Chocolate, kid?

Chocolate, kid?

hershey.bmp: Having just returned from Hershey, I’ve been thinking of the power of that American brand. So far as I know, it doesn’t carry with it any of the globaliztion-goblinization of Coke, McDonald’s, American Express, or Disney. Hershey is still a smiling brand. Hershey is what American G.I.s gave out to grateful little German and French urchins after World War II. Hershey was and perhaps still is a symbol of American success, goodness, and generosity.

And so it occurs me to that what we need today in Iraq is more Hersheys. No, I don’t mean that we should go into the streets handing out condescending candy and thinking that would solve a thing: “Hey, you foreign fanatic murderer, put away that explosive belt; have some chocolate and it’ll make you feel all warm inside.”

No, what I mean is that we need to reinvigorate that sense of American generosity.

I wasn’t around when the Marshall plan was proposed but I’m sure there was plenty of carping at the time: “Why should we American taxpayers send anything to those murderous Krauts?” But that attitude neither prevailed nor remained. Instead, we look upon Marshall like a giant Hershey bar, a gift gladly given, and a wise investment.

Now unlike the Iraqis, the Germans as a people massed to kill our sons. They murdered six million Jews. They brought the world into a terrible war.

Yet we were more generous to the Germans than we are to the Iraqis.

Is it because they are more alien? Is an Iraqi victim any stranger to us than a European perpetrator?

Is it because we have changed? Have we lost that essential generosity?

Is it because even charity is seen as a sign of globalization and for reasons still quite unclear to me, globalization is presumed to be a sin?

Or is it because the anti-war crowd has managed to demonize anything having to do with Iraq? First, they condemn the humanitarian rescue of the Iraqi people from a despot. Next, they back away even from humanitarian aid and support for the people. They tell us just to leave.

No matter. The answer remains the same: We need to give away Hershey bars — in the form of support, investment, education, exchange. To be able to do that, we first need to make the place secure (using an iron hand to accomplish that) so that it will be safe to give aid. And just as important, we must humanize the Iraqi people in the eyes of Americans.

Look at how Iraqis are portrayed now in our media: They are either “insurgents” and “guerillas” or they are grousers who allegedly complain that George Bush didn’t come to fix their sewers while he was in town.

The Iraqis I know are nothing like that. The Iraqis I know today are intelligent, insightful, freedom-loving, reasonable, grateful to be rid of their opressor, and grateful for whatever will help them get their lives and their nation on the right track. The Iraqis I know are webloggers with names: Zeyad, Omar, Ays, Alaa, and Nabil.

We need to find ways to introduce these people to our neighbors. American media should be writing stories about what they are saying. We need to support them in small ways (there are many American bloggers trying to figure out how to help pay for their access). And we need to hope that more and more of them raise their voices and tell us what real Iraqis think and say. Hell, why shouldn’t we have a tour of the Iraqi bloggers? Why shouldn’t a few of them get scholarships to American journalism schools? (Apart from the fact that they’d have trouble getting visas.)

You see, that’s what Hershey really symbolized. It wasn’t a condescending hand-out. It was a gift joyfully given, a moment of friendship, a human connection. We need more of that between the Iraqi and the American people.

: UPDATE: When I wrote this, I was afraid that someone on the other side of the water would make fun of me for suggesting we should hand out chocolate; that’s why I laced the post with references to not being condescending.

To my complete delight, the tough Harry Hachet posts from the other of the water that, yes, indeed, what we do need is more people-to-people solidarity.

I remember as a kid my Dad telling me about the parcels that used to arrive during the war from a family in the States who weren’t related at all but were part of some kind of a pen-friend/solidarity initiative in the US. I don’t know how widespread this sort of activity was but as a kid I was surprised at the idea that English families were once on the receiving end of charity like that.

Jeff’s post prompted me to ask my Dad about those parcels and he remember the contents of the gifts: Libby’s tinned fruit cocktail, tinned milk, Armour tinned corned beef hash, Royal powdered puddings, Chiclets chewing gum, Mary Baker cake mix. All treats in the days of rations and powdered eggs.

Around 1980 the man who sent those parcels turned up at our house in Lancashire. It was almost a comic scene – a bloke in a stetson wandering up the street of terrace houses in a milltown to meet the boy to whom had sent those parcels to forty years earlier.

I know charities are busy doing their best for people in Iraq and elsewhere but it is a shame that this kind of direct people-to-people solidarity seems to have disappeared….

Harry wonders whether such programs exist today. The only one I can point to is Chief Wiggles’ toy drive — a tremendous effort but still one man, not a nation.

Thanks, Harry.

: I’m sometimes surprised what resonates. AdRants also comments on chocolate.

  • http://bbowman.blogspot.com Bill

    Good post.
    I agree we need a little more humanization of the Iraqi people (and, perhaps, Middle Eastern people in general) in American eyes.
    An iron fist, followed by an open palm seems to me to be the right combination.

  • Anonymous

    Let’s not forget Sam, another well-modulated voice from Iraq: http://hammorabi.blogspot.com
    If the CPA isn’t already consulting with the groups who organized the anti-terrorism demonstration in Baghdad on Thursday, it should be, as well as monitoring the blogs mentioned here.
    danae

  • Rose

    There’s a donation site set up for Iraqi schoolkids at
    http://www.iraqischools.com/
    Seems to be on the up and up.

  • mario

    Great post, Jeff.
    Hersheys are perfect.

  • http://www.happybeagle.com/shelbysblog/ Shelby

    Sadly, I think a big part of it is skin color and religion. Those krauts may have killed our sons, but at least they were white Christians. I don’t think the race issue can be understated here.

  • http://spleenville.com/ Andrea Harris

    Shelby: the emphasis placed upon the “different” customs of people in the area is not due to racism, but to an effort not to give offense. The hesitancy of people over here to “reach out” to people over there is mostly due to the propaganda of the cultural mavens, who insist that our touch will be seen as infidel contamination. Or do you think it’s okay to load up cases of Van Camp’s pork and beans and send it over there?
    By the way, the Iraqis are not a separate “race,” they are Arabs, generally once thought to be a Caucasian sub-group in the old classifications. Their language is a descendant of Indo-European, the same as English is. And if you think that Americans didn’t have plenty of anti-German prejudice back during WW2, you need to read some history books.

  • http://www.doctorweevil.org Dr. Weevil

    Actually, Arabic is not Indo-European. The Semitic languages (Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, and some others) belong to the Afro-Asiatic language group, which also includes ancient Egyptian, the Berber languages of North Africa, the Ethiopian languages, and maybe some others I’ve forgotten.
    The Turkmens of Iraq also speak a non-Indo-European language: the Turkic language group includes the main languages of Turkey, Azerbaijan, 4 of the 5 Central Asian -stans (I forget which 4, though Turkmenistan must be one of them), and (I think) Mongolia.
    On the other hand, I just looked it up, and Kurdish is Indo-European, part of the Iranian branch of that family, though not (so far as I can tell) particularly close to Persian.
    So Iraq not only has three languages (counting the often-ignored Turkmens), they come from three different language groups. Not that that necessarily implies they won’t get along: other than a few homicidal cranks, the non-IE Basques of Spain and France seem to get along tolerably well with the IE Spaniards (both Castilian and Catalan) and French.

  • http://www.dashes.com/anil/ Anil

    There’s more to the history of kindness in Hershey than most people know. The amusement park in Hershey started as a park for the factory workers to enjoy. The Milton Hershey school in the town was set up for the education of orphans and is financed by the surrounding land being leased out to residents. There’s a broad history of generosity in the Hershey name, so it’s perhaps even more fitting a brand to be trumpeted than you realized, Jeff.

  • http://www.happybeagle.com/shelbysblog/ Shelby

    Thanks for the lecture, Andrea. I’m pleased to know that when people use the term “towelhead” what they’re really saying is “I’m concerned about the cultural appropriateness of sending pork and beans to a Muslim country.”

  • http://www.metadi.com Tim

    Nice concept.
    I’m going off memory here, so please correct the numbers if they are wrong.
    We are actually spending FAR more on Iraq as a factor of the receiving countries GDP. The Marshall plan was something like 5% of the GDP of Germany, while the package that was finally passed amounted to roughly 50% of the Iraqi GDP.
    I think what the Iraqi’s really need from us is a strong, unwavering commitment to see this through to the end. To not back down from the challenges, or try to take short-cuts on the road to a free, democratic Iraq.
    Tim

  • http://www.metadi.com Tim

    Right after I posted, I found this post (http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/2003_12_01_iraqthemodel_archive.html#107029644415164610) which says that the GDP of Iraq was $18 billion. As we all know, the rebuilding package (excluding the war costs) amounted to roughly $22 billion, so we are adding more than 100% to their GDP.
    Tim