Teaching In Socks

Political currency
February 4, 2009, 4:16 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized
Yes We Can Buy These Jeans

Yes We Can Buy These Jeans

I lived in London during the first half of 2004.  At that time, the war in Iraq was just turning a year old, and England, under Tony Blair, was reluctantly the most militarily invested of the “Coalition of the Willing”. In March, Spain was attacked and you could get the sense that this struck a chord with Londoners.

It would be an exaggeration to say that American foreign policy was a source of constant debate while I was living abroad, but I do recall it becoming the standard segue into conversation anytime I was introduced to a European. “What do you think about Bush?” basically replaced “nice weather, we’re having” as the go to  conversation ice-breaker.

Not that being American had much “cool currency” in London to begin with. I think the  group of students I belonged to had a reputation of asking stupid questions, wearing brightly colored hiking gear on Regent Street, and acting like idiots in the lamest bars around town. That is to say, even without the war, being a proud American in London is like trying to impress a girl in New York by telling her that you’re Canadian.

I bring this up only because when I saw this Obama sign plastered on the window of a women’s clothing store in Kobe, it made me realize I might be experiencing the exact opposite of my London experience here in Japan.

To begin, even before Obama, and for a while now I would imagine, that in a number of circles, being an American was a positive status symbol. I ca’t personally confirm this, but I get the impression that over the last ten years, when America was the arguably the least country in the world (or at least in Europe and the Mid-east) America was still cool in Japan–and not just New York/LA-America, but America-America. People in Japan were still taking English classes, watching Keanu Reeves movies, and buying Abercrombie and Fitch. In fact I remember when I first got here I saw a student wearing a “faux-school” shirt for a fictitious High School in Missouri.

If that’s not enough, people have said they think I look like Tom Cruise, and not only are they serious, but they also don’t mean that as an insult (nor did I clarify them on why it would be).

On top of this, as you may have heard, the political climate has changed in such a manner that America now has the most iconic President it has had in almost 50 years. I can’t imagine Bush’s likeness being used to sell anything other than rifle ammo. Jimmy Carter’s doesn’t ndores anything other than Habitat for Humanity and Billy Beer. I don’t even think Clinton’s face was used to move women’s clothing (own joke goes here). Let’s cancel that bailout: Obama’s Economic stimulus plan should just consist of him continuing to be really cool and appearing in a bunch of Coke and Nike commercials. The invisable hand of the market will do the rest.

For the past two weeks students and friends have had Obama fever. The number one selling book in Japan is a book of Obama’s speeches. I was also congratulated on his inauguration several times, and students have been asking questions constantly. While popularity by no means ensures Presidential success (well, maybe it does), I know from experience that being cool by assosciation is better than the alternative… so far.


1 Comment so far
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Be very careful with the rifle ammo jokes in this context, young man.

Comment by Greyfox

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