The ingratitude of a boorish “angry American”

Last Wednesday, Jonathan Freedland, a former Guardian US correspondent, wrote this article suggesting that the international judgement will be harsh if the Americans elect McCain and Sarah Palin, with her record of putting religion ahead of general good governance in her home state, and that it would reflect a nation out of touch and in decline. That prompted some idiot called Miguel Giles in Sacramento, CA, to write a bigoted rant, which appeared in the paper on Friday.

This is not the first time, of course, that efforts by the Guardian to influence an American presidential election have been met with angry, boorish responses from Americans who assume that we are trying to take their country over again, and remind us of how they rescued us in two world wars in the last century. In 2004, the paper ran a scheme called “Operation Clark County”, encouraging readers to write to voters in a marginal county in Ohio, encouraging them to vote for John Kerry. I thought that the scheme was misguided, particularly given that it involved writing personal letters to total strangers, but this was a mere newspaper column expressing an opinion, which the author has every right to do. I suspect that Giles’s letter was not the only one of the type the paper received; perhaps it was the most egregious and therefore the most memorable:

Jonathan Freedland made my blood boil here in Sacramento, as he whines about our elections, like a spoiled child. Neither he nor any Englishman, Frenchman, Russian, African or Ecuadorian has the slightest say in our elections. The issues are vastly too complex for foreigners to comprehend, much less have a say in.

Really, what is it about being American that makes someone able to understand anything vastly complicated that an educated British citizen could not? I’ve hesitated about voting in local council elections here, because I did not really know what each party really stood for as I had not been following the business of the council. If this argument has any validity, it would disqualify most Americans from voting as well.

I don’t see anyone of Pakistani or African descent being touted as Britain’s next prime minister. But to childishly simplify everything through the lens of skin colour defines the left’s congenital stupidity.

British Prime Ministers are not elected directly; people elect individual members of Parliament and the leader of the dominant party in the Commons becomes Prime Minister. So the chances of a party losing a general election because its leader was not white are vastly reduced; the leader’s media performance and various aspects of the party’s policy, particularly on matters like tax and crime, would play a greater role. In the USA, it has been openly suggested that people would not vote for Obama because of his skin colour, even though he is in fact mixed-race, and his name. It seems that skin colour matters much less to the left than to others.

One might also consider the different histories of Britain’s ethnic minorities to the US Black population. Our ethnic minorities are mostly very recent immigrants and their descendants; they started coming to the UK in the late 1940s but most arrived after that, and most Asians of my generation have parents who were born “back home” and there are always fresh arrivals as some minorities have a preference for bringing spouses from their countries of origin. Meanwhile, the white population are indigenous, both in themselves and compared to the minorities, in a way that white Americans are not, especially in comparison to Afro-Americans, who have lived in the USA for much longer and whose ancestors did not come of their own volition. It is rather to be expected that none of our minorities have yet produced a potential Prime Minister, but they have produced Parliamentarians and even members of government.

America saved Europe during three world wars, including the Cold War. Our blood, sweat and tears were not shed to have weaklings tell us how to save the world (by continuously selling out millions of “other people” to totalitarian monsters).

The idea of the Cold War as a “third world war” is one which was invented after it had ended; the only wars took place in various third-world locations and had no bearing on the situation in Europe, where there was no war other than when eastern countries sought to break away from Soviet domination, and were not helped by the Americans. The British generally appreciate the help this country received from the USA in World War II, but the Americans in fact came into the war in Europe properly when Germany declared war on them; up until then, a powerful segment of American society had resisted becoming involved. The reference to “blood, sweat and tears” overlooks the fact that the term is associated with World War II because of its use in Churchill’s election address, and it was the British, particularly in the cities, whose blood, sweat and tears were shed at home as well as on the battlefield; life was a lot more comfortable for Americans during the war, both for those fighting and those not.

While I opposed the invasion of Iraq and applauded European efforts to stop it, I resent hearing British opinions on American issues being rebuffed with reminders of how “they saved our ass in two world wars” (often from people who were not even born at the time of WW2, and in some cases are too young to remember much about the Cold War), when Britain has contributed to almost every American war effort since then, Vietnam being the only major exception. (The US government bluntly stated that British help was not essential in getting rid of Saddam Hussain, but I remember reading that some American politician or senior military officer said that British participation could have made the difference in Vietnam.) They are only too glad of our help when it comes to avenging insults or injuries, or making their aggressions look like an international endeavour, but when we venture an opinion about their politics, they come out with a flurry of indignation and personal name-calling, as Giles does at the end of his letter. It is also not true that the British (and we are talking about the British, not the French or Germans, here) tend to sell people out; Britain had a record of armed humanitarian intervention well before Iraq (e.g. Sierra Leone), which our participation in your wars has sullied.

Should Jonathan visit, he had better drink with professors or like types at home or in gay bars, but had better stay out of real bars in Sacramento.

Of course, if enough Americans have this attitude, they will end up electing the candidate who is most afraid of being called a coward, hence they only voted for Clinton in 1992 because he proved himself willing to execute a brain-damaged man (regardless of how he got into that condition), and in the forthcoming election I’m sure there will be plenty of people who warm to McCain’s “bomb Iran” rhetoric. The trouble with this is that there is nobody more dangerously cowardly than someone afraid of such insults as that in the sentence I quoted. When a nation finds itself neck deep in a war it could have seen earlier that it couldn’t win, the fact that their president isn’t a “pussy” will come as scant consolation.

The reason a lot of foreigners do take an interest in the outcome of the US election is that it affects people far from the USA’s borders and shores; to a large extent, this is our own politicians’ fault, because it is they, whatever their party, who kow-tow to American demands by signing unjust trade deals and, in the case of the UK, extradition treaties. However, the USA is also notorious for intervening directly in the affairs of other countries, often to the detriment of democracy, fair play and the good of the countries’ citizens; we all remember what happened when the Palestinians used their democratic right to get rid of the corrupt Fatah a few years ago, and how the rhetoric about democracy in Egypt was toned down when Muslim Brotherhood candidates proved popular. Americans should remember when they go to the polls this November that it is no longer the morning after 9/11, and that if you get yourselves in a pickle in Iran because you don’t want to vote for Obama because he’s not white or because you think he’s a Muslim, you may find that you have to get yourselves out of it.

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