But, being a university town, the council did a polite kowtow to Beijing and sent off a letter to the businessman informing him of China's discontent.
To his credit, the businessman says the mural is staying right where it is.
What the Red Chinese -- along with their Egyptian and Libyan mobsters -- have trouble understanding is that Americans are not subjects of their government. The government is subject to individual citizens.
And that baffles them. It is why Egyptians and Libyans can act like spoiled children because their feelings are hurt. And if an American somewhere hurt their feelings, the American government is at fault and must be punished.
I can understand why they may be confused. Especially when the American president, who does not seem to be able to help himself, has a habit of apologizing for things that are none of the American government's responsibility -- or business. I am surprised that he has not apologized to Mormons for the Broadway hit, The Book of Mormon.
It was a pleasure to sit in that room on Thursday and listen to a highly-spirited exchange of ideas between citizens who had concerns and the representatives of their country's representative in Mexico.
We may have had our selfish concerns. But we had a right to let our servants know how we were feeling.