I was just mowing the lawns – a time when I can just flick on to auto-mow and just cogitate for a while – and a couple of phrases collided in my mind…the first was one by John Birmingham in one of his blog posts on writing, this one on where the idea for a book or story might come from. In this case, Without Warning is the result of JB enduring some fool prattling on about all of America’s failings…
“…he screamed at me the world would be a much better place if we all just woke up one day and they were gone, just gone, every last American in the world. That dumb ass suggestion must have caught like a fish hook in my brain and kept nagging away for years until the idea of turning it into a novel finally occurred to me after a couple of months of frustrating negotiations to settle on the topic for a new trilogy after Axis of Time…“
The quote that rear-ended these lines from JB is one I saw but didn’t really absorb from Neptunus Lex last week on Barack Obama’s acceptance speech in Oslo:
“…I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world’s sole military superpower.
But the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions — not just treaties and declarations — that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest — because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity…“
It struck me, as I mowed, that sometimes we should be careful what we wish for – it just might happen…I’ve met a lot of Americans and some of them were real dicks BUT in no greater proportion than those I have endured in Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the UK . As much as we might like to take a populist view of America’s ‘failure’ in Vietnam, I was struck by the attitude of the Vietnamese people when I was there some years ago: they despised the French with a true passion (understandable) but considered as America as well-intentioned but misguided “…came to our country with the best intentions but for the wrong reasons…”
We’re all too happy to stand back and let America take the hits…til the Wehrmacht tosses a few warmers across the Channel, or the Imperial Navy steams south; the national daily prayer of France should be ‘Thank you, America’; as it should be in many ingrate European countries – can you say ‘Marshall Plan’?’ Can you say ‘thank God, someone else was able to sort Yugoslavia out’?. Even in our backyard, INTERFET may have been Aussie-led with a Kiwi 2IC but lets NOT forget Peleliu and her sister were there as well – just in case.
When has it ever hurt to simply say “thank you“?
PS. It’s worth reading the whole of the Neptunus Lex post on what it means to be a nation at war – we might need to know one day…