* Indeed. Without America, our world would be much uglier, dangerous and by far not as livable as it is now.
Speaking as a misfit unassimilated foreigner, I think of Thanksgiving as the most American of holidays.
Christmas is celebrated elsewhere, even if there are significant local variations: In Continental Europe, naughty children get left rods to be flayed with and lumps of coal; in Britain, Christmas lasts from Dec. 22 to mid-January and celebrates the ancient cultural traditions of massive alcohol intake and watching the telly till you pass out in a pool of your own vomit. All part of the rich diversity of our world.
But Thanksgiving (excepting the premature and somewhat undernourished Canadian version) is unique to America. “What’s it about?” an Irish visitor asked me a couple of years back. “Everyone sits around giving thanks all day? Thanks for what? George bloody Bush?”
Well, Americans have a lot to be thankful for.
Europeans think of this country as “the New World” in part because it has an eternal newness, which is noisy and distracting. Who would ever have thought you could have ready-to-eat pizza faxed directly to your iPod?
And just when you think you’re on top of the general trend of novelty, it veers off in an entirely different direction: Continentals who grew up on Hollywood movies where the guy tells the waitress “Gimme a cuppa joe” and slides over a nickel return to New York a year or two later and find the coffee now costs $5.75, takes 25 minutes and requires an agonizing choice between the cinnamon-gingerbread-persimmon latte with coxcomb sprinkles and the decaf venti pepperoni-Eurasian-milfoil macchiato.
Who would have foreseen that the nation that inflicted fast food and drive-thru restaurants on the planet would then take the fastest menu item of all and turn it into a Kabuki-paced performance art? What mad genius!
But Americans aren’t novelty junkies on the important things. The New World is one of the oldest settled constitutional democracies on Earth, to a degree the Old World can barely comprehend. Where it counts, Americans are traditionalists.
We know Eastern Europe was a totalitarian prison until the Nineties, but we forget that Mediterranean Europe (Greece, Spain, Portugal) has democratic roots going all the way back until, oh, the mid-Seventies; France and Germany’s constitutions date back barely half a century, Italy’s only to the 1940s, and Belgium’s goes back about 20 minutes, and currently it’s not clear whether even that latest rewrite remains operative. The U.S. Constitution is not only older than France’s, Germany’s, Italy’s or Spain’s constitution, it’s older than all of them put together.
Americans think of Europe as Goethe and Mozart and 12th century castles and 6th century churches, but the Continent’s governing mechanisms are no more ancient than the Partridge Family. Aside from the Anglophone democracies, most of the nation-states in the West have been conspicuous failures at sustaining peaceful political evolution from one generation to the next, which is why they’re so susceptible to the siren song of Big Ideas â€“ communism, fascism, European Union.
If you’re going to be novelty-crazed, better the zebra-mussel cappuccino than the Third Reich.
Read it all
* Moslems shouldn’t be security guards at airports. It doesn’t make sense. Here we have a case were one ingratiate was given such a job, but sees it her Islamic duty to boycott her employer over a dress code which she doesn’t respect.
A security guard at Toronto’s Pearson Airport was ordered off the job for wearing a skirt that’s too long.
Halima Muse, a practicing Muslim, was laid off without pay by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority until she agrees to wear a standard uniform that includes either slacks or a skirt that falls at the knee.
Not willing to oblige by the rules, she took matters into her own hands and filed a complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Commission saying she was the target of religious discrimination, since Islam instructs that she dress modestly.
Muse, 33, claims that she’s never had any problems with her employer in the five years that she’s worked there, until now. She told media that her decision to sport the longer skirt was not a matter of personal style, it was about dignity.
In a statement she made to the Commission, Muse said she never liked the uniform pants that she used to wear because they showed the shape of her body. So she asked the person in charge of work attire for a skirt that’s longer than the standard one, but was told it didn’t exist. So she went out and bought material matching in colour and made her own skirt that reached her ankle.
For six months, nobody said anything to her about the garment until a manager told her she had to conform to regulations. She was suspended for one day on Aug. 11, then for three days on Aug. 15 followed by a subsequent five-day suspension and then was sent home indefinitely on Aug. 29.
A single mother from Somalia with a teenage son, Muse has been out of a job for the last three months. In that time, she’s racked up debt on her credit card and has been borrowing money from relatives, according to a media report.
She said the federal employment insurance agency has rejected her application because she’s not officially unemployed. She’s allowed to go back to work as long as she conforms to regulations that she considers to be a violation of her religious rights.
Another act of treason from:
U.S. Secretly Aids Pakistan in Guarding Nuclear Arms
By DAVID E. SANGER and WILLIAM J. BROAD
WASHINGTON, Nov. 17 â€” Over the past six years, the Bush administration has spent almost $100 million on a highly classified program to help Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, secure his country’s nuclear weapons, according to current and former senior administration officials.
But with the future of that country’s leadership in doubt, debate is intensifying about whether Washington has done enough to help protect the warheads and laboratories, and whether Pakistan’s reluctance to reveal critical details about its arsenal has undercut the effectiveness of the continuing security effort.
The aid, buried in secret portions of the federal budget, paid for the training of Pakistani personnel in the United States and the construction of a nuclear security training center in Pakistan, a facility that American officials say is nowhere near completion, even though it was supposed to be in operation this year.
A raft of equipment â€” from helicopters to night-vision goggles to nuclear detection equipment â€” was given to Pakistan to help secure its nuclear material, its warheads, and the laboratories that were the site of the worst known case of nuclear proliferation in the atomic age.