i've mentioned this before, but i feel the need to say it again: the British do not like Americans. i can now fairly say this after spending six months in London meeting random people here in the city, older people in their cosy, upper class homes and -- more often than not -- seeing the opinions as presented by the British media.
it's probably pretty easy for the Brits to make fun of Americans -- to the Brits we're all just a bunch of Yosemite Sams: loud talking, swaggering idiots who drive around with loaded rifles in the backs of our pickup trucks, draping the American flag from every available pole and wall.
not that there's anything wrong with having the flag of your home country displayed wherever you choose. but i digress...
lately i've grown more than a bit fed-up with watching British television programs slam America in their oh-so-smug aren't-we-clever-and-ever-so-properly-uptight manner. right now there are a few TV series running on national television in Britain that amuse and upset me at the same time.
one of these programs is "Stephen Fry in America" aired by the BBC. Stephen Fry is a likeable British actor/comedian/author/TV presenter. i think i find him pretty happy-go-lucky and open-minded. but what i don't dig is that throughout his six-part series about driving a little English taxi through all 50 U.S. states, he has a bad habit of covering the most stereotypical bits of America and filming whoever has the thickest accent or the most dead animal heads mounted on their walls -- and a lot of folks who are just simple, working-class men and women from very small towns. as if Britain has none of THOSE...
another program that sometimes entertains but sometimes upsets me is Simon Schama's "The American Future: a History," which is also produced by the BBC. it's a look back at select periods in American history -- with the particularly British point of view that whatever the Americans were doing at the time, the show needs to pick the absolute worst moments in the country's history to highlight. Japanese immigrant detention camps during World War II, anyone? the content of this series is all the more irritating because while Schama is British, he LIVES in the United States and (i believe) currently works at Columbia University in New York. America's not good enough to compliment in any way, but he'll go live there and take their money, for sure.
and while i'm talking about British television let me also mention TV host (or "presenter" as they call it over here) extraordinaire: Andrew Marr. this is a journalist and political commentator who has several shows including the current "Andrew Marr's History of Modern Britain" series (yet another BBC production). he's a journalist who regularly speaks with top-dogs like the Prime Minister (Gordon Brown), and who is about as smarmy and self-loving as any person i've seen on British "telly." or is it "tellie?"
oh, who cares...newspaper and TV reports here are literally swimming with coverage of the current U.S. presidential election. it's quite amazing how much the Brits like to see news about America -- considering they dislike us so much. they like to make fun of Republican stereotypes and suggest that America's only hope of MAYBE not being utterly despised by Great Britain is to elect Senator Obama to the White House. and even then it's still just a MAYBE. personally i think the Brits will find a new reason to hate America no matter who's in the White House.
last week i was a dinner guest in the home of a -- let's just say it -- a highly-educated, wealthy English family. during pre-dinner conversation there was much mention of America and American politics, and i thought it kind of them to include my concerns in the mix of the chit-chat. it was fine until the man of the house told a charming little story about how he worked with a group of Americans back in the 1970s in India (or somewhere like that) and the men were from Louisiana and they stomped up in the joint with cowboy boots and cowboy hats on, punching out men who dared to talk with "their" ladies, and who watched three Indian workers die on the job in one large accident, but "completely forgot about the deaths by tea time."
yes. that is EXACTLY what ALL Americans are like. you got it, buddy.
i'm not afraid to admit that even after six months i still feel completely alien to my temporary country of England. instead of being my relatively outspoken self, i speak softer and much less frequently around English people -- god forbid i fulfill any part of their favorite "Ugly American" stereotype by being energetic, enthusiastic, amusing, honest and (wait for it) FRIENDLY.
i'm so sick of the uptight, painfully reserved smugness of these people that i can barely contain myself. i've never missed America more than i do right now. and the more Brits make fun of it, the more i'll [try to] bite my lip and wait for the day when i can go Home again.
FROM THE MOUNTAINS... TO THE PRAIRIES...
i'll be staying up very VERY late here for the U.S. election results -- i can't wait to see what the British media have to say about the outcome.
here we go again.