23 Aug 2010

A view from the beach

The gaping sore that is 9/11 in the American psyche remains unhealed.

We who covered the co-ordinated attacks on the Twin Towers in New York, and the Pentagon in Washington underestimated how deep, how searing, and how long lasting this event would prove to be.

Today this secular nation, whose refusal to either favour or move against any religion is enshrined in the constitution, is now at war with itself over whether a mosque and Islamic cultural centre should be built some two blocs away from Ground Zero.

Last week the Pew polling organisation in the United States revealed that the number of Americans who now believe Barack Obama to be a Muslim has risen from 11 per cent last year to 18 per cent today.

Add to all this, mass unemployment on a scale not seen in America since the 1930s and one is tempted to understand how this extraordinary entity that is America is seen by many to be talking itself into a double dip financial crisis.

To have been on the beach in America these past weeks, absorbing the New York Times and a lot of political back chatter, is to have seen elements of a society riven with a kind of collective nervous breakdown.

The end of the war in Iraq (is it really?); the disputed possibility of troop reductions in Afghanistan, emphasise how little the remedial military response to 9/11 has done to calm the nerves at home.

And yet when, last week, China finally overtook Japan to become the world’s second largest economy, to hear it in America, anyone would think the US would itself be thus overwhelmed. It took sage economists to point out that the US economy is still fourteen times that of China.

What America really seems to miss is what many have come round to praising Britain for – a coalition government. Many thought Obama might be it. Alas the limits of power and perhaps his own inexperience have rendered a period of some of the most partisan division in US modern political history.

Every time I met a politically connected or motivated American on the beach, the question was the same – coalition, how does it work, what does it take, and what does it say of Cameron and Clegg?

Tweets by @jonsnowC4

39 reader comments

  1. adrian clarke says:

    Welcome back to a blog Jon .We have been missing you.
    Do Americans really want a Coalition??Where a minority party has a commanding say.Is Australia ready for a government kept in power by 4 oddball politicians and a green?
    America is basically a two party system,where minor parties are steamrollered and the voter doesn’t really have a say except every 4 years or in this country if Cameron gets his way every 5 years.As in the last blog i am beginning to advocate a non party system where Parliament consists of representatives of the majority of their electrate and votes according to the wishes of that majority and not on a prospectus of their own or parties
    Take any subject.Hanging, Fox Hunting,Taxation,Nuclear Weapons etc.
    Each representative seeks by various means,the views of his electrate and in Parliament represents the views of the majority of his electrate and not his personal views.That way it is the voice of the people that speaks , not an unrepresentative party hack.True democracy.Power of the people by the people for the people.
    The coalition is fairly popular at the moment because the public basically believe the actions it is taking are the correct ones.

    1. Mudplugger says:

      Adrian. The sad thing is that, attractive as your proposition may be, the fact that it is now technically feasible (with on-line consultation exercises etc.) becomes the reason it will never happen.

      The last thing our political elite wants is to have to respond to the wishes of the people – that’s why we will only ever have referenda when the results can be managed. We will certainly never be consulted on ‘sensitive’ issues, some of which you outline.

      Democracy it ain’t, but then it never really was.

  2. Passing Thyme says:

    “The coalition is fairly popular at the moment because the public basically believe the actions it is taking are the correct ones.”
    We obviusly haven’t been talking to the same public!

    1. adrian clarke says:

      i should have said those asked .APPARENTLY!!!!

  3. Nils Boray says:

    “What America really seems to miss is what many have come round to praising Britain for – a coalition government”

    Adrian Clarke : “The coalition is fairly popular at the moment because the public basically believe the actions it is taking are the correct ones”

    Oh yeah ? In whose parallel universe ? This coalition Government doesn’t even seem popular with the members of it. It’s not popular with anybody at all. Except perhaps Jon & Adrian

  4. anniexf says:

    Good to have you back, Jon. You seem to have been taking a busman’s holiday!
    Why are Americans nervous? They’ve been shown, in 9/11, not only how much they’re hated in some quarters, but how far a few people will go to demonstrate that fact. They were jolted out of their complacent insularity into a wider world that they barely understood in their own terms, let alone anyone else’s.
    That the failure of their economy has almost destroyed their once ebullient self-confidence only serves to show them a mirror for their hitherto unacknowledged vulnerability. All the millions of tons of aid they donate each year are seen by many of their beneficiaries as “conscience money” – a small, insignificant gesture,compared to the billions they plunder around the world. They will have to undertake a radical rethink of their foreign policy – including control of their multi-national companies – rather than just sending in the military whenever there’s opposition.
    Coalition? We ourselves don’t know if it works, yet. After a promising start, it is already causing serious ideological worries.
    Americans & coalition? Not in their nature. They prefer confrontation in everything.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Nice to see you back to your caustic best Annie,and of course you are right about the Americans and about the Coalition.I do not think it will last in the long run ,because it is run on Party lines and not democratic ones.That eventually means Labour will get back into power on some future date.
      Party Politics is like pregnancy .Never again at the time ,only for true feelings to be forgotten in the lure of future idealism,then regret again after it is too late.
      As for the Americans they thought they were the biggest and the best.I dont think they are either,but it is the old story ,money translates into power , even if that power is illusionary.
      PS. If you have any power Jon , you will get our thumbs replaced.How can my idea of democracy take place if the boffins can not get a simple thing like thumbs working!!!!!

    2. anniexf says:

      Caustic, Adrian? MOI???

  5. adrian clarke says:

    Will the sore of 9/11 ever be healed , and if it is should America ever forgive or forget an attack on its mainland by Religious fanatics ,whose avowed aim is to rule the world,just as in the past other dictators have sought to do .
    America in the past remained neutral until such times as its own territorial land was threatened.This time it was threatened by Islamists and then the US started thrashing around in ill conceived Foreign wars.Now those same Islamists by stealth are trying to rub the salt into the wound by asking to build a church close to the scene of their atrocities.They are dangerous people ruled by a repugnant religion .(repugnant in the hands of those who do not accept other religions or beliefs).I believe in freedom but not a freedom where a group of people seek to usurp the laws and rules of the country they reside in .That applies just as much to Irish terrorists or the BNP.If Islamists want Sharia law over the laws of the UK,America or other countries they are quite free to emigrate to those countries where Sharia Law applies.

  6. philomena says:

    Maybe our idea of parliamentary democracy is grossly outdated. It belonged to an age when communication was difficult and the mail coach was state of the art. We are now living in the X- factor technological age where instant voting and results are possible from the remotest of locations… That concept I am sure would strike terror into our politicians……but then I suppose we don’t want to lengthen the dole queues..

    1. anniexf says:

      I agree, Philomena, & also I really resent only having the option of voting for someone who’s been chosen to stand by a gang of shysters of whatever political hue; so I have huge sympathy with Adrian’s first post on today’s Snowblog. It would probably result in my having to endure its effects, e.g. the return of capital punishment and legalised foxhunting, but if it also resulted in a fairer tax system and the abolition here of nuclear weapons I think I could just about stand that. Only just ..

    2. adrian clarke says:

      Philomenaand Annie yes i agree there would be things like the abolition of nuclear weapons passed , which i disagree with , but at least our voices would mean something and our vote count.
      Have you also noticed that the country runs without our politicians being at Westminster,and when they are there they have to find something to do and meddle in everyones affairs.So representatives would have plenty of time to seek the views of their electrate,and Parliament would only need to meet on fewer occasions except in an emergency

  7. philomena says:

    Forgot to say -welcome back Jon..

  8. margaret brandreth- jones says:

    Do people really believe that coalitions are flavour of the day because of actions taken or is it something lateral to this.

    Might it not be that this generation have seen social change as never imagined prior to the new communications network. People can compare their environment with anothers and so on and realise that nations are swinging between poles of party expectations time and time again , the same thing goes on and on. It has been a case of unfulfilled promises deriving out of bluff.

    There are so many differing opinions in a single party with left, right and centre of every left right and centre party,that people are beginning to think that the lapping over of political philosophies is not vastly different in interpretation from another. I speak of the majority here and not the super rich who cannot share the same outlook , otherwise they would not be super rich( perhaps I am being slightly unfair)

    Financial projections have proved to be be fingers up to the poor and middle classes.

    I remember TV’s in shop windows 9/11 in disbelief thinking it was fiction. The visual display of power to destroy wrenched the west from its complacency.

  9. GTX says:

    How i would love to have x-factor style voting on some of our policies – MP expenses (still a raw nerve for most of the general public, esp now that the new body overseeing MP expenses is costing 3 times as much to run as the old ‘fraudulent system’to run) that would be an excellent starter for 10.
    I agree that the political ‘elite’ generally serve their own agenda or that of their party rather than consulting with their constituency residents – how radical would that be for them to vote based on the people opinion they are representing, not someone they took a backhander from a few days earlier (or indeed the party whip)
    Is the coalition working – too early to say but im hoping they stick with their convictions and get the country finances under control and remove lots of the clag brought in by previous governments (both labour and tory!)

  10. margaret brandreth- jones says:

    Have just been reading a piece on the Dodd-frank Wall st reform and consumer protection act.

    He may be inexperienced but he is firing along , and whatever the outcome, he is making a difference.

    Just behind Obama in the Whitehouse blog posted by Jesse Lee on Juy 21st is a photograph of a tall man with white hair. Were you there too Mr Snow?

    Just joking..tis good to have an article to focus on instead of the rabbles soup of ideas..myself included. And in the wobbly monkey voice “Welcome Home.”

  11. Y.S. says:

    So the the terrorists and their allies the Republicans have succeded in getting law abiding americans and law abiding muslims to hate each other. Not good.
    Re the cooment by Adrian Clarke about Sharia law. There is confusion by many people as regards this in the British community. It is mostley used in this country ( by and for muslims only) as advice for families resolving divorce and wills. Nothing to do with state law which is paramount. It is not there to replace British laws which are the laws of this country.

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Y.S. I have no difficulty in any group sorting certain problems out within their own group,as has been mentioned golf clubs work within the laws of golf ,at the same time they have to work within the laws of this land.e,g,there can no longer be men only golf clubs.
      So where i have no difficulty in Muslims sorting out their own personal problems with other muslims,i do if it contravenes the laws of this land.Anyone who chooses to live in this country must without exception agree to abide by our laws.If they can not , they should go to where there are laws they can accept.
      Incidently it is a reason i detest the European Union , because they create laws that affect us ,despite them not being debated in this country.

    2. Y.S. says:

      Obay the laws of this country, that is fact, no one should argue with that.
      The problems we have is the word “Sharia law” i think people hearing that start thinking about Iran and Saudi Arabia and the Taliban, please dont because we mean counselling by the muslims for the muslims.
      Of course if you ask a militant you get a different answer but believe me they are a minority, the vast majority of muslims in this country are modearates who want a quiet and peaceful life. The press who want to sell papers obviously have to quote the militants

    3. jhill says:

      This is the problem
      If a Blonde lady decided that she wanted to deal with her husband/family with her own brand of law, ignoring our established secular law, generally based upon liberty and freedom, she would be prevented by law.
      What has been insidious in Britain is the way that, even after 7/7, we have official pandering to the islamic minority.
      The USA is asking why? Why, if a group of religious fanatics destroyed the Twin Towers killing thousands on 9/11, the religion that these fanatics arose from is seeking to build what will amount to a two fingered insult to all who were murdered, and all the heroes who died, not trying to destroy, nut attempting to save, life.
      Perhaps we should ask muslims and their apologists why? Why, when living in a country which is the most tolerant in the world, and has a written constitution to enable it to remain so,should a religious minority not respect the rights and wishes of Americans, despite Obamas statement, (Which he rapidly rowed back from).
      In GB, there is the biggest mosque in Western Europe.
      It may just be religious observance. It could also be a symbol, with a hidden but subtle message of its intention to dominate! Who knows?

  12. Zaman says:

    It was not Islam which attacked Twin towers, but it is portrayed as such by Politicians who are exploiting to advance their political agendas.

    It’s not Islamophobia it’s beyond Islamophobia.

    Creating facts to fit the truth

    In Afghan war Islam was the western ally Islam was the magnificent religion humanitarian religion, religion of values & when the game was over when Soviet Union collapsed, Thatcher and others in their forum said communism has ended and the eternal enemy of the west Islam has arisen.

    The clash of religious doctrine across the ages has never ceased and never does so.

    The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity

    1. adrian clarke says:

      “The clash of religious doctrine across the ages has never ceased and never does so.”
      That is interesting Zaman .I may be wrong but i know of no religious doctrine that teaches intollerance of other religions or the subjugation of part of its followers,Religion itself is not the problem for that is a faith that often helps its followers through grief and other trials and tribulations .
      The problem with religion is those leaders who use it for their own benefit and as a power to control others.Take the Pope.Who is he? An ordinary man who took up religion and somehow gradually rose to be the leader and spokesman of one of the worlds largest religions.Yet million of people worship him,not the religion.His words have far reaching effect on whole communities brainwashed into believing that because he has a title Pope,his word is law .That is the danger of religion .A man , The Church become bigger that the religion ,or the faith.That allows religious zealots to usurp the religion as we see with Islam

  13. Meg Howarth says:

    Re YS’ comment on sharia law: this is men passing judgement on women.

    For all who are interested, you can visit the website of One Law for All


    where amongst other items, you’ll find details of the ‘100 cities against stoning’ demonstrations taking place worldwide next Saturday, 28 August. You may like to consider joinging the one nearest to you.

    Welcome home, Jon. The C4 team have, of course, done a great job in your absence, but your presence is always appreciated.

    1. Mudplugger says:

      Not my job to defend YS, but there is a point of principle there.

      Sharia ‘Law’ is no different from the rules of a private golf club you choose to join. If you choose to join it, you accept the rules of the club and the way they are applied. That’s the same with Islam – if you choose to join that ‘club’, then you are conceding agreement with its rules and method of operation. If its rules offend you, don’t join.

      So long as the ‘club rules’ do not contradict the laws of the land, then it’s simply a private matter between the members and the club.

      Where the key difference lies is that many ‘members’ of that ‘club’ did not choose to join it as free-thinking adults – but that’s another debate.

  14. Jim Flavin says:

    ”and if it is should America ever forgive or forget an attack on its mainland by Religious fanatics ”– Should Iraq or Afghanistan ever forgive the attcks by the religous fantaics of USA . And what about the people of Hiroshima – fried – while Japan was suing for peace. Tne whole exercise was just a demo for the Russians – and it worked . – also Hamburg , Dresden etcetc etc . . 9/11 attack was of course wrong – but was just a small taste of what the US has been doling out to those who disagree with them for last 60 years.
    ”Today this secular nation, whose refusal to either favour or move against any religion is enshrined in the constitution” – this nation is at war with Islam – why – becuse they need to be at war with someone – its a feelgood factor – and a lot of money factor – and to say it is a secular nation – they have no time for Atheists or apparently Moslems . Bush Snr said they ” were one nation united under god ” their god -and all other gods are false . This is like 2,000 or more years ago when the gods were Mars , Apollo etc – ludicrous .

    1. adrian clarke says:

      Hamburg and Dresden were attacks by the British, under bomber Harris, in revenge for the Blitz,and to weaken German resistance in a war started by German expansionism.I dont believe that the war against Iraq was ever a religious war ,even if illegal and wrong.Hiroshima could never be described as a religious war either.
      Secular means non religious so it matters not about atheism or islam ,but if a defence against idealist using Islam as their shield it is justified.As for god .God to me is a matter of faith , but should never be used as an excuse for war or the persecution of any person or gender.The practinioners of Islam have probaly usurped the ideals of a great religion and in my book that makes them not only very dangerous people but ones we do not want or need on our shores

  15. phil dicks says:

    Jon: wilkommen! Great to have you back. You wouldn’t believe the intellectual shambles this place has become in your absence. Riddled with token-tories, it was.
    Great to have you back, err..mate.

    1. phil dicks says:

      Will everyone please forgive this nasty comment?
      We’re good people, I know.

  16. anniexf says:

    Completely off topic but – ” Hey Jude” had us in stitches!!! Sorry Jon, don’t give up the day job …

    1. adrian clarke says:

      I thought the lyrics were great the tone brilliant and deserving of a contract .Did i ever say i was tone deaf??Nonetheless the tie was brilliant :(

  17. Saltaire Sam says:

    Welcome back, Jon. And congratulations to your American brother who sang Hey Jude tonight :-)

    I love America and but for health insurance would have moved to San Francisco years ago. But the Republicans drive me nuts. You only have to watch Jon Stewart and the Daily Show to realise just how crazy they and their media are.

    The other night he had a feature with Fox News complaining about donations to Barack Obama on the day FN gave a million dollars to the Republicans.

    When people talk about cutting Public Service Broadcasting in the UK, they should take a look at the alternative in the US and be grateful.

    PS When’s the album coming out?

  18. margaret brandreth- jones says:

    Was it your choice of song? . Les Dawson reborn..no seriously you sang in tune then sang out of tune : that is difficult to do.

    It might have been against your deepest wishes to expose yourself to that singing session , but twas great..another barrier towards breaking down the walls of self consciousness achieved.

    I didn’t cringe at all… honest….I am so much above that sort of self indulgent empathy.

    1. margaret Brandreth- Jones says:

      sorry Tanya . I am sure you wouldn’t say something as crass as this

  19. tanya spooner says:

    I thought you did very well with Hey Jude, Jon. Glad you had a good holiday and I think it’s very natural to talk politics when in America on holiday, because it is a country riven with extremes which one admires and is appalled by on a regular basis.
    Excellent C4 reporting on the Pakistan floods and all other matters. Welcome back…..

  20. ladyroisin says:

    Much as I love America, I am not convinced it was terrorists who blew up the Twin Towers – and the CIA building next to it. You can call me a fool, but I was as convinced as anyone until I actually looked at the evidence…and it did not add up. Maybe American’s don’t want to know the truth – or cannot accept their own government did this in a bid to keep them docile and justify spending Billions on war supplies. No sign of Bin Laden yet? he is an easy target to blame. Unfortunately Muslims have now been vilified much as other races have in the past – how the USA is going to look to it’s conscience on that, let alone it’s wars, is rather the problem.

  21. Alexandr says:

    The main error of a political strategic course of modern elite of Russia, trying to present the USA as the economic and political competitor. Without having possibility to interest the USA not on one economic problem, to hold the USA within… the limits of decency, having lost geopolitical strategic positions of spheres of influence. Without understanding true motives of opposition of Russia and the USA, and it exist, Democratic liberals as though did not confirm. Property of history consists in its repeatability, all comes back, it is struggle and for economic resources, both for hegemony, and for trading ways, and for a spiritual condition of a society, and for many other motives. Whether will give us passing world forum positive results, certainly is not present. Absolutely other design of creation of a new political axis of the modern world is necessary?…

  22. Zaman says:

    Is Building Islamic community centre near Ground Zero is Islamphobia or race Hate crime?

    Is burning Quran a hate crime or a free speech issue? Is burning a Bible because you hate Christianity, a hate crime? How about burning a Torah? Is that an anti-Semitic act?

    It was not in the name of Islam 9/11 Happened, The terrorist happened to be Muslim, It was not in the name of Christianity the death camps and the Gas Chambers in Poland were constructed, they were Christian extremists and terrorists, were SIX Million innocent Jews were murdered, Are we not going to allow any Churches to be build near the death camps?,

    if there were no God, it would have been necessary to invent him, Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.

    People kill and are killed because they cling too tightly to their own beliefs and ideologies. When we believe that ours is the only faith that contains the truth, violence and suffering will surely be the result.

    The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that’s the essence of inhumanity
    Zaman from London

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