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a man slumped on his desk, from 'The Sleep of Reason Produces



horrid day; roll-call of the presidents

Yuck. Nasty fistful of hours, full of drama and not-much done. The only tiny island of glee (I like wading desperately out to those when stuck out on some muddy estuary of despond) was sitting in a ten minute taxi ride, listening to the roll-call of the Democrats end with Hillary propsoing for the unanimous support for Obama by acclaim.

I remember watching the American conventions at home, and — as is correct behaviour in Britain — sneering in projected shame at the display: not of the emotion, but of all that self-congratulatory pomp. And so pre-rehearsed! What’s the translatable metaphor here? It’s like if Americans were to turn on the television and see Mexicans greet their new nominee by taking giant cakes made in advance in the shape of their candidate, and then individually smearing it over their bodies going “love him, love me, loooooove meee loving himmmmm”, while the camera obscenely zooms in on their smug faces. That’s what American pageantry looks like to Brits. It’s not the show of emotion, it’s the horrid self-reflexive, self-glorifying appearance of it.

These days, I rather like it (the pageantry, not the cake smearing) — the constructed joy is infectious, even as I dimly hear the echo of a million English voices going “Oh, do come off it!”.

To translate backwards, here the rollcall is like an English person going into the corridor, doing a little jump and saying “yay! me!”, being caught by your best friend — and then have them give you a knowing wink. Americans are allowed to do all that, somehow choreographed in advance, on TV, with thousands of each other, in pursuit of their political ideas, and smeared with cake, I mean, with streamers and big banners.

Forget the cake. It’s a distraction. When I get back to the UK, I’m going to go to a football match, because I think need more metaphors for all of this. Also, right now I could do with the anticipation of some big happy emotions. If they do that at West Ham these days.

3 Responses to “horrid day; roll-call of the presidents”

  1. Matt Petty Says:

    (3 months in the US and counting) I’m starting to feel the same way about the pageantry. If this keeps up, I’ll be able to watch The Daily Show without fast-forwarding through the terrible music and all the whooping and hollering.

  2. Petty. Me. Uk. » My American Fellows Says:

    […] Danny O’Brien describes his reaction to the current showbiz extravaganza that is the Democratic National Convention. I don’t really like writing about politics here, because I’m too inarticulate (basically I’m a Euston Manifesto type of guy, with all the “yes, but how?” vagueness that entails). But as an Englishman now living in San Diego, I’m interested to read other “expats’” views. I agree with what he says about the pageantry. I do like a good show though, but only if the audience shut up long enough to let it happen. […]

  3. nick s Says:

    I’m just going to concentrate on the Canadian election that everyone expects will be announced next week, and done by mid-October. Otherwise I will go completely bonkers.


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