The visual stuff was off putting: "Support our Armed Forces" signs in many lawns, lots and lots of big cars and endless roads, strip malls - I fucking hate them, they make all towns look the same. But the people who I met, overwhelmingly working class, were friendly and open. Americans are by and large direct so they tell you what they think.
I found people pretty class-conscious in terms of knowing they were workers and that the rich ripped them off. They were distrustful of the government and suspicious of the police. The USA is divided lots of ways: rich and poor, black and white, conservative and liberal, pro and anti-Bush, pro and anti-war. There's anger and there's apathy. Unions are powerful in many industries but are very instutionalised, very much part of the system.
I have to say that in the US I saw the future of Ireland under capitalism. Consumer culture is very strong, the vast comsumption of resources by the US is very visible as is the wanton waste. But when I got home I saw a Humvee in my own patch and was gobsmacked by an awful feeling that the society I had just visited is the vision that our ruling class share.
If there is hope in America it is in the palpable anger there at their latest ruler and the decency and solidarity of working class people. When you ask, people have little nuggets of info about a glorious history of struggle by workers, women, blacks and gays. Have a read of A Peoples' History of the USA
It takes a huge repressive machine to keep things in check in America; corporate Media, corrupt aloof politicians, copious amounts of drugs and plenty of gun-toting trigger-happy cops. Everyone who stands up in America I salute you.
This edition is No82 published in September 2004