The End Of The Special Relationship?

Film, Great Britain

I get back to find that London is fifty shades of grey and, if not exactly flooded, certainly heavily puddled, with an effulgent sky fitted tightly across the city like a dustbin lid. There are three new floors on the building opposite me (after four days away) – a reminder that cold wet countries tend to work longer hours, probably because there’s no outdoor life to enjoy.

Meanwhile it’s business as usual. A couple of policemen have been suspended for calling black people ‘monkeys’ – incredible in this day and age. A smart young black student was killed by a gang in ‘a case of mistaken identity’. The gap between rich and poor continues to jump. And British TV seems to be deliberately fomenting dislike of Americans.

What’s going on? A comedian encourages the audience to shout two words associated with Americans and they come up with ‘Fat’ and ‘Stupid’. The Sunday Times, no less, describes America as ‘basically a giant Westfield Mall with a desert in the middle and some smart people around the edges.’ A report describes the USA as ‘a holiday destination for adolescents’. American food is ridiculed. Two TV documentaries about the US Christian Right (basically tiny groups of mad people) appear on the same night, as if this was a national norm. A new TV documentary series looks at ‘the way in which rich Americans abandon their poor’. Reports on the increased fracking in the US suggest it will continue to deny climate change. Well, we’re not doing too well on any of those fronts, either. We can’t have women bishops.

For years, the English have been the villains in racist Hollywood films, especially in historical rewrites like ‘Argo’ and ‘Braveheart’, but it seemed to me that this was finally waning. The new head of the Bank of England is Canadian. France has overtaken the US as the leading holiday destination. Presumably the loss of faith in America is connected to our adoption of its capitalist and military policies, and our perception of the changing world order. Our mayor is creeping around India trying to get business and everyone else is sucking up to human-rights-challenged China.

Once, US influence in London was ubiquitous at street level; now it is almost entirely invisible. My daily evidence is anecdotal but I’m out and about in London all the time, and the one accent you no longer hear is the American voice that would make me look up and smile. Can we just remind ourselves that America has a black president and a great many powerful women in politics? Should they care what we think? Not at all; America is a democratic powerhouse that still has much to teach its grandparents, if only we can get past our Little England mentalities.

With student visas set to tighten, it appears that even fewer will arrive. It’s as if the UK just woke up to the fact that Europe is only 21 miles off its shoreline, and is catering to its neighbours. I’m ashamed to admit that I have not been back to America in a decade. This is set to change with the publication of the next Bryant & May novel, when I hope to return to New York at least. Sadly, I don’t sell enough copies to warrant a national tour – unless somebody makes a film of something I’ve written. Come on, all rights are currently available!

9 comments on “The End Of The Special Relationship?”

  1. Dan Terrell says:

    Firstly, great news you may becoming to the States. Lots of leadtime, please, I’ll try and visit New York then.
    Secondly, the U.S. and G. B. are not going to break up. This is one of those things that the news people dig up on slow news days/weeks/months. Everyone – it seems – likes to stand on a brick, peek over the wooden fence for a study of the next backyard (“Totally beyond understanding.” “What now, dear?” “They haven’t moved that @#%@ garden hose in weeks. Someone’s sure to break their necks over there.” “Yes, well, have your Wheaties.”)
    British evil-doers? Never really noticed, but I assume it’s the excellent “accent” spoken when the sewer cover is opened from beneath and the well-dressed gentleman climbs out, fixes his cuffs, and goes off through the puddles. (Remember that great scene? “League of Gentlemen”? Way before Bond, and such style.) Can an American do that? Not really. It’s the jeans and trainers and Ami accent.
    Friends in Britian: Be glad you aren’t Germans with their history.
    Does the States have problems? Everyone of us here thinks so from our different perspectives, but at least a goodly percentage think we are making progress, but what a lot there is to be done and to keep, not retreat from. (And the rich need to contribute a little more.)
    I have one “rule of thumb” educate, employ, and respect women. They make, and can make, a differece in every way. Not doing so is similar to trying to do a job without an arm, a leg and half a brain.

  2. glasgow1975 says:

    (That Bald Eagle looks decidedly seagull-y to me)

  3. Paul Graham says:

    Admin- If my Powerball numbers come in tonight I’ll bank roll a Bryant and May film.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    Effulgent? Is it a shining grey coloured sky? The news you see is what editors decide is news and the voices you hear commenting are the ones chosen for heir specific perspective. People say they don’t like Americans – “except for the ones I know and those cousins of mine in Oregon”. All you have to do is stop long enough to count the people you know who fit whatever profile is being used and you can see the over generalising that is going on. Places where you don’t know anyone would probably work the same if you were to meet some of them.

  5. Dan Terrell says:

    You are so right, Helen. That’s why stereotyping is so dangerous and why it’s used to prepare a nation’s military for battle. War posters, anyone? But once you know a few people from a country… well, that is usually a different story.
    You readers may not believe it, but in my years with the Foreign Service I was – outside of the embassy – rarely thought of as an American. Why act like a stereotype? You get to know people much better and learn more about them, if they don’t/can’t peg you. And close readers and writers like to get to get to know people – the original “fly(ies) on the wall.” I was given a T-shirt that reads: Watch it! You’ll be in my book.
    Paul – I have two Powerball tickets myself paid for by meager scratch card winnings. If you win, or I win, or we win let’s work out a deal to fund the first two films. What say you? Then we can go to Barcelona and drop a wad on those little manger figures. I think with glue and cocks they can be converted to wine and spirit stoppers – a whole you market.

  6. snowy says:

    Freudian slip there Dan?

  7. Dan Terrell says:

    Corks, c-o-r-k-s, corks I say. And I thought the danger word for editors, particularly newpaper editors, was shirt or shirts. Corks, Snowy.
    Thanks for pointing that out with a traffic flare.
    Did Freud wear a slip or a long undershirt?

  8. Sam Tomaino says:

    Anglo-American relations have suffered since our President gave your Prime Minister a collection of DVDs he couldn’t play.

  9. Helen Martin says:

    From the pictures I saw neither of our posters were powerball winners. Well, there’s another possible filming down the tube. Operation Sugar High may have to go into action after all.

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