BARCELONA, Spain – When we left off, our muckraking hero had volunteered to do what no other GW Hatchet columnist dared – convert the image of the United States abroad back to the soft, cuddly teddy bear it had been in the days of Truman and Eisenhower. It wouldn’t be easy, but nothing about being a GW Hatchet columnist is.
I figured I’d begin my crusade, (as George W. Bush might say) in swinging Barcelona, my home for the semester. Activism is a healthy tradition here, so it wasn’t surprising when anti-war protests and strikes became a daily routine as the war against Iraq began. The city would provide perfect testing ground, I thought, to discern if America’s reputation had been harmed beyond repair, or if this whole Iraq deal was just another South American coup in the wind.
I spied a group of Catalan anarchists smoking cigarettes and loitering outside a market, 7-11 style. They were preparing to commence with the daily, 10:00 p.m. banging of pots and pans to protest the already-over war. One held a sign that read the Spanish equivalent of “No Blood For Oil.”
“Hey fellas, looks like you don’t like what America’s doing over there in Iraq (I pronounced it “Eye-Raq”). There was an awkward pause, and a man wearing a black bandanna and a Che Guevara T-shirt glared at me like a glare-monster.
“Your country’s government bypassed the U.N. and waged an illegal war on their own terms. George W. Bush is an evil man,” Guevara said.
“You very well could be right about all that, Mr. Guevara,” I said. “But if you’ll just give me two hours, I’ll show you why America is still a great country. You see, all you have to do is ignore all the politicians and foreign policy.”
“Though I have lost all faith in the idea that America could be a model for world democracy, and in fact think America is a moral black hole,” Guevara added, “I will take you up on your offer. You have an honest face.”
There was only one thing to do. Only one American institution could convince Spanish anarchists that the country was going in the right direction. I spied a local Cineplex which offered original-voice American films. Thank God Americans are so catered to in European cities, I thought to myself. I couldn’t help notice Chicago was playing, so I dragged the anarchists into the theater and bought them all large popcorns (I insisted on extra butter) and Cokes.
Two and a half-hours later, a man who identified himself only as “Jordi,” who sported a tattoo of a giant encircled “A” on his arm, emerged from the theater in a daze.
“You know, I still hate your government,” he told me as we walked into the bright sunshine of a spring day in Barcelona. “But sometimes we anarchists forget that Hollywood can put on a damn good show. After seeing that film, I will confine my hatred of your country to the government and tell all my left-leaning friends to do the same.”
“Huh,” I mumbled. “Well, I didn’t think the movie deserved best picture or anything, but hey, that’s cool if it got the job done for you. I was thinking it would have been more fun to see Adaptation, but I didn’t want to ruin your mood.”
“No, that’s alright, my and my friends just love musicals, that’s all.”
As I surveyed the Spanish landscape, I saw “No a la Guerra” plastered on everything from cars to storefronts. There was Graffiti scrawled on a wall equating George W. Bush to Hitler. A little boy kicked me in the shins, which I think was unrelated to my being American. And yet, I felt a newfound sense of hope for the future. Those anarchists taught me that America could most definitely be redeemed, even in the eyes of those who do not like its role in the world.
All you need to do, I thought, is give ’em the old razzle-dazzle.
-The writer, a junior majoring in history, is a Hatchet humor columnist studying abroad in Spain.
This article appeared in the May 1, 2003 issue of the Hatchet.