Last night at 1:30 AM-- technically early today-- Biden's most disgusting and shameful nominee was confirmed as ambassador to Japan. The vile Rahm Emanuel doesn't deserve it. 31 senators, including Bernie, weren't even there when the corrupt, shady Chuck Schumer-- as close and beholden to the bankster class as Emanuel-- snuck in the vote. The only Democrats who voted against the nomination:
Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
Ed Markey (D-MA)
He was confirmed 48-21. Self-styled progressives who VOTED FOR RAHM EMANUEL were Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), of course Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tina Smith (D-MN)Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Sheldon Whitehorse (D-RI) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). Naturally, all the conservative Democrats were on board and they were joined by 8 Republicans.
Dick Durbin (D-IL) was one of the Democrats pushing the hardest to get Emanuel confirmed. After the vote, he said "Rahm Emanuel has a lifetime of public service preparing him for this role. Japan is an important strategic partner in Asia, particularly in light of our continued challenges from China. I have no doubt Rahm will be a strong voice for America in Japan." Oh, yeah... because Emanuel is the least diplomatic person to ever serve in Washington. And with that vote, thee Senate slinked off back to their states, having accomplished virtually nothing of any value for the American people.
But... speaking of Japan, also early, early today, Noah Smith wrote about his own experience living there-- in the context of the tiny number of Americans who have ever lived abroad. Note: one of the greatest experiences of my life was leaving the U.S. immediately after college and living in different places around the world, from Afghanistan, Goa and Nepal to a home I made for myself in Amsterdam.
"40% of Americans say they’ve never left the country at all," wrote Smith, "and fewer than half own a passport. And far fewer have lived in other countries for a substantial period of time; getting data on the number of expats is hard, but sources agree that less than 3% of Americans live abroad at any given time (and many of those in Canada or Mexico). Other sources put the number much lower-- the OECD has us at only 0.5% living abroad in 2015, less than any other advanced country except China:
"[L]iving abroad," he wrote, "is different, in a number of ways. You get to see another system in action-- a whole different way of organizing a society, with institutions that developed in a very different historical context. The hysteresis of national development means that countries have different ways of doing things-- sometimes with good reason, sometimes for no good reason at all. Some differences are cultural, some have deep economic roots, and some are accidents of history-- and it can be difficult to tell which is which.
Of course, actually knowing what you’re seeing is very difficult. For one thing, as a foreigner, your vantage point will be different; you won’t fit into another society in anything like the same way you fit in in your home country. This can exaggerate the differences. For example, the first year and a half that I lived in Japan, I lived in a yakuza neighborhood; this exposed me to a seedy side of society that definitely exists in America, but which I had always studiously avoided before. It took a little while for me to realize that car bombings, arson, and brothels are not considered typical elements of Japanese society (and yes, I did see a finger-cutting ceremony, or at least the aftermath of one).
Another pitfall is the tendency to see other cultures through the lens of your own preconceived stereotypes. I’ve seen a few Westerners interpret the boundless creativity and self-expression of the Japanese street fashion scene as some kind of expression of conformity, simply because they had always been told that Japan was a “conformist” country (even though surveys have found Japan to be slightly more individualistic than the U.S. since around the mid-1980s). An Australian friend of mine expressed her disgust at seeing Japanese people wearing masks on the train (heh), thinking that it sprang from fastidious germophobia; we had to explain that these people had colds themselves, and were conscientiously trying to prevent spreading their germs to others.
But if you can remember to be open-minded and to not over-generalize, living in a foreign country can be incredibly eye-opening. Of course, everyone who goes to Japan comes back gushing about how well the trains work and how convenient the convenience store chains and drink machines are. And once you’ve experienced the magic of Japanese toilets, it’s hard to go back to the stone-age U.S. version. But there are a lot of smaller things to appreciate.
You'll have to go to his sub-stack to read all the examples. Hard to imagine Rahm Emanuel experiencing them with anything remotely resembling an open mind.
"[L]living abroad," Smith concluded, "helps you see all kinds of things about your own country that you tend to overlook or take for granted. I never realized how much Americans tiptoe around the topic of other people’s personal appearance until I saw Japanese people telling each other “Oh, you lost weight!” I never thought of shouting down a waiter until I learned that that’s what you have to do in Japan. I had simply internalized an unconscious list of things to talk about and things not to to talk about, and when I saw people who had internalized different lists, my own became more visible to me. In fact, living in supposedly hyper-polite Japan made me realize that Americans-- who think of ourselves as blunt and direct-- are governed by a delicate, complex web of behavioral rules that are second nature to us." [Emanuel celebrates his own bluntness, directness and absolute rudeness.]
[U]ltimately, that’s the most important reason to live abroad-- to reexamine your relationship to your own country. You’ll see both the good and the bad in your own country that previously you only thought of as neutral and normal. Some people live overseas and decide that their home country was overrated all along, and decide never to come back. Others realize they love all kinds of things about their country that they took for granted before, and move back and feel happier at home than they would have if they had never seen the alternative.
For me, it was somewhere in between those extremes. Living abroad made me frustrated with all the things America could do better if we only realized that better ways existed. But it also made me appreciate lots of good and special things about my country. I came back to my country angrier about its class differences, but more pleased with the degree to which it embraces diversity and promotes gender equality. I’m more exasperated than ever with how much we pay for infrastructure and health care, but more appreciative of the high consumption levels that even our working class enjoys. And there are other, subtler things I see about America too-- things that I’m not sure I could ever express in concrete terms.
When Americans complain bitterly about their native land, or reflexively praise it, my reaction is now the same: “Have you lived anywhere else?” For those who hate their country, living abroad might either cause them to temper that hate, or give them a more favorable alternative to move to. And for those who love their country, living abroad might give them more things to appreciate about it, or help them see ways it could be even better. This is why I think we should have more programs that encourage young Americans to do a year abroad.
In other words, what my time abroad taught me was that to really love your country, you have to understand it. And there are things you won’t truly understand about your country until you step outside it and look back in.