Friday, March 28, 2008

the worth of the west

during my time in india, I've had to defend myself against a fair amount of anti-americanism -- there aren't very many americans travelling in this region, so the few americans who are here end up being a sort of whipping post for frustrated europeans, australians, and other folk. after explaining to them that more than half of americans actually disagree with bush and that I myself worked for 5 years against his domestic policy, they usually let up a little. then we inevitably talk about obama v. hillary, and everyone is excited to see what happens. weirdly, all these conversations have sort of reinforced why I love the u.s. -- sure we've been in a dark time with bush, but people have never stopped trying to change things. and now, with the democratic primaries, there is so much potential for good in the future. coupled with the fact that the past few weeks in india have been really trying, I've been oozing with pride over the fact that I'm from the western world -- women are treated unbelievably better and have much more self-expression, I don't constantly worry about getting ripped off or taken for a ride, we don't throw our garbage in the street or river, etc. if patriotism was about western values and the western way of living, I would be uncle sam's favorite poster child.

all that has changed in dharamsala. it is sobering to understand how much power the west has, and how frustratingly little they do with it, particularly in situations like tibet. I thought I knew what 'marginalized' meant through my work in the u.s. (of COURSE, big drug companies are going to take advantage of old people! of COURSE, wealthy companies are going to exploit their workers!), but the situation with these tibetans is really opening my eyes to how much worse marginalization can get. the organizer in me wants to build a movement from the ground up, but how do you do that against a behemoth like china that doesn't actually give a shit? how do you do that when your people are so spread out and your real government is in exile? what the tibetans need is outside interference, but how do you do that when no country will be your advocate because in the end, it's not worth it, literally? the western world could band together for human rights so easily, and yet they choose not to. over and over again in so many parts of the world.

I've been reading stories about western 'support' for tibet and I don't know if I should laugh or cry. like when pelosi was here, sure she met with the dalai lama but she was so careful to word what she said, because her hands are tied by u.s. interests in china. but for days after, monks were carrying american flags. even yesterday, I had 2 monks approach me, ask if I was american, and when I replied yes, they gave me a big smile. for once, being american scored me bonus points. but for once, I wished one of them had called me out on it. it is so upsetting to be identified with a country that will inevitably let them down because it doesn't have the balls to go against its economic self-interest, because it doesn't have the balls to take the moral high ground.

after the holocaust, everyone said 'never again.' and yet, my beloved country and my beloved western world, with all of its money and power, still can't do the right thing.

this guy is part of a group of young tibetans that paints anti-china/pro-tibet tshirts all day long. here he is, with the beginnings of a shirt that will show the tibetan and u.s. flags intertwined. as if my heart weren't breaking enough as it is.

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