Friday, 31 December 2010

#42 And now for something completely different.

Fourteenscore and seven days ago I brought forth upon this website a new blog, conceived in comedy, and dedicated to the proposition that I can write funny.

It's important to remember that that was it. Excusing the odd bit of forgettable political rhetoric, the purpose of this blog was entertainment. Whether I have achieved that purpose is not for me to say - ask one of my ten readers. But the aim was benign, or even benevolent.

I'm making the point for three reasons:

1. Because it has been suggested, reasonably, that my Lettuces From America comes across as anti-American.
2. Because I wish to deviate for this one post from comedy.
3. Because my time in this great nation is coming to an end.

On the last point: I leave in a week. (To wit: I have been offered a job in London that precipitated the difficult and swift decision to move.)

And so, to deviate, what follows in not especially funny, and is aimed at an American, as well as a British, audience.

Why I love America

Over the past ten months, I came to understand patriotism. Or, at least, love for a country. I still think it's slightly silly to be proud of the geographical accident of your birth. But insofar as your nationality leads to your being associated with the values of your nation, I suppose it makes sense.

The problem is that I fell in love with the wrong country. I can claim some allegiance to America - my grandfather and his parents were American citizens, and I have lived here for the best part of a year - but calling myself 'American' would be a stretch. So why am I in love? Why, especially when all appearances were that I scorned the place?

The love is simple: America was founded on the most laudable principles of any nation state - freedom, equality, and an overarching faith in man and his ability to self-govern. Britain still hasn't got there. France took five attempts to get it right. Yet America, a fledgling nation with very little in the way of power or resources, nailed it first time. This was in part the work of a cohort of public-spirited and prescient heroes: George Washington, John Adams, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson, to name a few. The Continental Congress took a ragged bunch of thirteen British colonies and built the greatest nation in history.

America delivered on this foundation as it accepted the poor and disenfranchised citizens of the world through the 19th and 20th century not as charity cases, but as citizens and equals. Obviously it lost its way from time to time: the xenophobic Immigration Acts of the early 20th century, the slow progress of the Civil Rights movement. But by and large Americans have spent the last two centuries making good on the promises of their Constitution. E pluribus unum.

So why am I so down on it?

The negativity heretofore expressed reflects my feeling that this is a country falling far short of its potential - which, given its power and its principles, its pennies and its people - is surely the greatest of any nation on this earth. When you're good, America, you're very good, but when you're bad you're bloody awful: the armchair fundamentalism and kneejerk conservatism, the callousness of foreign and domestic policy. For a year I have seen a nation wilfully allowing a great many to piss on its proudest principles. And it saddens me.

My polemics were aimed at many Americans, but never America.

So if these blog posts have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended:
That the love is greater here,
Than it did at first appear.
And these weak and idle themes
Were no more than angry scream,
Yankies, do not reprehend:
If you pardon, I will mend.
And, as I am a humble Brit,
If you felt my yarns lacked wit,
If you scorned my serpent's tongue,
Know this blog will close 'ere long.
Else Palin a liar call;
Happy New Year unto you all,
Though I mock Americans,
I sure wish I was one of them.

A round-up of my last few days in New York and Washington DC will follow, but I'm basically done. If you've enjoyed Lettuce From America, check out my new blog in 2011. And to my very small readership: thank you, sincerely, and have a wonderful year. I hope you got even a tenth as much out of reading this blog as I got out of writing it.

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