Monday, November 01, 2004

Land of 100,000 welcomes?

Gemma O'Doherty writes in Saturday's Irish Independent that some Americans no longer feel welcome in Ireland as a result of the prevalence of America-bashing.

Is this over-stating things? Maybe.

When I first came to Ireland in the mid 1980s anti-Americanism in the media and among students was pretty strong. It's hard to assess whether it's more common or more virulent today because (a) I'm no longer a student and (b) there's a lot more media, although there's still no definitive pro-US media outlet.

What may also be a change from the 1980s is the anti-Americanism among those who benefit most from America's global dominance - the soft, comfortable, urban middle class. I had no experience of these people when I was a student, so I don't really know what they thought in the 1980s. Today, however, I'm regularly harangued by those who drive big cars, live in nice homes, vacation twice annually and generally thrive under America's wing at the expense of the "exploited third world".

The popular view is that the war in Iraq has created anti-Americanism in Ireland and that most people are only opposed to "Bush's war", not anti-American. This is hogwash.

The media was building the case against America before the first US bomb had struck in Afghanistan in October 2001. Irish Anti-Americanism wasn't born in Iraq, it just reached new levels. It wasn't born in Afghanistan either. In fact, what has actually happened is that the 'normal' anti-Americanism was pushed aside during the Clinton years thanks to President Clinton's involvement in the N. Ireland issue. Any American who was here during the first Gulf War or the last years of the Cold War can confirm this. I would bet it wasn't much different during the Vietnam War.

Despite all the anti-Americanism, it's not so strong that it will force me to move. You have to be thicker-skinned than that - and I don't feel afraid here, although I probably wouldn't venture out in my Bush-Cheney baseball cap. I only wear that when I want to rile someone.