I'd hoped I would never have the cause to write a diary like this. Unfortunately, this is BushWorld, where Americans abroad get very little respect.
One of my best friends, Brian R., just returned from a week-long trip in Finland. He goes there with his partner Mika, a Finnish native, on a yearly basis. They've been making this annual trek for at least five years, but this was the first time that my friend had been subject to discrimination based on his nationality.
Now before you ask, no, he wasn't assaulted because he is gay. Brian is a very manly man, as is his partner. Unless you have a very finely tuned gaydar, you probably wouldn't guess their orientation unless you were told.
Anyway, Brian and Mika had no problems in Mika's "little redneck town" (Mika's words), but their last night in Helsinki was quite jarring. They were out with Mika's family, having a few drinks and dinner and enjoying themselves, when the first incident occurred. Three husky Finnish natives accosted Brian on the dance floor and started pushing him and shouting obscenities at him. Mika and his family intervened. Later Mika told Brian that the men were shouting, "What is this foreigner doing in here? Who does this American think he is? Get him out of here; we don't want him in this club!" Until my friends left the club, patrons were glaring at them and saying nasty things about Americans in voices loud enough to be heard.
Later that evening, the family and my friends loaded up in a cab and headed home. The cab driver seemed fine until Brian began speaking. Brian doesn't speak fluent Finnish (he only knows a few words) and was relying on his partner for translation. Brian told me that as soon as he opened his mouth and started speaking English, the cab driver slammed on his brakes. Then he turned around and started shouting obscenities at my friend. While Mika's family tried to moderate the situation (after all it was a long night and they just wanted to get home), the cab driver became increasingly angry. Finally, the driver quickly got out of his seat and ran to open the door next to Brian. Before anyone could act, the driver proceeded to grab Brian, drag him out of the cab, then threw him onto the pavement.
Now Brian is no wimp. He doesn't take crap from anyone, much less some stranger. But the cab driver was one of those giant "I should be mushing dogs through the tundra" type of Finns, and he'd caught Brian off guard. Brian said the cab driver kicked him once in the ribs before Mika was able to jump out and with the help of his father, he pulled the cab driver off of Brian. Throughout the incident, the cab driver was shouting things like "Go home to America!" to my friend.
Fortunately Brian wasn't seriously injured, but he's still got bruises on his arms and chest, and has some abrasions on his hands from where he skidded on the pavement.
The ironic thing is that Brian is uber-liberal. He's a democratic precinct chair in the district which borders my own, and has done tons of good work over the past few years in regards to taking our country back. He is the last person I'd expect this to happen to. He's also been to Finland several times and has never had an issue with his nationality.
However, he did tell me that this time was different. It's the first time he's visited Finland since the 04 elections. He told me that this time around he felt outward hostility. Whenever he'd be in public speaking English, he'd get glared at. People on the street called him names and cursed him for being American.
It was very distressing for them both, and I think it was a wake up call for his partner Mika. Now I love Mika, he is near and dear to me, but he's a Bushie and we have clashed about this fact quite often over the years (hello, gay man supporting Bush, I just don't get it). But even Mika, who is as hard-hearted about these things as a person could be, was shaken. Mika always expected to get hassled because of his sexuality rather than Brian's nationality. But seeing his partner get assaulted twice in one night because Brian is American finally got to him.
This is the world we live in now, folks. Americans can't walk the streets of friendly cities like Helsinki without feeling the brunt of discrimination. I guess our brothers and sisters in Europe are ready to take out their frustrations on us. They gave us the benefit of the doubt in 04 and 59 million of us fucked that up. And now all of us are paying the price.