Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Declaration of Independence

When approached by my good friend, who finds himself disillusioned and bored with UK politics, to write a column focusing on a US view of things, he gave me simple parameters. I could write anything I wanted. Needless to say, as a stout patriot, I had been hoping he would impose some sort of oppressive stamp tax or other Intolerable Acts (which I believe you in the UK quaintly call the Punitive Acts) on what I wrote, but here I am, a former colonist given a free hand by the mother country. Life is sweet indeed!

As such, you will find in this column my unexpurgated American perspective on UK politics. And given that they are from an American perspective, you can rest assured that 95% of what I say will have nothing to do with UK politics. So I must ask your forbearance on that in advance.

A brief note on my credentials as an American: I am 100% American. I was born here, live here now, and have no plans to travel abroad in the immediate future. I don't understand the rules of cricket (although to be fair I don't follow NASCAR either). One of my favorite poems is “American Names” by Stephen Vincent Benet, mostly because I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment. I have driven cattle, been thrown from a saddle bronc in a rodeo a time or two, and believe New York is the greatest city in the world. If none of that does it for you, I would reference a delightful former co-worker of mine, a descendant of not one but two of your Prime Ministers, who described me as the "most American person" in the office. I mention that less for his judgment (which arguably was based on a very small, and skewed, sample), but rather for the fact that I took it as one of the biggest compliments I have ever been paid.

But please don't think me a knee-jerk provincialist. One of the great things about the US, I believe, is the multitude of cultures, beliefs and backgrounds that co-exist in our system. We are often intolerant--many of our founding fathers were slave owners and a few days spent on an Indian reservation won't leave a very good taste in your mouth about our living up to our ideals--but I believe our system of government, and our constant cultural renewal, allows us to constantly strive for something better. I often think of an anecdote from your side of the pond: Disraeli was asked to adjudicate a meeting of the Royal Society, wherein the leading scholars of the day took turns debating the great issue of the day: Darwin's ideas on evolution. When the learned professors had finished their back and forth, Disraeli rose to offer his pronouncement. Always the diplomatist, and not wishing (or perhaps not able) to join the battle armed with scientific studies, he offered a simple summation: "The question is, is man an ape or an angel? I, my lords, am on the side of the angels." Anyway, that’s how I see the U.S. on a good day.

(If you agree, click here.)

As regards my views on UK politics, let me start by saying that I simply don’t understand the system. Fundamentally, I can’t. I don’t understand the Queen. I don’t understand how a government can just collapse. Or even that “governments” come and go. Dirty secret: When I read “Conservatives” I have to translate this into “Republicans” and when I read “Labour” I first have to translate it to “Labor” and then I have to translate it to “Democrats,” at which point I worry that this makes the Democrats seem like socialists, which doesn’t play well in Peoria, as we say. I do love that you have a Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I even understand that this is just Shakespearian English for “Secretary of the Treasury.” I read somewhere that Tony Blair is retiring, although he didn’t specify when, so not too helpful. I like this Blonde Assassin fellow, because he seems nuts, and I like crazy. It’s good theater.

I think I’ve gone on long enough for now—but I look forward to more postings on topics that I hope you will find of interest.

The Minuteman

1 comment:

gustavus the bold said...

Yer, I can sympathise. For example, as a Brit trying to understand US poltics, I have translate "Congress" into "Parliament" and "President Bush" into "King George"