The Americans are Coming (to Romania of course)

Update (Feb. 6): I found this story online on Saturday, Feb 4. It was planned for A1 on Sunday, but breaking news made the Post hold it. It eventually ran inside on Monday so my enthusiasm about Romania making the front page of Washington’s daily was not warranted.

If you are a second- or third-tier country, there are few things that will get you on the front page of the Washington Post or the New York Times.

War is always a popular choice. Bloody internal strife is also a winner. Even a horrific natural disaster will do — although it’s always better if it includes Americans and/or kills scores of rich white people.

But Sunday’s Washington Post required none of that. Romania is on the front page of the popular Washington daily solely for its unconditional love and support of America and the American military. The story is called “Romania Prepares to Greet the Yanks

The news that gave the motherland such prominence is the opening of an air force base in Mihail Kogalniceanu, a popular topic of the Romanian media for some time now. Here’s the Post’s second graph:

U.S. soldiers have been the talk of this poor little town since last month when U.S. and Romanian officials announced that the Romanian air force base here would soon host the first permanent U.S. military presence in a former Warsaw Pact country. From the presidential palace in Bucharest, 130 miles west of here, to the humble little pig-and-chicken farms of this Black Sea hamlet, the announcement has been greeted with undisguised delight.

It would be easy to say the Washington Post does nothing but stereotype Romania (soviet satellite, pig-and-chicken farms, undisguised delight etc.) but the author was probably just happy to have something to describe.

Let’s not forget that the Washington Post is writing for an American audience and of course they will play up the fact that Romanians love Americans — hey, people need a good reason to read on Sundays! After all, that’s what the man heard from some of the locals “If the Americans come, they will give us a better life,” one woman said. Unlike Romanians, she added (see image below).

And if you are wondering why this “Americans are coming” (Vin americanii!) stereotype is still around, just listen to Romania’s president:

“The dramatic wish of Romanians at the end of the Second World War was to be occupied by the Americans and not by the Russians,” President Traian Basescu, a cheerful former oil tanker captain, said in an interview.

I am by no means offended. I always considered the “Americans need to conquer us” one of the most amusing cultural staples (handicaps?) of my country. There are commentaries written about Americans coming (like this one in Jurnalul National or this one in Gardianul). Type “vin americanii” into Google and you get over 2,000 hits.

“Vin americanii” is catch phrase that has been OURS for decades: from the Russian-flavored “sovrom” companies that sprung aup after WWII to to the pathetic afternoon mid-nineties when a fat and balding TV host asked the country to look towards the West and hope that NATO will open its arms (NATO eventually did, in 2002).

Now, “Vin Americanii” leads the Washington Post and Romania’s desire to become the 52nd state (James Fallows already snatched Iraq as the 51st three years ago) has been made official. Beginning on Sunday, the good people of Washington, D.C., Virginia and Maryland will add something to their repertoire. Tomorrow, when I introduce myself to an American, he or she will leave Nadia and Ceausescu aside for one moment and ask, voice glowing with pride: “Aren’t you glad we’re finally there?”

Damn straight!

Mihail Kogalniceanu will be for one day the one place in the world where anti-Americanism is not rampant. There is only love in MK, a site that just month ago made news as one of the potential “black sites,” where the American army sends war prisoners for torture.

As Elle says, a country that loves America should always stand up and say: “We’ll torture, so you don’t have to.” Or as president Basescu said about the air force base: “Sometimes the United States needs your support, and this is what we are doing.”

>>> Read the Washington Post story here.
>>> View a video of the story complete with shots of Mihail Kogalniceanu here.

PS: Nobody likes to have foreigners write about their country. Sometimes we don’t like it when our own kind writes about it either (I know how that feels — scroll for “Remember the good of your homeland” subhead). But that’s everyone. Just read this NY Times disembowling of Bernard-Henry Levy, a french man who travelled America and wrote a book.

7 Responses to “The Americans are Coming (to Romania of course)”

  1. I thought I was finally going to make it through one of your posts (typically delightful, natch) without cringing at a scatological twist.

    Then, there it was:

    Pronunciation: “di-s&m-‘bau(-&)l
    Function: transitive verb
    1 : to take out the bowels of : EVISCERATE
    2 : to remove the substance of
    – dis·em·bow·el·ment /-m&nt/ noun

    Thanks for that image.

    But, really, that Keillor review was beanbag. If you really want to see the oozing passage of mucus and stool through a laceration slashed into the human midsection, check out August Kleinzahler’s attack on the Minnesota Mauler himself Garrison Keillor:

    By the way, Kleinzahler is also a pretty good poet.

  2. You’re looking like a 40-year-old angry man in that latest user pic. Nice.

  3. A photo in which I am so obviously holding the Cup-of-Doom or something.

  4. Yes. Cup of doom. Definitely. You look like you just slammed it down and said “god dammit!”

  5. Oh, yeah, and go u.s.a.

  6. […] Kevin Sullivan of the Washington Post returned to Romania for a second story in one month. His first, about the American air force base built in my homeland, was enjoyable if only because it carefully dealt with a cultural cliche: the endless wait for the Americans. […]

  7. Kevin Sullivan, like majority of his category of people, is limited in his knowledge about even his own country. Go in SUA you can find worse places..

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