The last few days have brought some interesting discussions in the two lists I participate in. One list is for Ex-Pats, Ex-Pats to be, and Ex-Pat wannabes. The list is a Yahoo group called BANewcomers. Most of the time the posts are pretty pedestrian. People looking for peanut butter, A1 Steak Sauce, or complaining about the noise, the pollution, and how Buenos Aires is run as a city.
The other group is a tango list group. Mostly it consists of cyber egos talking about Argentine Tango. Usually you have people arguing the best way to do a figure, or the history of a song, or some other inane topic.
In the last week, both groups have hit a nerve. The amazing thing is that it has been centered around essentially the same issues. The Newcomers group has been talking about Habeas Corpus and the way American's rights are going down the tubes. The tango list has been talking about the lack of respect for the Argentine culture.
In the Newcomers group the participants that either have lived here for a long time, Ex-pats from England, New Zealand, and other countries are appalled at how the Americans are treating this latest travesty of the Bush Administration.
Habeas Corpus in case you don't know is the right to due process. It is a right of prisoners being detained to be brought before a court of law. A court order is sent to the prison director demanding that the person be brought before a court of law to make sure they are serving a lawful sentence. It has long been celebrated as the most efficient safeguard of the liberty of the person in prison. The U.S. is not the only country to subscribe to Habeas Corpus.
It can be suspended in times of war. It was suspended by Abraham Lincoln in the Civil War. Now I bring you George Bush, the current President of the United States, who has suspended Habeas Corpus for foreigners. Behind Mr. Bush, I bring you the Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who questions whether or not Habeas Corpus grants the right to a fair trial to Americans. Gonzales Questions Habeas Corpus . Americans should be scared to death at these revelations.
It was interesting to read the posts from various people. People like myself, others who have lived here a long time, and the others from other countries were appalled. Many of the other Americans saw it as no big deal since Bush will be out of office in a year or so. What was most chilling is the attitude of "well it doesn't affect me, so I don't care."
The issue that the rights of Americans are being eroded and that we are eroding the rights of others who either are in the United States or in other countries should be of great concern to American citizens. Under the guise of fighting terrorism borders are being closed and due process of law is being denied.
Why are people so apathetic? Is it because they are in the middle of it and don't see it? Is it because they don't care? Or is it because they are so arrogant that they think a dictatorship could never happen in the land of the free and the brave? I don't know because I don't live in the U.S. anymore.
My guess is that it is a combination of all three. Sadly, I think that my country has become very selfish. We have a government that thinks it can do anything it wants in the name of democracy and freedom. How sad that people are more concerned with buying a new TV than wondering if the borders of the U.S. are going to get smaller and smaller until they will not be able to leave.
Now we have the tango list. There are essentially two factions of people. Those who dance Argentine Tango and those who dancing something else they call tango. The ones that dance Argentine Tango, dance to traditional Argentine Tango music, they dance what is socially danced here in Buenos Aires. They try to respect the honored codes and traditions.
Then there are the ones who think the codes are stupid. They dance to whatever music they want. They do not dance traditional tango moves. They think that tango needs to change. (Oh yes, really.) The two factions have splintered many a community.
People can dance whatever they want. However they need to respect the others. Sadly I see little of that on the "nuevo" side. Nuevo is mostly danced in the U.S. There is some in Europe, there is very little in Buenos AIres. What little there is, is danced mostly by foreigners. Some of the traditional teachers see this as a new "cash cow" and have started to pander to this crowd. The nuevo crowd sees this as "proof" of their winning.
What makes me sad is the complete lack of disrespect for a culture that is embedded in the history of the dance. What makes me sad is that so many Americans seem to have a lack of respect for anything that does not directly concern them. Whether it be Habeas Corpus - the right to due process or dancing tango, respect is fundamental.
Here is my response posted to the Tango-L group yesterday. In many ways it is a response to both groups:
I am responding to what Nina wrote about loving your own culture and being able to embrace another. I started coming to Buenos Aires in 2000. My first two years were essentially to dance tango. Then I began to realize that I loved it here. I had a feeling that I never had in the U.S. In 4 years I commuted to Buenos Aires 18 times. In 2004 I sold everything to move here permanently. It is not easy to change your country. I have adapted very well to life here, I love it. I do not see myself returning to live in the U.S.
I have had many interviews in the newspapers and magazines all over the
U.S and Europe. I have had interviews in the paper here in Buenos Aires
and on the radio as well. Another reporter contacted me yesterday to do
a story. They all write the same thing - I sold everything I owned to
come dance tango. This is not true. Tango was only a small part of my
decision. I came here to live because I love the culture, the people.
I felt that my life would be better by living here.
I had a wonderful life in the U.S. I think the U.S. is a great country. I am proud to be from the United States. Unlike many people who come here or travel and say things like "Nobody thinks I am American" proudly, I don't have those issues. I am American or Norteamericana. That will never change. If you are one of those people that goes around bragging "Nobody thinks I am American" you might want to ask yourself why you think that way.
That being said, I have an Argentine life here. I work and live in pesos. My friends are mostly Argentines. Although I came here 18 times it is not the same as living here. Argentines have a fierce pride in their culture. No matter how much they complain (and they do it a lot)they are proud to be Argentines. They make look European, the buildings here may look European, but here is Argentina, a completely different culture. They are very emotional about it and resent the intrusion of the U.S. to try and change it.
Yes, Argentines have a reputation for being arrogant, loud, and aggressive. Americans on the other hand have a reputation for being cold, materialistic, and demanding. Stereotypes come from somewhere, they don't just get made up. In my experience the Ex-pats who have come here to live because it is cheaper, to dance tango, to run away from the politics of their country, are rarely happy here. They complain more than the Argentines if you can believe that. They want the sidewalks to be like the ones in the U.S. Their conversations are peppered with sentences that start out as; "What they need to do here...." or "These people don't understand...." They can't understand why there are no Pop Tarts, chocolate chips, and many other foods from the U.S. They complain constantly. They do not adapt to the culture. They want the Argentine culture to change to accommodate them - in their world it would make Argentina a better place.
While all the suggestions they make are not wrong or bad, it is the premise from which they come. Rather than accept the culture of a country THEY CHOSE to live in, they want the culture to change. They think that if the culture changes it will be better. For who? Do you know the sad thing? The majority of these complainers are from the U.S., not Germany, Canada, England, or other countries. It is embarrassing to me at times to have to explain to Argentines what is being said. It only propagates the stereotypes as Americans being demanding and wanting the whole world to be like them.
Translate that to tango. Argentine tango is a part of the culture here. Has it changed in the 80 years or so that it has been danced? Yes, in many ways. The original tango was almost brutal in the way it was danced. The dance brings a history with it that is rich and colorful. While the majority of Argentines may not dance it or even listen to tango music, they are proud of it. They are proud that people come from all over the world to dance their dance.
When I tell Argentines that I dance tango regardless of their age, their test to me as a foreigner dancing their dance is exactly what do I dance. Show tango, tango nuevo to Argentines is not Argentine Tango. Most call it tango for foreigners or tango for export. You can debate this, you can try to prove me wrong with all the statistics and articles and hearsay you want, but I live here. Argentine Tango to Argentinians is a cultural icon. Plain and simple. Why do Americans more than any other group of people want to change, deface, this cultural icon?
From my vantage point here is what I see. The people who dance Argentine Tango are just as opinionated and passionate as the ones who dance other forms of tango. They are fearful of the art form being wiped out by people who have no respect for the dance and culture that makes up Argentine Tango. Because of this, they resent the what goes on in their communities. On the other hand the other camp in MY OPINION tends to act like me when I was 14 and rebelling against my parents. I called them old, stuffy, closed minded. I exhibited rude behavior, made fun of, and had little respect for anything except people who agreed with me. Essentially I was just as close minded only I didn't see it then. It becomes an US-THEM thing. There are no winners or being right. Being right seems to be an American thing. Americans will argue to the death about being right.
It doesn't really matter what you dance, what does matter is respect. Name calling like "Aryan" is rude and unnecessary. Argentines are Latin Americans. It is insulting to use this terminology in any form. Social Argentine tango is not going to die away. No matter what you guys from the other side think. Maybe in your community, but not here. It does evolve and change, but it will not die. It will not lose the music or the embrace or the passion. Ask any Argentine who lives here, even if they do not like the music.