Thursday, 15 November 2007

Open letter to Yankee Doodle

Hi there!

You’ve several times taxed me with being ‘anti-American’ – on one occasion, ‘venomously anti-American’ – as if this is some sort of sin or crime. My response has been that I am NOT anti-Americans as human beings or individuals, or as citizens of the USA, but that I AM very much against certain aspects of American foreign policy, and some global actions carried out by the US government, private US corporations, and some individual Americans, which strike me as being harmful to the future peace and prosperity of the world; and that I am also very critical of some widespread American attitudes and assumptions. I may be right or I may be mistaken to hold some or all of these opinions, but there is nothing inherently wrong or improper in doing so.

The histories of Great Britain and the United States have been intertwined since Colonial days, and since the Revolution there have been periods of varying closeness and conflicts of interest – of affinity and some antipathy. The latter has, I believe, always existed towards Britain on the part of even Anglophile Americans, because the myth of 1776 and the years preceding it dies hard, and the Brits are perceived as would-be oppressors and imperialists, while on our side there is an over-sentimental feeling for a wayward daughter who has outgrown her parent. To my mind, both these sentiments are obsolete and should be dumped, as should the stale fiction of a “special relationship”. While this served a useful purpose in World War Two and beyond, it is no longer apposite in the dramatically changed world of the 21st century.

Apart from all else, the United States is no longer predominantly a ‘WASP’ country, and its demography is changing rapidly so that within another couple of decades it will be a nation with far fewer racial or sentimental ties to the United Kingdom. A common – or largely common - language is sometimes a barrier to mutual understanding, as well as a help. It is time to recognise that Britain is, in fact, just as much a foreign country to Americans as any other European nation; and that we each have our separate, legitimate interests as well as those things we still share in common. I hope this does not come across to you as ‘anti-American’.

The impression I get from your posts, and those of other Americans whose blogs and comments I read, is that most Americans are disdainful of Europeans because we don’t embrace your values and your culture with open arms as the best in the world. You assume that American-style democracy, free competition, and the ‘American Way of Life’ as typified by Big Oil, Wal-Mart, Disneyland, and Macdonalds – not to mention US military bases worldwide, Guantanamo Bay, and extraordinary rendition - is the be-all and end-all of a desirable existence, and that anyone who doesn’t rush to embrace all of this with open arms is defective in intelligence and even morality. [As I have said before, I would not wish to generalise about the opinions and attitudes of over 300 million Americans; and when I say ‘you’ I do not mean you personally; but I trust that you will accept the substance of what I am saying.]

You are scathing and continually sneering at Europe having sold out - as you perceive it – to the social welfare state and lax moral ‘relative’ values [whatever ‘relative’ means]. The problem here is that from this side of the Atlantic, American politics - of all parties – appear to be far more right-wing than those of any mainstream European political party, in a devil-take-the-hindmost way which the European experience during and immediately after World War Two made unacceptable to our voters, and obsolete in terms of winning elections. As for our alleged moral degeneracy, lack of religious underpinning, etc., I shall refrain from saying more than that from our perspective the behaviour of the oh-so-much-more moral and religious Americans leaves a great deal to be desired. The text to be applied here is “By their fruits shall you know them.”

I know many personally amiable Americans, and I have always been struck by their anxiety to be liked and thought well of. The fantasy of the ‘American Dream’ which you are taught from childhood blinds all but a minority of Americans to the dark underside of American policies and actions during the period since World War Two. Of course, no nation is free of stains and blemishes on its historical record – the British most certainly are not. But for a great country such as yours which is proud of currently being the world’s only superpower to blind itself to the many discreditable things that are being done in its name is the hubris that can only lead to nemesis. My major criticism of the USA is that she is always quick off the mark to criticise others, and admonish them for their shortcomings, but will never admit to her own errors of judgement and policy.

You may say that it is none of a foreigner’s business to tell Americans how to conduct theirs; and that any remedial action has to come from within. I agree: but if America does indeed aspire to be the world’s policeman, her citizens should recognise that the way they run their country is no longer solely their concern; and that those of us who sometimes feel that we are being dragged along willy-nilly in America’s slipstream like a beer can tied to a puppy’s tail are entitled to some opinions on these matters.

You yourself, in your blog, have repeatedly made clear your concerns about widespread corruption and dishonesty, amounting to treason, in the highest levels of the US Administration. If this is the case, it is your and your honest compatriots’ first duty to clear out this Augean stable before the world is plunged into further mayhem and misery by the follies of ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’.

If this strikes you as ‘anti-American’, I am sorry, but it is the truth as I see it.

Your friend over the pond,



Jose said...

You could have said it louder, Anticant, but never clearer. Sometimes this Anti-Americanism many US citizens dub us with seems to me like a kinf of complex towards everything European. I still remember Bush's words about "the old Europe" addressed of course to his American fellows, in the same way a boy would refer to his old grandfather: Someone who has forgotten what progress is; and perhaps they should realise, or I'd rather say it's about time for them to realise that everything - or almost - the US has attained has come by the hand of old Europeans. I do not ignore those times when the "hunt for brains" was carried out by American Universities, and what has come out of that hunt in terms of progress for the United States of America.

And, indeed, I am with you that generalising is not the way to deal with these matters of friendship - or enmity for that matter - that some Europeans or Americans hold inflexible sentiments towards one another does not mean all of them must be categorised similarly.

anticant said...

Actually it was Rumsfeld - the epitome of American macho boorishness - who made the remark about "Old Europe".

Emmett said...

I Expect, personally, that by the end of the century-after-next, Spanish will be the universal trade lingo, under Han chinee sponsorship -- Spanish is altogether the easiest language to learn of them all, in my experience at least.

Wook 'abd al-Mostaqabal ['servant of the future', /eg/ -- tr]

Jose said...

English is by far, Emmett, the language most spoken in the world either as first or second language.

Anonymous said...

what the fuck has the USA got to do with this?
Everything or almost.
What the fuck have "american folk" got to do with this?
Very little, in fact.
Shit I feel like a Modenist with a postmodern penis.

tyger said...

Excellently put, anticant.

As someone who is unabashedly Pro-American, I utterly agree with your sentiments. America has the power to astonish and impress, but so often, recently, astonishes and depresses.

Emmett said...

TO Be sure, Jose, this is so -- to-day. And, /that/ perhaps is my point:

TIMES Change and all things pass away.

AMERICA, Like so many things in history, was a particular operation conducted to realise certain potentials; over time, internal contradictions accumulated to a critical level; and, this high signal-to-noise ratio which is a salient feature of all (/NB/) ageing organisms (/NB/) is finally lethal.

ON The scientific side, the art of history is much more akin to the calculation of valences than to the annunciation of 'progress'.

WHAT Bruises my anglo-american ego, I daresay as harshly as it must impinge upn Mr Yankee Doodle's, is that -- by definition -- the future finally is /not/ about...US.

Aurora said...

You show a superficial understanding of what America is all about, especially with your remarks about Walmart, Disneyland and MacDonalds. You also come across as arrogant and patronizing. As you point out (in a very condescending way ...about Americans' 'anxiety to be liked') Yes, Americans do make all the first moves. And it's Brits like you who sit back disapprovingly about their 'anxiety' who then criticize the Americans who aren't impressed with the Europeans. I wonder why?

anticant said...

I anticipated this type of response, Aurora, and it's not really helpful. America needs candid friends. If the USA had the world's near-universal sympathy immediately after 9/11, and is now increasingly disliked and feared around the globe by many who, like myself, have hitherto always considered themselves pro-American, you really do need to ask yourselves why?

Could it be because it is YOU who come across to the rest of the world as arrogant, patronizing, greedy, and self-deceiving? You say I have a superficial understanding of "what America is all about". Do please tell us what America IS all about, and then let's look at whether the self-image matches the deeds. I think you will find there is considerable slippage.

It's fine for you to be "not impressed" with Europeans. You're perfectly at liberty to stay away - but of course, you consider the whole world's your oyster.

Richard W. Symonds said...

Chicago Daily News - 1941 - Edward Dowling - Editor :

"The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich lest we get it."

(Source : "Escaping The Matrix" by Richard Moore - 2005/06 - Page 81)