Patrick Crozier has some views on our cousins across the Big Pond
America is a great country. Yes, I know they never stop reminding us of the fact and it can become a bit irksome but it is still true and perhaps we should take the time to remind ourselves from time to time.
For starters America is a rich country. Not only is the average wage higher but the cost of living is lower. The average American has a bigger house, a better car and more consumer durables than just about anywhere else. Healthcare for the vast majority is excellent and an astonishing proportion of Americans attend college.
America is a land of opportunity – still. Just ask Anthony Hopkins or Catherine Zeta-Jones or Tracy Ullman or Jane Leeves or Henry Kissinger or Andrew Sullivan (he is a Brit isn’t he?) or Tina Brown (likewise?) or Arnold Schwarzenegger or Colin Powell’s dad. And that’s just the foreigners. America is a country where the “can do” attitude prevails and dreams can come true.
America has contributed massively to the rest of the world. From Hollywood movies to McDonalds to the personal computer to, well, closer to home, blogging. America has been responsible for 80% of the world’s rock music and 95% of its dance music. Oh, and ending two world wars. OK, so they weren’t decisive in the first (that was the Canadians and Australians) but I think we can credit them with the second. And then there’s the Cold War.
America is a free country. More than just about anywhere in the world American citizens are free from arbitrary arrest, torture and arbitrary punishment. The right to free speech is even enshrined in the constitution. And then, unlike most places, honoured. In America you can hold on to more of the property you have worked for than just about anywhere else and once the government has taken its cut you are more or less free to do whatever you like with it.
America is not without fault but even there many of America’s alleged faults are not faults at all. It is often accused of racism and racism certainly exists but racism exists everywhere. The Russians hate the Chechens, the Romanians hate the Hungarians and the Japanese hate everyone. What is remarkable about America is how little racism there is and how deeply its governing classes want to do something about it. The fact that so many Hollywood movies nowadays have a black in a leading or main supporting role speaks volumes for this desire.
People also complain about the crime rate but they are behind the times. With the exception of murder America’s crime rate is lower than that of the UK. That really ought to fill us with shame.
We Brits often get a bit snooty about American English but should we? I have this dreadful fear that my UK v US English competition will end in a US victory. US English does the job just well as our own version – it’s just that the words are different, that’s all.
People say that Americans are rude and pushy – just like the one out of Fawlty Towers. Some are for sure. But so are many Britons. And vast swathes of middle America contain some of the nicest, friendliest people you could ever want to meet.
It can be bruising to come face to face with the American corporate steamroller but is it really all that bad? American firms from Ford, to Oracle, to Mars and McDonalds have provided good jobs for thousands in Britain and millions around the world. Lest we forget, it was American money that built most of the London tube and the Ford Cortina MkII 1600E. And if American corporate dominance is such an issue, rather than getting angry, wouldn’t it be better to get even?
Actually, this is a general point. If we want to be as rich and as free as the Americans (and surely we do) rather than fume and rage, get snooty about things and bind up America in stupid international treaties wouldn’t the smart thing be to work out how they got that way and then do it for ourselves?
Well, wouldn’t it?