There's something Great about America...

I've had a big head change as regards America. It's very strange but I felt it again in my thinking today regarding this absurd battle between the Archbishop Of Canterbury and our PM. I'd always thought that there was a clear 'seperation between church and state' in this country but of course that turn of phrase is not ours. It comes from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson back in 1802:
"..I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State".

Compare that to the UK where we still have unelected Bishops sitting in the House Of Lords! The so called, Lords Spiritual and you'll see which nation Nick The Atheist agrees with. The idea of splitting the Church away from The Government may have its roots in England but, as with most of the things I admire about the culture I've emerged from, it has only ever really been done properly in America.

The penny really dropped during two big recent events: the Royal Wedding and the killing of Osama Bin Laden. The latter which filled me with a sense of almost unreserved admiration for a great nation and the former only provided a deep sense of detachment from a people who appeared to be mindless zombies driven by raw unquestioning patriotism celebrating something which did not benefit them at all.

My views are becoming unfashionable and I am in this respect out of step with the broad consensus of my nation. Here it is the norm to hate the "stupid" Yanks. It has been for a long time and is almost a form of dogma. There's even a presumption among Royalists that American fascination with the Royal Wedding was proof our system is better! I suspect they watched it in the same way we might watch a documentary about the quaint customs of a tribe in the Amazonian jungle who have drifted culturally in a 'different direction' and still worship fire.

This blog post is my attempt to push you, a fellow Brit, into the realms of unpopular thought. Beware, these opinions will confuse those around you.

Firstly it's important to clarify that, like many of their citizens, I'm not blind to the often damaging effects of the realities of American foreign policy. Self awareness is key to my argument and it's one of the reasons I admire that nation. The term "military industrial complex" was coined as a prescient warning by one of their own, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his "farewell address". You'll often hear critics of the nation use it, apparently unaware of this. Anti-war sentiment played a huge part in the electoral success of President Obama. To think Americans love war as much as the big companies who sometimes pull its Government's strings is absurd. Mechanised mass murder isn't popular anywhere in the world. Just as the war in Iraq wasn't here.

To me though it's the ideas which America represents which are more important than the reality. The death of Osama Bin Laden represented the death of an evil man. He qualified as such not because of the identity given to him at birth but instead the one which he earned for himself in life. His actions and deeds defined him in the minds of Americans. On the other hand their birthplace defined them in his twisted brain. He hated them because they were born in America, that was more than enough for him. It didn't matter what they did with their lives, they would always be defined by their birthright. So we have two contrasting mindsets which, in my opinion, the Royal Family's state sponsored knees up falls down clearly onto the wrong side of.

"All men are created equal," Thomas Jefferson's still radical phrase from the Declaration of Independence is a direct attack on this idea of defining someone by birthright. A refusal to accept the so called "Divine Right of Kings". It is clearly not believed, understood or accepted in my country. Some seem to make the mistake of thinking that this idea is the same as the significantly less nuanced feeling that 'everybody is equal'. On the surface this seems just as good, if not better. However, give it a moment's thought: should people all be treated equally when their behaviour marks them out for a unique response? Should, for example, child murderer, Ian Huntley, be treated by society as you would a scientist who discovers a cure for cancer? Of course not. Should the workshy and hardworking members of society be paid in equal measure? Some think so, I do not*.

The Americans in Times Square were celebrating the death of a man who opposed their idea that "all men are created equal". The English in London (and around the UK) were, whether they knew it or not, celebrating the exact opposite of that. Furthermore, the Americans looked across the pond at us and did so with respect for our quaint traditions and way of life. Many of us looked at them while holding our noses with contempt at their "stupidity" and gullibility.

Perhaps this is partly down to the recent rise of conspiracy theory in the UK. Conspiracy theorists like to think they look behind the veil of what is going on in the world by not believing the "official story". It's a very American idea. It has been allowed to incubate over there so much because of their commitment to the notion of "freedom of speech". Again, something which we started here but do not have any firm commitment to. Certainly it's not enshrined in our law. I'm not saying I'd want to burn a Koran but if I did want to express myself like that I'd have to go over to the US to do so, otherwise I might face prosecution. In the US their commitment to "freedom of speech" is like ours to the Queen, quasi religious.

Yeah, but what about slavery? They had all that bad racism in the US, the UK wins there right?

Well, I'm not so sure. As I said before what I love about the US is their self awareness, their ability to change direction and correct things when they feel they've done wrong. They did abolish slavery and their policies of racial segregation when they realised the error of their ways and now, like him or not, a black man is their President. Not likely to happen in the UK any time soon.

In truth, our mindset would have plodded on with segregation I think. Just as we have with the Royal Family. There's no intent to change here in the UK, we've become stagnant. Clinging to past glories. "Ooh, lets put the Great back into Great Britain," people parrot to each other as my mind shouts back: "OH JUST F--- OFF!".

Yeah but what about their policy on gun control? Michael Moore made that film and it proves what idiots they all are, with their guns.

I used to think their gun policy was absurd. Then someone from America explained it to me thus:
having a gun is a sign that the Government trusts the people to behave as citizens rather than slaves. A nobleman carried a sword. A peasant was not allowed one. The peasants might revolt, a nobleman will only do so if his cause is just. In short, an armed populace provides a final defence against tyranny.

I remember 2001, it proved to me that America is not superman and can be wounded. Things change - America might not always be a world power. That won't concern the Royals. They can do business with China just as easily as they can the Americans. Perhaps their Kingdom will be more adapted to fit that style of Government, when the economic tide turns. It concerns me that if that happens those who come after us will stuggle to find anyone of any note who thinks they were created equal. It also worries me that no one will be allowed to to voice that concern and their last defence against tyranny will have gone.



*Meh, actually that's a tricker question than I make out in this blog entry. I used to think people should all be paid the same for the work they do. However these days I'm swayed by an economist friend of mine who pointed out that incentives to not work and penalties for those who do generate the remarkably predictable consequence of putting people off working altogether. That said, the huge distance financially between the rich and poor in the UK is absurd. I'm still at heart a bit of a lefty and I can't swallow the full pill of rampant capitalism. Meh, maybe reform of the banking system is where it's at?


Anonymous said…
The UK has far more separation of Church and State, and is far less driven by blind patriotism than in the US.

You can't compare the philosophy of one nation with your own experience of another. Go and live in the states and see how backwards it is in comparison!

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