First of all – I will lay this on the line. Any anti-American vitroil is not welcome here on ‘comments’. Now, I don’t mind for a minute if you want to lay into USA world foreign policy to date, or the way that the country is managed at present. Or hell – the whole foundation of the country if you like! But the whole point of this rant is that I am very naffed off at something I just heard.
Two women chatting. Yes. I was earwigging (pretending to work). They were in their early forties. They were discussing religion – focussing on Christianity. I smiled to myself at the time because it was a nice, polite chat. Very much couched in evangelical-christian speak (albeit with a very large dash of liberalism and middle of the road Anglicanism). For those of you who are sane enough NOT to know about such language – it was this kind of thing;
“But at the end of the day, it’s not all about me is it? Its about Glory in the Name of the Lord” etc etc.
Anyway. These two highly intelligent and reasonable women (yes, I have already forgiven their Silly Speak. It’s a free country after all) were chatting away about bland, harmless stuff. Then, one of them said:
“Oh yes. I heard all about that particular initiative from an American who was visiting over here recently. Nice bloke. You know – not your usual irritating American”
Now. Is it me – or was I right to be really taken aback by this comment? Not just because the woman came across as being very well educated, informed and she talked all about inclusion and community cohesion. But I was even more alarmed when I realised that the woman who said this – was a vicar! A Church of England bloody vicar! (Sorry vicar pals – the ‘bloody’ is for effect – not having a go at you all…)
First of all I got annoyed. Like many of my friends (regardless of what country they are from) I abhor some of the crap that the USA has caused/ pre-empted in this world. Just as I do the crap that the UK/Europe etc has ALSO caused to happen and/or not responded to. But the faults and failings of politicians and the people who voted them in NB*** I am NOT just talking about the USA here**** hardly gives anyone the right to generalise about a whole race/nationality of people.
So I got to thinking about this a bit more (dangerous I know). I don’t mind stereotypes – especially when you can use them for clever, non-harmful amusement. We have them for a reason – and if you are going to use them – use them in a silly, non-offensive way! For example – my husband always accuses me and mine of being vandals and thieves. ‘Watch yer car!’ he calls out to random passers-by who park near our house ‘She’s from Manchester’. Whereas I always have to explain to him what a ‘library’ is – because he does come from Birmingham after all.
But can you imagine a similar conversation these days between two such educated, devout and well-informed people that use silly stereotypes and which go completely ‘above humour. For example – what if the woman had said “Yes I learned about that initiative from a chap who was from Pakistan – but he didn’t seem to have any suicide bombs strapped to him” or “He was Irish but he didnt seem to be drunk” or “He was from France but he didn’t smell of onions”….
When I hear things like this – I know that I am in danger of sounding ridiculous, patronising even. The gut reaction is to want to shout over to them “Hey! Missus! Watch your mouth! Some of my best friends are American AND they are a lot more enlightened, clever and empathetic than you are! So ner!”. But of course, that would be a bit pathetic. However, there is nothing worse than a smug Brit (whose own country pioneered colonialsm and raped and murdered millions of innocent people across the world in the advancement of the UK’s own economic interests) slagging off all citizens of the USA. Because ‘Well. We no longer DO that kind of thing do we? That is Sooooo Victorian. We leave that to the USA now’…..
I know that I might be sounding a little OTT here (honestly – I am only foaming at the mouth ever-so-slightly…) but this kind of talk is dangerous. Its no better than the kind of thing I heard too often in southern Africa ‘Ah – he is British – but he is a nice white person’. Anti-americanism (or any racism-thinly-veiling-a-superiority-complex) breeds hatred, mistrust and feeds knee-jerk reactions of the extreme right; whether they be from the Middle East or the Deep South.
But before you worry that I have TOTALLY lost my sense of humour – I must share one of my favourite scenes with you from ‘Outnumbered’. Okay – it DOES feature an American being the ‘butt of the joke’ but I think it could just as easily be someone from The South of the UK with a really, really posh accent and who is into alternative therapy…. (heh heh)…..
Outnumbered – Episode 5 ‘Welcome to English Repression’
The last time Mum’s sister Auntie Angela came to visit, it all ended in disaster. Now she is back to show off the American therapist she has married….