July 30, 2011

"Cambodians... refused to believe anything bad about the United States."

Writes Terry McCoy, in the new issue of Isthmus...
I vividly recall failing to explain to a young boy that some things aren't wonderful in America. People even suffer from depression.

"No, America is beautiful," he replied.
McCoy was in the Peace Corps, where, he complains, he felt "a deep sense of isolation" and "failed time and again to integrate into a culture different from my own." Eventually, he realized he would always be "an outsider," because "I wasn't Khmer and never would be."

Isthmus exploits this alienated young man's musings for a cover story titled "Not my Madison/Political unrest has changed the city's character." You see, when the alienated young man returned from the place where he felt alienated, he found that he was still alienated, because his city had changed. It used to be so harmonious, but somehow these people who were not the Madisonians he grew up with had taken over political power.

Well, Mr. McCoy, I hate to bring you down, but the city of Madison is the capital of an entire state, and, sometimes, an election gives the majority and the governorship to — gasp! — that other party, the one the people of Madison would like to discipline its citizens never to mention any positive feeling for. That discipline was the harmony of Madison that you remember, pre-Cambodia. When the Republicans from the hinterlands came to town and began to enact their policies, Madisonians had a collective nervous breakdown in public.

Post-protests, McCoy is bummed out to find Madisonians in a bad mood. They failed, despite strenuous efforts, to deny Republicans the power that had been legitimately and democratically won in a thoroughly fair election.  America is beautiful, as the Cambodian boy said. But you like to think of him as a fool.

I would love to link to this article, but — alas! — I cannot, not until — what is it? a week? — Isthmus deems it time to put the text on line. Ironically, despite all the left-wing politics and heavy-handed attacks on corporate greed and pressure on us to subordinate our needs to environmentalism, Isthmus wants the people of Madison to pick up the newsprint paper. There are stacks and stacks of this rag all over town. I can't think of any reason for this other than... corporate greed: they want to maximize ad revenue.

So, I'd love to give my readers more of the context of this article, but you can't read the whole thing unless you can get your hands on the inky, pulpy object that I have right here. There's a limit to how many quotes I'm willing to type out to be fair to this young man, who comes across as a brooding introvert. I wonder what the first draft of this article was. I can't help speculating that he had his introspective Cambodian journals, and then he got the idea — or somebody insisted — that he shoehorn all this Wisconsin protest material into it — quotes from UW sociology professors and whatnot.
"When people have been decisively crushed, they get demoralized." — UW Prof. Pam Oliver
That's one of the pull quotes. The other pull quote is:
There's a new sense that normal citizens can't change anything.
Normal citizens! Because — in the Madison hive mind — the people who vote for Republicans are not normal.

UPDATE: The text is up.


AllenS said...

You say brooding introvert, I say candy assed punk.

Henry said...

What really must irk is that a bunch of normal citizens did change things.

Denial ain't a river in Cambodia.

mesquito said...

There are few places more insular and tedious than an American college town. Some people find it so comforting they can never bring themselves to leave.

traditionalguy said...

Bravo, dear Professor.

You spoke from the heart as a witness to what you know from experience.

That quoted Isthmus article relates the stunning modern experience of those who leave a town or a country for a year or so and then return. They are unnerved by how fast everything they knew there has changed.

The explosion of knowledge organized and disseminated by computers seems to have a Tsunami affect on a culture's morality and thought life.

Very little of the old is left standing for long.

Gotta keep up with em. That is where children help me the most. They are better parented and better educated than we were.

mesquito said...

I vividly recall failing to explain to a young boy that some things aren't wonderful in America. People even suffer from depression.

I ran into a jackass like this when I was a teenager visiting Norway.

Some people bring their tiresome political obsessions half way around the world and irritate the locals.

I love that: "People even suffer from depression."

No shit.

They really imagine they can ingratiate themselves with the locals by sounding all NPR. Every society creates it's own share of patronizing phonies.

Triangle Man said...

There are few places more insular and tedious than an American college town.

That's a reasonable description of any small town by someone who wants to leave.

CrankyProfessor said...

I had never realized before how much it must be as though ITHACA were the capital of New York.

Sella Turcica said...

Ironic that Mr. McCoy might feel that Cambodia is beautiful...that is, Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge, where the "right people" were in charge, without this pesky democracy thing to get in the way.

Pastafarian said...

Thank goodness we have people like this to go out into the wide world as our ambassadors, so that they can disparage us to citizens of the few countries where we're well-thought-of.

You know the people who make better ambassadors, better representatives of our country than these backstabbing peace corps hippies?

The kids in our military.

20 years from now, the US will be very popular with the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. Maybe not the with the government, but with the people.

Henry said...

Ann's writeup reminds me of Chrissie Hynde's great song, "My City was Gone". Alienation is something universal, and Chrissie zeroes in on the betrayal of memory that can shake any of us up. But alienation is also comic, especially when assumed as an attitude by the young.

I went back to Wisconsin
But my city was gone
There was no free camping
On the capitol lawn
The Democrats had disappeared
All my favorite spenders
My city had been pulled down
Reduced to balloon venders
A, O, pack it in, Wisconsin.

Franklin said...

"At that moment, America's lack of civility seemed an awfully trivial concern"

What an unbelievable pussy. And what a completely tone-deaf, wrong-headed, and moronic poise.

The Crack Emcee said...

I love the concept of "the hive mind." At least, I do now - it used to drive me crazy - all of these so-called individuals, completely incapable of acting like it, determined to tear down anyone who gets in their way.

Oh well, who wants dinner?

Anonymous said...

Ha. I don't know the fellow and I have never been to Madison, but I have an opinion. My opinion is that the "harmony" this young man was so accustomed to was that when the Conservatives are not in positions of political power and law making they, the Conservatives, behave like mature grown-ups and don't turn the city upside down with their "it's not fair" attitude / tantrum.

Cosmo said...

Notice the exquisite multi-cultural tolerance of an exotic foreign culture -- to the point of wanting ot become part of it -- compared to the ailienation he feels toward those of his home city who happen to think differently.

I run into these types overseas -- 'global citizens' who have no idea how their preening, reflex self-deprecation and obsequious deference plays to the locals.

And, frankly, they don't care, because the whole act is designed to demonstrate their multi-culti bona fides, mainly to themselves and others like them.

Brian Brown said...

This is just further proof that the left doesn't really believe in having a representative government.

They would much rather prefer a fascist regime with "right thinking people" in charge.

lemondog said...

1. He is young
2. He has never experienced threat to his way of life from war, invasion or from a totalitarian government
3. He has an unrecognized sense of democratic privilege assumed to be a norm.
4. He lacks knowledge of, and an understanding of, history
5. He does not recognize, understand or appreciate cycles and change

JAL said...

ahhh ... is that the agonal breathing of a mutli-kulti??

No, probably not ... But we can take heart in his travails that this young man can throw -- throw -- himself in to Barack Obama's re-election campaign and shake the depression which he finds himself in.

DADvocate said...

Sometimes a deep sense of isolation comes from within, that this guy comes across as "a brooding introvert" supports this in him. Only idiots think they can integrate into a culture different from their own despite years of different think, different skin color, hair color, etc. This is part of Obama's problem, due to years growing up in other lands, he doesn't fully understand our culture and love of democracy and freedom.

The guy needs good therapy, which he won't find in Madison because the lefty therapists there will support his feelings and make them worse.

When people have been decisively crushed, they get demoralized.

Is she lamenting or giving advice to crush and demoralize those non-normal people?

Billy Beck said...


"Ithaca: fourteen square miles surrounded by reality."

(bumper sticker seen around town)

That's really what it is.

(over here in Dryden)

ricpic said...

Exquisite Sophisticates: wiping out the American Dream, here and abroad.

Cranky Professor - I live just outside Ithaca and the local holier-than-thous are bound and determined to keep upstate NY a northern extension of Appalachia. No Fracking! Nevermind that they're drilling like crazy in Pennsy with not a scintilla of evidence that the water has been in any way contaminated. There is no greater enemy of the blue collars than the beautiful people.

I'm Full of Soup said...

We should get rid of the Peace Corpse. Chris Mathews was in the Peace Corps. McCoy sounds like a young Chris Mathews.

test said...

Well there's a lefty mission.

Q: What have you done with your life?

A: Quite a bit really. I found myself unable to contribute to society, that's so bourgeousie. So I joined the Peace Corp. Did you know you can get paid to travel around the world teaching everyone how evil Ameica is? I'm so lucky to have found such a fulfilling career.

Freeman Hunt said...

This reminds me of a book I'm reading that was written (or possibly dictated) by an older Yanomamo Indian.

He often expresses great disdain for the white people who show up and try to tell them that their jungle way of life is great and that they shouldn't try to change it at all. Also much annoyance at white people with cameras wanting the indians to strip off any modern clothes they've obtained and don loincloths for better photographs.

jason said...

Read it HERE:

TeamOSweet said...

He's been to school for a year or two; wants to live where people are one; where they get things done.

Anonymous said...

I'm for letting people have what they want, the right to choose. Along with the federal government, maybe states themselves are also too big. Most states seem to be in a conflict between a handful of cities dominated by urban liberals and the remainder of the state, dominated by more conservative surburbanites and rurals. Illinois is the quintessential example of this. Maybe smaller subdivisions would be helpful; rather than forcing one or the other vision on the whole state, have smaller "states" and let the urban liberals create their tax and regulation happy utopias and let the rest of us "non-normal" people live in peace (i.e. relatively free of those idiots.) Yeah, this was tried with Berlin and the commies ended up building a wall. But it does make the point about who's for "choice" and who ain't.

John henry said...

This kid really pisses me off. What the Hell is the matter with him?

Well, I have some ideas but he still really pisses me off.

I wonder if he knows that about 25% of the population of the country was murdered by people whose ideas he probably supports? Does he even mention that in the article?

OF COURSE the Cambodian kid feels that America is beautiful. Compared to a country where murder can happen on such a massive scale, any other country will be beautiful.

I don't know what problems this child sees in the US. I can think of plenty, we are far from perfect, but my list may be different from his. Whatever problems we may have would seem pretty pale in comparison with those of Cambodia. Those Cambodia had pre-VN war, those Cambodia had under the Khmer Rouge and those they have now.


John Henry

pst314 said...

Here is a link to that column in the Isthmus.

Bill Dalasio said...

I vividly recall failing to explain to a young boy that some things aren't wonderful in America. People even suffer from depression.
Somehow or another I'm inclined to suspect that, in response to this comment, the young Cambodian thought something to the effect of "Sure, a**hole, we have depression here too. You just get to be depressed in a nice suburban tract home while we get to be depressed on a budget of a dollar a day."

pst314 said...

Here is a link to another column by Terry McCoy, this one solely about Cambodia.

Anonymous said...


The article is on-line. Excerpt:

"As I walk through the town of my childhood, I realize I'm one of the few not vested in these matters; one of the few more interested in the people of Madison than the politics. I was absent during a pivotal period here, mired in a time warp in Cambodia. As such, I'm not privy to the hopelessness that has enveloped Madison. I just can't relate to the depth of everyone's passion."

Andy Johnson said...

"Elections have consequences." somebody once said. Then went on to spend more money in two years than anyone in history.

Elections have Consequences. is a fact-of-life in our democracy. If you don't vote-you can't complain. f yo do vote, accept the results or admit that you're just a thug-at-heart who will use violence or ballot box to get our way, whichever is easiest at the time.

Voters choose or thugs choose-? Which shall we have-? we know which vice has chosen the thugs. Now we see them demonizing those who won. Why-? It's -all- about power. There is no limit to a humans thirst/lust for power once they have seized it and abused it. They cannot give it up willingly.

Ironically, the power hold seems lightest on those who use it for the greatest good. Those who reward, corrupt, others never seem to be abl to walk away from it.

Human nature- just that easy(?)

AllenS said...

John Henry,

I believe it's called white guilt.

pst314 said...

McCoy is partly right, but in a way that he does not realize: Madison is full of people who will always fall in love with the next Communist tyrant. Only after enough photos of dead bodies have been smuggled out will our Madison friends admit that maybe, perhaps there might have been something slightly less than perfect about that regime. But nonetheless they will never admit that there might be something fundamentally wrong in their thinking that lead them to support such monsters.

MikeinAppalachia said...


All of Appalachia above the Marcellus is currently drilling for Nat Gas and almost all of that is by "fracking". Maybe the locals just want a sterotype of Appalachia, not the reality?

edutcher said...

The Cambodians are more pro-American than some Madisonians.

Sounds like Bo Gritz did a better job than he may have realized.

If he's still alive, I hope he's well.

Claude Hopper said...

My son was an itinerate chef in Asia for a while and worked in Phnom Phen during an election campaign (Hun Sen v Ranariddh). Nearly every night shots were fired to decide which contestant's party loyalists would be declared the debate winner. My son said the sounds of gun fire kinda made him homesick for Brooklyn.

Trooper York said...

roesch-voltaire said...
Sort like the occupying forces driving through Iraq?

This was posted in the thread about Walker's motorcade avoiding a mob of filthy hippies.

You see they think that a democratically elected Governor and Republican legislature are occupying forces.

These people are really weirdoes. They don’t believe in elections. They want what they want and will feel the state or sue in the courts or try anything to get what they want. Screw the election process. It doesn’t count unless they win.

Lyle said...

I've met peace corps people exactly like this guy and they're foolish (maybe even stupid) human beings.

Some peace corps people are not foolish though and actually understand where they come from and where they've been.

This guy clearly doesn't understand where he comes from or where he's been.

PatCA said...

Reminds me of my Eastern European or Vietnamese students who made the same argument to their disaffected, alienated lefty professors. "You take this for granted!" they would say.

McCoy is in dire need of an epiphany.

Zach said...

The journal entries suggest a deep sense of isolation, as I failed time and again to integrate into a culture different from my own. At first, I couldn't speak the language and was laughed at everywhere, which only made the learning more difficult. Later, after becoming fluent, I realized it didn't matter. I wasn't Khmer and never would be. As long as I was there, I would be an outsider.

This is something that takes getting used to when you live in a foreign country (I live in Germany). The natives can be friendly, unfriendly or indifferent. But fundamentally, they're not participating in your adventure. It's their country, and they're going to do whatever the heck they want.

n.n said...

Left-wing interests are exceedingly successful at exploiting emotional appeals and forming positive associations with their positions and negative associations with their competition's.

Pro-choice = sacrifice of virginal human life
Affirmative action = institutional discrimination based on incidental features
Unions = enforcers of structural inequality in the labor market
Public unions = illegal fourth branch of government, which intervenes between voting citizens and their elected representatives (funded through involuntary exploitation -- taxes)
Redistributive change = progressive involuntary exploitation
Legislation, litigation, and lawsuit designed to quell dissent = progressive loss of liberty (totalitarian policies are substituted for moral knowledge)
progressive policies (involuntary exploitation+loss of liberty) = slavery (well, progressive slavery anyway)

liberals = progressives = Marxists = communists = socialists = fascists (all rule through progressive involuntary exploitation and loss of liberty)

Incidentally, we are all left of anarchists (the ultimate libertarians) and Conservatives are left of libertarians; although, there is a question of optimal liberty when considering all competing interests.

At least Conservatives reject denigrating individual dignity (e.g., classifying and exploiting individuals by their incidental features and behaviors) and reject normalizing behaviors (e.g., abortion) which devalue human life.

A selective history should not be permitted to help their cause.

Americans refuse to believe anything bad about "native" Americans, and yet there were tribes with imperialistic goals; that murder, raped, and pillaged competing tribes; that committed acts of genocide against competing tribes; that sacrificed virgins to appease their gods.

If they want people to learn from history, then the honorable individual would consider a full history. Maybe they will even include Islamic imperialism and the nations and people it conquered and enslaved. Maybe they will even include the history of black African elite (including factions of Obama's Luo tribe) and Islamic slavers in Africa, which predated the arrival of white Europeans.

Is there a statute of limitations for recalling history and exploiting people today?

I guess some people would prefer to obfuscate their strategy (and avoid discussion of issues on merit) through the use of primitive tactics. And there is nothing more primitive than appealing to emotion.

So much for enlightenment. It was enjoyable while it lasted.

pst314 said...

"Reminds me of my Eastern European or Vietnamese students who made the same argument to their disaffected, alienated lefty professors. 'You take this for granted!' they would say."

Yes, although I think they only take for granted their own freedom, and have no interest whatsoever in other people's freedom: The leftists I know display a deep resentment when they see other people choosing to live in ways the leftists dislike, and continue to yearn for the opportunity to rob us of our freedom and our property. Some are more adept at hiding their motives, but that's what they are.

Julie C said...

I've written here before about my Peace Corps experiences. It is not unusual for people returning from a two year stint to feel a little disoriented in our land of plenty. But blaming the land of plenty is beyond me.

I knew other volunteers with similar attitudes to this young man's. It is difficult to have a successful volunteer experience (by successful I mean doing your job well) when your measure is feeling completely a part of this other culture.

I knew several black American volunteers who assumed they would be welcomed with open arms in Liberia simply because of their skin color. But Liberians knew immediately that these volunteers were American even before they opened their mouths to speak. We walk differently, dress differently, etc.! It isn't that Liberians treated them badly - they treated them as Americans, which they are. I think we had 6 African-American volunteers in our group to start - only 2 stayed the full two years.

Lou Kramer said...

I have a native Indian (US citizen now) that hates India. So whenever I go on about how great India is and what a great country it is going to be someday (better prospects than China long term) he looks at me like I'm an idiot and says calmly,"It's. A. Shit. Hole."

Penny said...

It will be good to read the entire article, but just from what you shared, I'm disappointed that this young man's brush with the Peace Corps did little to aid his own personal growth.

Go out into the world to EXPAND your mind, not to fortify it.

Steve Reynolds said...

"You know the people who make better ambassadors, better representatives of our country than these backstabbing peace corps hippies?

The kids in our military."

I've seen confirmation of that even from liberal climate scientists in Japan: "And the widely reviled US military are comparably well-behaved, despite basically being 25 year-old testosterone-filled sociopaths of modest educational attainment (only joking, the handful I have met have invariably been polite, friendly, model ambassadors for their country, if slightly more boisterous than most Japanese)."- http://julesandjames.blogspot.com/2007/02/them-and-us.html

Joanna said...

"Life, liberty, and happiness..." No. No, wait. I got that wrong. "Life, liberty, and [something something] happiness..."

Fiftyville said...

From the point of view of the snake, Paradise was great until Adam and Eve, those damn Republicans, ruined everything.

Synova said...

"The natives can be friendly, unfriendly or indifferent. But fundamentally, they're not participating in your adventure."

I've had a few adventures.

They only feel like adventures with distance. You keep the distance, you keep the adventure.

And maybe I'm weird or something but the first thing I ever noticed getting off the plane was that nothing is exotic. Nothing. No one in the world lives in an exotic place. Everything is ordinary. Everything is day-to-day. A young woman I know who traveled alone (mostly by train) through asia... from Korea through China and out the other end... more or less said the same.

My father would explain: No matter where you go, there you are.

Maybe hoping to integrate with the *culture* is the problem. You connect to individuals. It's the only thing you can hope to do. The people I met in the Philippines might have had different expectations from time to time, but they were so *fundamentally* just like the people from home, that it made me homesick. When I'd read some anecdote about a patrol in Afghanistan encountering an old man altering the irrigation ditches in the middle of the night because of a rivalry with his nephew, I think: "OMG, they have Norwegians in Afghanistan."

I don't *get* feeling isolated. Lonely and homesick? Absolutely. Tripping over a custom from time to time, sure. Always being apart? I think you have to do that your own self.

Kirk Parker said...



What's the title of the book?

grackle said...

I vividly recall failing to explain to a young boy that some things aren't wonderful in America. People even suffer from depression.

"No, America is beautiful," he replied.

Beautiful summing up of the Progressive mindset with the Cambodian boy providing a reality check. The liberal doesn’t “get” it and is puzzled about the mysterious little scene even today. An unknowing revelation of emptiness. But the Cambodian boy knows.

But something about the incident nags at McCoy. Deep in his mind, back where he’s been keeping it, is the fugitive thought that America may indeed be … exceptional. Yes, despite all he has been taught, all that he has read and all that he keeps telling himself.

And of course he couldn’t identify with the Cambodian culture because to do so would require that he himself would have a concept of culture, a concept he so self-evidently does not possess. He can’t even identify with his own country.

Synova said...

It makes me think of Ayaan Hirsi Ali in an interview where the American fellow interviewing her made some suggestion of oppression in America and she she laughed, asked him if he was serious, and then laughed again even harder.

I've said it before. Liberal Americans *want* to be oppressed so badly they just make it up. (Just look at Wisconsin.)

TML said...

Writes Terry McCoy, in the new issue of Isthmus...
I vividly recall failing to explain to a young boy that some things aren't wonderful in America. People even suffer from depression.

"No, America is beautiful," he replied.

This exchange never happened. It's one of those accommodating 100% manufactured pieces of bullshit designed to set up his article. Did. Not. Happen.

AST said...

Yeah, yeah. And the tea party held a gun to Chuck Schumer's head and mugged Chris Matthews and declared Jihad on the NYTimes' America. These people are so narcissistic and indoctrinated they can't even imagine anyone else having a valid opinion.

It's all talking points to reassure the loonies in the liberal base that Obama, et al., share their dire sense that conservatives are eeeevil. Thus they turn themselves into cartoons instead of real people.