December 12, 2006

A politik interlude

This blog was not intended to be overtly political. Those of you who know me know my politics, and it doesn’t take a genius reading any thing I write to deduce my stance. But it is difficult to avoid being somewhat political in writing about my experiences because as an American living as a guest in this country, I am confronted with the politics, policies and perceptions of the United States everyday. Let’s face it, Americans are not well liked around the world these days and as much as we try to whitewash everything for our own peace of mind (so we can sleep at night) citizens of the world did not just suck their dislike of us out of their thumbs. Brazil is probably one of the few countries still having an unabashed love affair with the culture of the United States and one of very few where Americans can travel and be accepted with minimal criticism. But still I am faced with a lot of questions, frustrations and opinions about the USA on a regular basis.

I’m saying all this because my previous entry sparked a debate with my mother over my students not liking the fact that we chop down that big tree that gets lit up at Rockefeller Center every year. Now I know that it is just one tree, and I know that the vast majority of real Christmas trees sold are farmed and that farming provides jobs and even valuable CO2 reduction, etc., and obviously the deforestation of the Amazon is in no way comparable with the farming of Christmas trees. Besides, lord knows I wouldn’t want to go raining PC hand grenades over anyone’s holiday traditions – after all, I used to put up a real live Christmas tree every year in my tiny Brooklyn apartment.

However we do tend to have somewhat short memories, so it’s always interesting to point out that while the deforestation of the Amazon is a very real and serious problem, over 90% of the forests in the continental USA have been chopped down since whitey first set foot in the land. In fact, at the peak of the deforestation somewhere around the 1920’s, we Americans were cutting down our trees at a faster rate than that of the current destruction taking place in the Amazon. Additionally almost 80% of the remaining virgin forests in the continental US, particularly those in the Pacific Northwest, have received the thumbs up for logging.

Anyway, I’ll leave it at that and just say that if my idealistic college-aged students want to get their nose out of joint over one lone Christmas tree in New York, well, I kind of have to let them. Because for them it isn’t about a Christmas tree, but about a sort of general indignity and frustration with, what is in their opinion, the hypocrisy between what we Americans do and say.

All right, enough, I’ll revert to my fun and games and leave the politics out.

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