Duff McKagan: An Enlightening Trip (Abroad)


I want to first state that this piece, while political in nature, is not meant to sway votes. I have an opinion on the Presidential candidates. My views will color my writing at times.

A few weeks back, I posed a question to you, the Weekly reader. I asked for you all to form a somewhat concise idea that I could in turn ask in question form of the average European, to find out what they thought of our upcoming election and even where they thought America itself may be headed in the near future. The response from you all was really quite fantastic. Well, as it turns out, on my current trip here, I am being stopped short before I can even get a question out. Opinions here are rampant and overwhelmingly similar. Our conversations go something like this. . .

My first stop was Italy, and my first real dialogue was with a person from the local press in Milan. I asked him if he knew of the recent developments in the U.S. presidential race.

“Oh, yes,” he replied, “ this Palin woman scares the hell out of me and she must be stopped. It seems that she is for real, right?” I asked what he meant by that.

“Well, she likes to shoot guns and doesn’t believe in sex education?” I said that in fact these were the exact things I had heard in a very simplified way, but yes, these things did actually appeal to a large part of the voting constituency back home.

“Oh, shit,” he said, “they are going to win aren’t they. . .” I said that I did not know.

“Well, this is what I now feel and it makes me very sad.” I left Italy with a sense of embarrassment that I could not shake. (Shame?).

I do realize that every country has its own political and civil issues, and that by no means are we Americans alone in the arena of frustration with empty-promise-laden talking heads, but the world does look to the U.S. for a lead when things like the Georgia crisis happens—that is just the way it is.

OK, then, on to the U.K. The viewpoints on U.S. politics seem to be a bit more keen here in Britain, as our two countries have sort of been in bed on things like the “War on Terror.” I boarded our band tour bus after we arrived at Heathrow, and promptly asked our driver if he was “up” on the current American presidential race. His name is Darren, and his statement went something like this:

“Oh, yes, I am quite familiar with the whole thing. This Palin bird from Alaska quite scares the shit out of me. She is getting a lot of coverage over here for how bizarre she actually is to us. The U.K. doesn’t really understand someone like her.” I replied that the people that I know from the U.S. don’t really understand her either.

Our conversation moved in and out of a bunch of different issues, including his knowledge of the Diebold voting machine scandal in Ohio after the 2004 election. We spoke of the out-dated electoral-college system still in place in U.S. presidential races. He asked me if I thought that if a single person’s vote still really held weight. I explained that I was perhaps skeptical, but had no real evidence to back up my skepticism. I took note that if Darren represented the average Englander, their education of current political affairs was well above average. Darren also informed me of a common opinion on Bush/Cheney.

“We are not terribly frightened of Bush. He just seems quite ‘thick’ [errr, not smart], but Cheney scares us to death. It appears to us that he is running the whole show. If the McCain/Palin ticket wins, we are more afraid of her than him.”

In these days of complete-saturation press coverage, could it be that actual campaign policy is ignored or erased by the sheer volume of “face time” with the camera? On top of that, if some gun-toting Bible-touting right-wing conservative “scares the hell” out of the average European, whom do they appeal to in America? Look, I’m not dumb, and I do realize that there is a major evangelical movement in the U.S. that can sway an election one way or the other. I also know that the NRA carries a lot of weight. But the more people that I speak with over here, the more INSANE it seems that God and guns are such a huge issue in politics. . . what the fuck? Instead of America perhaps leading the way to world-wide enlightenment, it seems perhaps that ideas from the times of Constantine are being drawn on to control what happens within our borders.

A few days later I had an open conversation with a mix of businessmen and women in London. Their concerns echoed exactly those of our bus driver, without really swaying one way or the other. While they have no idea what Obama would actually do once in office, they would much rather take their collective chances with him than be faced with what they conceived as a darker version of Bush/Cheney. These opinions were shared in Scotland and Ireland too . . . exactly.

Well, folks, there it is. Most of you reading this, being mostly Seattleites and presumably mostly Democratic, are probably bashing your foreheads against a brick wall somewhere. I didn’t set out on this mini-odyssey to depress you, the reader. I was rather hoping to get some insight myself, and to share with you. I would rather be informed than walk around in an ignorant haze. I hope at least that this little article will stimulate thought and perhaps even dialogue. I think I will try to find something humorous to write about next week. Remind me to tell you guys about “fart tennis.” Until next week, cheers!

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