Posts about america

Ah, irony

Listening to Stephen Fry’s podcast this morning, I heard this defense of America against cruel British stereotype:

…[I]f there is one misapprehension about Americans that annoys me more than any other, it is the lofty claim, usually made by the most dim-witted and wit-free Britons, that America is an — ho-ho — “irony free zone”.

Let it be established here, this day, that no one, on pain of being designated fifty types of watery twat, ever dare repeat that feeble, ignorant, self-satisfied canard ever ever again. Americans are no more irony illiterate than Britons or anyone else and the repeated assertion (and it is no more than an assertion not a demonstrable provable fact) is no more than a pathetic symbol of a certain kind of Briton’s flabby need to convince themselves of their sophisticated superiority over the average American. Now, don’t feel bad about the fact that you, dear listener/reader have, at some point in the past been guilty of repeating and transmitting this feeble myth, we all have. It’s lazy, easy and gives us a warm glow. My war on the lie begins now, and is not retrospective, so you need not feel ashamed. Only promise never to repeat it. Actually, even if you think it’s true, have the grace to recognise that such a clunking, tedious, oft-repeated cliché is so dull and well-worn that it almost doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not, it’s just plain tedious and only bar-stool bores and dull-witted gibbons would ever think it worth trotting out. Besides, it is ugly, graceless and rude.

I think he’s being ironic. But then, I’m American.

And all that stuff, continued

What should we do when people don’t like us — as a person or as a country?

Take, for example, the troll who has been coming into my comments lately trying to find reason to disagree with everything I say and insult me at every turn. Of course, I have no problem with discussion and even passionate disagreement; otherwise I wouldn’t blog and wouldn’t have open comments — I wouldn’t engage in the world. And, naturally, it’s good for me to hear people correct me or show me new ways to think. But that’s not what’s happening here. This is just personal. This guy obviously doesn’t like me. So what am I to do? Thank him for the abuse? Tell him that, of course, he’s right about everything and I’m wrong about everything and I should just shut this down now and hang a sign around my neck saying that this guy says I’m a horse’s ass? Should I just sit silently and take it? That’s what it seems we Americans are supposed to do with those who feel so free to sneer at us these days. But, of course I won’t just take his abuse. Instead, I chose to ignore him and when he wouldn’t take the hint, I called him out. And now I see no reason to pay attention to him. If this were a party, I’d find an excuse to go to the bar, get away from the jerk, and not come near him again.

So what are we to do with nations of trolls repeating that they don’t like America and Americans? On July 4, I wrote about how it is becoming politically correct to dislike and attack us — while it’s still politically incorrect to dislike, attack, or note the sins of our attackers. On July 4, the Telegraph ran a YouGov poll that declared “Britons have never had such a low opinion of the leadership of the United States” — and, it appears, of Americans, too.

[T]he poll found that only 12 per cent of Britons trust them to act wisely on the global stage. This is half the number who had faith in the Vietnam-scarred White House of 1975.

Most Britons see America as a cruel, vulgar, arrogant society, riven by class and racism, crime-ridden, obsessed with money and led by an incompetent hypocrite.

A few days later in a heartwarming — for an American — column in The Times of London, Gerard Baker summarizes the poll this way:

[It] purports to suggest something much worse: that it’s not just this Administration’s bungled war and slightly unsettling attitude to the rule of law that gets British goats. It’s the whole damn, four wheel-driving, McDonald’s-munching, Starbucks-slurping, Barbie-fondling lot of them. The polls found that substantial majorities despise American society, believing it to be divided economically and racially, violent, uncaring, ignorant.

I won’t show pictures of poor homes in Britain, or link to stories about racial — especially Muslim — division there, or show maps of all the Starbucks I found an alternate corners on my last trip to London, or point to fatty pub grub menus. I won’t do that because I like Britons and because this is their problem, not ours. Says a Telegraph editorial:

To dislike a country as diverse as America is misanthropic: America, more than any other state, contains the full range of humanity between its coasts. What binds its people together is an ideal encoded in America’s DNA.

Conceived in a popular uprising against autocratic government, the United States has a natural sympathy with self-rule, personal freedom and representative government. To this day, it is guided by the Jeffersonian ideal that decisions should be taken as closely as possible to the people they affect.

And hear Baker’s stirring conclusion to his column:

The US is a large, chaotic, complex, multifaceted, constantly changing society. It defies simple characterisation. But it is its very openness, its very willingness to examine itself and have others continually pore over it, that makes it so easy to characterise. Americans are often criticised for lacking nuance. The world could do with a tad more nuance when it looks at America.

Thanks, we needed that. And that’s why it’s still worth engaging with the world. Not everyone’s a troll.