The other day I got one of those ‘humorous’ round robin emails: this one purporting to be a message from our sovereign to the American people.
In light of your failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates for President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately.
Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (except Kansas, which she does not fancy).
Your new Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, will appoint a Governor for America without the need for further elections.
Congress and the Senate will be disbanded.
A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you noticed.
To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:
(You should look up ‘revocation’ in the Oxford English Dictionary.)
1. Then look up aluminum, and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it.
2. The letter ‘U’ will be reinstated in words such as ‘colour’, ‘favour’, ‘labour’ and ‘neighbour.’ Likewise, you will learn to spell ‘doughnut’ without skipping half the letters, and the suffix ‘-ize’ will be replaced by the suffix ‘-ise’. Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. (look up ‘vocabulary’).
3. Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as ‘like’ and ‘you know’ is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. There is no such thing as US English. We will let M*crosoft know on your behalf. The M*crosoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter ‘u’ and the elimination of -ize.
It continues for ages in the same unfunny and snobbish vein.
I wonder what the reaction would be if someone circulated an email in which the Queen told Africa or Ireland that we were taking it back as a colony due to its ‘failure in recent years to nominate competent candidates’ for government.
Like all bad satire this says more about the source of the joke than its target. I think a lot of anti-Americanism stems from a post-imperial resentment described by Hunter S Thompson as ‘that King-George-III notion of America. A bunch of crude upstarts – couldn’t make it work.’
This colonial condescension is summed up in the lazy cultural cliche that says that Americans have a less sophisticated sense of humour than we do. Really? So how come American TV produces beautifully crafted sitcoms like Frasier and brilliant stand-ups like Bill Hicks, while we have given the world My Family and Jimmy Carr?
Haranguing Americans for electing the wrong leader grates even more when you consider that Bush’s victory in 2000 was dubious at the very best.
And over at Harry’s Place, Shabba Goy explains why, for all Britain’s self-satisfaction, it would never let a brave outsider like Barack Obama get anywhere near political office.
The politics of hope, the politics of change, the politics of aspiration – the widespread cynicism in British society towards politics makes Obama-style rhetoric unlikely to resonate. A major part of the problem is the media of course. In the U.S the liberal media saw and heard Obama and loved him and set about enthusiastically charting the wonderful ’story’ of his rise to president. If an optimistic Obama figure did emerge in bitter Britain he would be mocked ruthlessly in print and on television. Read some Obama speeches and put them in a UK context and ask yourself if the whole of the political class (including the media) would not be laughing out loud.
The Obama story itself – the son of a Kenyan who can rise to be president – resonates beautifully in America and is a major factor in explaining the momentum Obama was able to pick up and maintain. But such a story remains sadly unthinkable in the U.K., however much Brits may like to consider themselves more tolerant and superior to ‘racist Americans’. British voters elect neo-Nazis to their local councils.