Tag Archives: america

Stop calling me the liberal elite

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The author and friends leading a gay rights march through Chicago in 2013. Photo: Brittany Sowacke/Red Eye

In the days after the general election, I said that I am no longer American. This was prompted by the seeming consensus that to be American one must live in an exurb or rural area somewhere not on a coast. But I have changed my mind. While the media narrative surrounding the rise of fascism in America is, largely, that we on the left have ignored white working class people in favour of the metropolitan liberal elite. The Telegraph even has a fun little quiz where you can figure out if you’re part of the liberal elite.

Let me tell you why this is bullshit.

I am the white working class. I was raised in the Rust Belt by the descendants of Appalachian peasants (and make no mistake, that’s what they were) who migrated out of Kentucky and Tennessee to the factories of the Midwest. Aged 15, I moved back to the coalfields of Eastern Kentucky and then later went on to spend seven wonderful years in Bowling Green, a small city best known for manufacturing Corvettes and once appearing in a Martina McBride music video. Then I moved to Chicago.

Since then, I’ve been told I’m part of the metropolitan elite by people as disparate as the ballet dancer Jack Thorpe-Baker and my own sister. I’m out of touch, they say. I don’t know what “real” America or “real Britain” is feeling, what they need. I’m a gay urban journalist who exists on two continents, or more specifically in two global cities, who enjoys opera and musicals and has a diverse group of friends. I don’t get “real” America, like in Dayton, Ohio (where I was raised) or Sheffield, England (where I just came from). I don’t understand their anxieties, their concerns, or their way of life.

Except, you know, I do. Because I am them. I come from them. And despite having gotten a university education, I am still a part of them.

Your ignorance ignores this. I’ve been told by so many Americans this week to “mind my own business” because the geotag on my tweets says “Walthamstow, London.” Newsflash: Americans travel. They even move abroad. Just because I’m across the ocean doesn’t mean it isn’t my country too. But this illustrates the ignorance and narrow worldview of so many people who voted for that vile man. They can’t fathom an American would ever travel, let alone move, abroad.

I get it. Globalisation and free trade have left behind many, many people in Middle America and Middle England. They’re understandably angry. But this vote wasn’t about economic anxiety, as the media would have us believe. The voter demographics coming out show us that white working class Americans largely broke for Clinton. Rather, college educated white people put Trump just over the threshold in states like Wisconsin and Michigan to get him more electoral votes than Clinton. So stop saying poor white people did this. They didn’t.

Racist white people did this.

This election was about one thing: who gets to be American. Everyone who says this election was “a backlash against the establishment” really means it was a backlash against diverse, cosmopolitan values which are radiating from cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. It’s a reaction against the browning and queering of the country.

Every single person who says I am not a “real” American, that I am not capable of understanding what “real” Americans think or feel or need can kindly fuck off. I’m as real an American as any one of you. Even by the nativist sentiments of the alt-right, I’m as American as Toby Keith eating apple pie in the back of a Dodge pickup while wrapped in the stars and stripes. My ancestors have been in America since before the Revolution. One of them, at least, fought for the Union in the Civil War. We have been farmers, coal miners, factory workers and, yes, now a journalist. My grandparents grew up without running water or indoor plumbing, raised my father up enough to where he got a technical degree, and then I went to a four-year university. I am the definition of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and embracing the American dream. You don’t get to take that away from me just because I have a more open mind and bigger heart than you.

When people say that this election was about everyday Americans taking their country back, about draining the swamp, they don’t mean that it was about taking it back from Wall Street lobbyists and career politicians. If so, Trump’s rhetoric and transition team would look very, very different. No, this was about taking it back from queer people like me and my Black and undocumented friends. This wasn’t about taking the country back from special interests but from marginalised people making marginal gains in equality.

It also ignores who “everyday Americans” are. “Everyday Americans” include my friend Lily, a Latina single mom who risks losing head-of-household status because of that vile man. “Everyday Americans” include my friend Ajala, a Black woman in St Louis who could lose reproductive healthcare if Planned Parenthood funding is cut. “Everyday Americans” includes my friends Theresa and Sara, a married lesbian couple who just had twins but must now fear that marriage equality will be repealed. “Everyday Americans” include my Dominican nieces whom my sister insists on calling “Spanish” and ignoring their ethnicity and reality as Black-appearing Americans. “Everyday Americans” includes me, a university educated, internationally travelled gay man who does not have time for your bullshit definition of “everyday Americans.”

I’m sick of being told that because I live in a city I am somehow less American than others. I’m tired of hearing that because I like opera and read books and write for the internet and don’t think that people speaking Spanish is that big a deal I’m somehow less American than someone who never left my hometown. I am American and nothing you say will take that away from me. Chicagoans and New Yorkers are as American as Alabamans and Nebraskans.

The problem with the focus on the white working class is twofold. Firstly, it ignores people like me, who grew up solidly working class (or in many cases who are still working class) but aren’t raging bigots who think voting for a proto-fascist is a good idea. Secondly, it pretends we’re the only group in the country.

We. Are. Not.

Black Americans, Latino Americans, Queer Americans, Muslim Americans are just as American as we are. White working class – or to broaden that out, white straight people in general – don’t get to decide who is American or what constitutes an “authentic” American experience. Because there has never been only one American experience. Since our founding we have had a myriad of beliefs, experiences, and cultures. Ask the immigrant Alexander Hamilton, or the slaveholding Thomas Jefferson, or our eighth president, Martin Van Buren, whose first language was Dutch – NOT English.

America has never been homogenous. It’s long been white supremacist and heterosexist, but it has never been defined by just one experience.

So stop calling me the metropolitan liberal elite. I go to work every day. I pay my taxes (unlike our president-elect). I pulled myself up by my bootstraps. And just because I don’t think like a racist doesn’t mean I am not a real American.

I am not the liberal elite. I am an American. And it is my goddamn country too.

Skylar Baker-Jordan is a freelance writer based in Chicago. His work has appeared at the Advocate, Salon, the Daily Dot, the Gay UK Magazine, Pink News, and elsewhere. He is currently pursuing a visa to emigrate to the UK.

*Editorial note: This blog refers to President-Elect Trump as “that vile man” as we cannot bring ourselves to call him anything else.

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Fuck it

trump clinton sanders

Photo: DonkeyHotey on Flickr

It’s done and dusted. Hillary Clinton has secured enough delegates to clinch the Democratic nomination. She will go head-to-head against Donald Trump in November. And now it’s time for all of my fellow leftists to shut the fuck up and fall in line.

When, back in January, I endorsed Hillary Clinton, I cited a blog—succinctly titled “Sod it”— written by Open Labour editor Jade Azim. The tl;dr of it is that she didn’t get into politics to debate socialist orthodoxy but rather to effect real, substantive change. I never thought I’d have to write a blog like that about America.

But alas, here we are.

I’ve tried playing nice. I’ve tried appealing to your better angels. I’ve tried to talk rationally, speak eloquently, and be conciliatory.

In a brilliant speech last week, Hillary Clinton said Trump’s temperament is not suited to the presidency. I’d go a step further and say he is a racist, xenophobic, sexist, homophobic, proto-fascist whose infatuation with dictators and strongmen is not just concerning, but would make a Trump presidency cataclysmic. The very freedoms our country is founded upon, and the very fabric of our national character, is at stake.

So when British friends began telling me that a Democratic strategist and Bernie Sanders supporter appeared on Newsnight advocating Democrats vote for Trump, I was both mortified and infuriated. No true leftist can support someone who would see marginalised people further disenfranchised, subjugated, or deported from America. I had never heard of Harlan Hill before he appeared on the BBC, but I am convinced of one thing: he is more concerned with himself and his brand than he is with Black, trans, gay, or Latino people.

But Hill is no exception to the rule. In fact, among Sanders supporters, he is becoming the norm. I’ve had so many Sanders supporters tell me that Clinton is a ruthless, power-hungry neocon who lies, cheats, steals, broke laws, covered up Benghazi, and killed a man—all without a hint of irony that they’re trotting out the same goddamn lies and conspiracies neocons have spread about Hilary Clinton for a fucking quarter century.

They say she supported NAFTA (her husband’s policy). They say she supported TPP (she doesn’t). Then they point out she voted for Iraq. So did a Labour-led parliament and most House and Senate Democrats, based on faulty intelligence (or, if you wanna go there, blatant lies) of Blair and Bush. I think her tenure as Secretary of State, with her record approval ratings and global commitment to women’s and LGBT rights, offsets one vote more than a decade ago. Yes, she’s an interventionist. But the cold hard truth is that if America doesn’t intervene when human rights abuses are happening, no one else will. Another Clinton—Bill—failed to intervene in Rwanda and millions of innocents died. Today it’s his biggest regret.

Gee, I wonder why?

I get it. Clinton is far from perfect. Her hawkishness concerns me too. But she is lightyears better than Donald sodding Trump, a man who would nuke London because David Cameron called him an idiot. Think I’m being hyperbolic? Perhaps. But the truth is not far beyond that. Trump is a man who cosies up to Putin and Kim Jong-un. He dismisses any opinion, any advice, that doesn’t support his narrow-minded, isolationist, supremacist worldview. He is a threat to national security, a threat to global stability, and a threat to freedom.

But y’all wanna hand him the election on a silver platter. I’m talking to Harlan Hill, yes, but also the Sanders supporters out there who are enthusiastically tweeting #NeverHillary. You probably know these people. They’re largely middle-class white folks who somehow found themselves radicalised, often because they just so desperately wanted to be margainalised that they decided they were the true victims in this election and not, you know, the countless Black and trans voters disenfranchised throughout the American heartland. Their privilege gives them tunnel vision, and they are totally unable to recognise the real stakes of, say, the majority of Black and gay voters who have given Clinton a comfortable 2 million lead in the popular vote.

They say the election process isn’t fair. They were against superdelegates, but now they’re for them. They cared about Black Lives Matter until Black people went the other way. They talk about poor people, but when poor people vote for someone else, they say it’s cos they don’t know their own best interests. They are, frankly, condescending twats. And they need a fucking reality check.

Donald Trump is the most immediate threat to global stability and democracy. I jokingly tell my friends that if Trump is elected and I disappear to look for me in an internment camp in Utah. It’s only funny because it’s scary. This man doesn’t just vilify journalists, he throws them out of his rallies. He refuses to credential them. He threatens them. He berates them. He demeans them. Press freedom would be endangered under a Trump president. Yet y’all still say ‘meh.’

Susan Sarandon says Trump can bring the revolution. And maybe he can. But it’s easy to take a longshot gamble when you’re ensconced in class and white privilege. Some of us aren’t. Some of us are being gunned down by militarised police. Some of us are struggling to put food on the table. Some of us don’t even have heat in our homes. Some of us can’t even take a piss in North Carolina. Some of us can’t afford to gamble with our lives.

The #BernieBros and #SandersSisters are spoiled brats who confuse electoral defeat with disenfranchisement need a goddamn reality check. You are playing with fire, and you are playing with real people’s lives. Donald Trump says a man born in Indiana isn’t a real American because he’s of Mexican descent. He longs for the days we threw Black protestors in jail. He calls women pigs, objectifies his own daughter, and pays what few female staffers he has less than their male counterparts. He has promised to appoint anti-gay judges to the Supreme Court. He wants to ban Muslims from coming to the United States, further inflaming anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world. He promises to deport hardworking undocumented Americans to south of the border before he builds a fantasy wall that not even Bran the builder could fucking accomplish.

But please, tell me again how Trump is better than Clinton. Or how Clinton doesn’t deserve your vote because you want to “vote your conscience.” You don’t have a fucking conscience. You have entitlement. You have privilege. But you sure as hell don’t have a conscience. Because if you did, you would hold your nose and vote against fascism. I won’t pretend it’s the greatest alternative for you. But then, maybe this isn’t about you. Maybe it’s about the countless people who would suffer real and undue harm if Trump gets the Oval Office. Maybe, just maybe, this is bigger than you and your fucking feelz.

Sanders supporters refusing to back Hillary are like the highborn Westerosi waging war against one another while the White Walkers are animating the dead. There’s a pressing, existential threat but you’re too fucking worried about petty shit.

Look at the bloody bigger picture. Look at the sodding immediate threat.

Hillary Clinton has far more in common with Bernie Sanders than Donald Trump. Jill Stein is fabulous, but she has a snowball’s chance in hell of winning. The Libertarian Party wants to let businesses discriminate against gay people. And isolationism is not an option in an increasingly globalised world with international threats that countries must face together (looking at you, ISIS).

To again borrow from Game of Thrones, Sanderistas would see America burn if it meant Bernie could rule the ashes.

Get it together. Sort yourselves out. Are you really so goddamn selfish, so blatantly self-involved, that you can’t make a compromise for the greater good? Maybe you don’t think Hillary Clinton is the greater good. But do you honestly think Donald Trump is the greater good? Because that’s what you voting your conscience, or voting directly for Trump, or not voting at all, is going to give us. Look in your hearts. Do you only care about your pride, or a very narrow category of poor people (that is, white poor people)? Or do you honestly care about the future of this country? Maybe the political revolution doesn’t come in 2016. But it can come in 2020. Fuck, campaign for the Green Party against Hillary Clinton then. I won’t judge you. And I wouldn’t judge you in any other year.

But this is not any other year.

So get your heads out of your asses and get your shit together.

Equal at last: A few thoughts on what the SCOTUS decision means to me as a gay man

Just over a decade ago, I sat weeping as my home state of Kentucky passed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and civil unions in our fair commonwealth. I was 18 years old, a freshman in college, and had worked tirelessly trying to persuade my fellow Kentuckians to vote against discrimination. I went door-to-door in Bowling Green, talking to voters about what it means to be gay. Some were sympathetic, even understanding. Others were forthright in their opposition to equality. Most were polite. A few were hostile.

I knew we were unlikely to win, but at 18, I think you always have hope that somehow things are going to work out in your favour. That, you know, it can’t possibly be as bad as you think. But it was. 75% of Kentuckians voted to amend the state constitution to bar gay marriage. We were one of many states to do so that year.

As the night crept on, it became clear that not only would the amendment pass, but that President Bush would be re-elected on a platform that was decidedly anti-equality, swept back into the White House by a tide of homophobia he himself had instigated.

I was at my friend Jonathan’s house. We’d recently stopped seeing one another romantically, but it still felt right to be together. He was the gay person I was closest with, and on that night, I desperately wanted another gay person with me. We cried in one another’s arms, taking shots of vodka or gin or whatever was in the house, really. Drinking numbed the pain. Cuddling cured the sense of rejection. America might hate us, but at least we had each other.

A couple days later, I had a conversation with my friend and fellow activist Kelli Persons. “It won’t be our generation that wins marriage,” she told me sombrely. “We may see it in our lifetimes, but it’ll be our grandkids who get it done.”

I agreed. It was a stark juxtaposition to the jubilation I felt when the Massachussets Supreme Judical Court ruled in favour of equality the year before. In November 2003 I was a senior at Leslie County High School, deep in the East Kentucky coal fields. My life was a daily crucible of homophobia, with slurs so violent I still find it hard to believe I made it out unscathed. As a teenager whose only exposure to gay people had been Jack McPhee on Dawson’s Creek, the Massachussets ruling was a complete shock. I had no idea that there was a place in my own country where I was actually viewed as equal before the law.

I decided I had to move there. I applied to colleges there. I got accepted to one.

But fate had different plans, and I ended up at WKU, where on election night 2004, I felt the full weight of bigotry and oppression land upon me like a giant homophobic anvil.

I spent the remainder of my college career fighting for LGBT equality. When the university closed the Outlet, our LGBT resource centre, I pressured the university to reopen and rehouse it, a fight I’m still waging as an alumnus. I became the president of our gay/straight alliance. I helped form a statewide network of LGBT students pushing for fairness in our schools. I spoke at a rally when one of those students was expelled from his university for being gay. I became a vocal supporter of domestic partner benefits for university employees. I cried when, in 2010, that came to pass.

Never did I fathom that five short years a Supreme Court decision would render that whole fight irrelevant. I could only dream as big as health insurance. Never did I imagine our relationships would be granted true equality in this country. Not so soon. Not before I turned 30.

Yet here we are. Something I’ve dreamt of, worked towards, and fought for since I was a teenager is finally a reality. And it feels fucking great. True, I’m not getting married. I’m not engaged. Hell, I’m not even seeing anyone. My most committed relationship is with bourbon. But that doesn’t matter.

You see, this day means something to every gay, lesbian, and bisexual American, regardless of whether or not they’re rushing to the alter. Today, the Supreme Court of the United States of America affirmed to the masses what I have known all along—that I am equal. They didn’t give us the right to marry; they acknowledged that it’s been there from the beginning. I already knew that. Today they pointed it out to the rest of you.

The first time you feel as though you are finally an equal citizen of these United States is a feeling I can’t really describe to anyone who isn’t also experiencing (or hasn’t in the past experienced) such euphoria. There are no words. But there are actions, which may illustrate what it’s like. Here are just a few things I’ve done today:

  • Ran into my office screaming “gay marriage!”
  • Blasted “Born this Way” through half the city
  • Had a mimosa
  • Had another one, bought for me by the straight guys at the bar I always go to cos EQUALITY
  • Cleaned my apartment
  • Did laundry so I’d have a REALLY cute outfit to wear to the gay bars tonight
  • Decided that outfit made me look fat and chose another one
  • Broken down in tears at the convenient store
  • Danced to “Same Love” in my back yard and gave no fucks
  • Shouted “Glory to God!” as I read the decision
  • Chosen a wedding venue (my college campus)
  • Sorta proposed to a British guy
  • Broken down in tears in my car, making it difficult to parallel park
  • Wished my cousin happy birthday
  • Lifted a glass to Harvey Milk, Bayard Rustin, and Ellen Degeneres
  • Cried again

There is still work to be done, I know. We can still be fired for being ourselves in 29 states. My trans siblings, especially my trans siblings of colour, are being murdered in our streets. Kids are still being sent to conversion therapy. “Faggot,” “dyke,” and “gay” are still deployed as insults in high schools throughout the country. And somewhere, right now, while I’m typing this and celebrating, an LGBT child is begging for food or sleeping on the streets. We’ve got a long way to go.

But for today, for just one glorious day, I am focusing on the fact that for once we’ve gotten it right. For once, this country has acknowledged that all men and women, even gay men and women, are created equal. That for once my dignity as not only an American, but a person, has been federally and officially and finally recognised.

Today, as we prepare to celebrate Pride, I am proud. Proud to be gay. Proud to be an American. Proud to be finally, truly, and irrefutably equal.

24 Answers America has for Britain

Over at Buzzfeed, Robin Edds has posited 24 questions his country has for mine. As someone who fancies himself an expert in this matter, I thought I’d do him the favour of answering.

Q 1: Why must we be so patriotic?
A: Cos freedom.

Ron Swanson

NBC

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q 2: And why would anyone live somewhere it gets THIS cold?
A: Cos this is freaking awesome:

(As a Chicagoan, I actually laughed that a Brit thinks -31ºC was cold. That’s cute.)

Q 3: Why do so many people give [President Obama] a hard time?
A: Erm. 

Adam Zyglis/The Buffalo News

Adam Zyglis/The Buffalo News

And we’re the lucky ones? Really? How quickly you forget.

Q 4: Was this setting really necessary?
A: Damn straight

Gif: tumblr.com/chaosinconverseee

Gif: tumblr.com/chaosinconverseee

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q 5: Does alcohol taste better if you drink it out of a gun?
A: To be fair anything tastes better when you put a gun to my head. And in America, there’s a real possibility that could happen.

This is a real thing you can buy here: http://www.mgdirect.co/Alcohol-Shot-Gun_p_2054.html

This is a real thing you can buy here: http://www.mgdirect.co/Alcohol-Shot-Gun_p_2054.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q 6: Why is everything so much bigger?
A: I honestly don’t know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q 7: I mean, it’s a good thing this car park was empty
A: That’s a parking lot for all my American readers. But seriously, there’s nothing hotter than a guy in a pickup.

Lions Gate, c/o Glamour

Lions Gate, c/o Glamour


Q 8: Do you actually have any of your own actors or are you just going to keep stealing ours?
A: You. Tell. Me.

ITV

ITV

tumblr_m4hnq5dR1S1r65l0f

Lime Pictures

Jeremy-Piven-as-Harry-Selfridge

ITV

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, so admittedly your stars are bigger than mine (and I may be the only American not related to PJ Brennan who’s heard of him), but we’d really like Nicole Scherzinger to come home.

Q 9: What do you have against the letter “U”?
A: I’m with you on this one, mate. My compatriots seem to forget that without “U” we couldn’t chant “USA! USA! USA!”

Coed.com

Coed.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q 10: What exactly does freedom taste like?
A: Like chicken nuggets washed down with beer from a gun and chased with a shot of liberty.

Flickr

Flickr    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actually, this is the closet I ever came to literally tasting freedom. It was saccharine, decadent, and a bit too rich for its own good, which basically sums up America.

Q 11: And why are your streets so boringly predictable?
A: Cos I like to know where to board the bus and how to get from here to there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chicago’s grid is a work of art. And while we’re talking about this…

 

londonbus

Christopher England        

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What the hell is up with this? You’ve got like 10 different bus stops all at one spot, and then you have to navigate which bus to get on? I have literally pissed myself in the middle of Islington trying to find the right night bus. Unacceptable.

Q 12: What’s with the whole “being happy and confident and talking to strangers” thing?
A: Dude that’s freedom. It feels good. Give it a whirl.

Universal/WorkingTitle

Universal/WorkingTitle   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Okay, Joni Mitchell is technically Canadian, but they’ve always had more in common with us than they’ll admit. Just don’t tell them; it’ll hurt their feelings.)

Q 13: Why must you confuse us thankless Brits with the concept of tipping?
A: Shush. You’re starting to sound like this bloke:

meme: keithpp.wordpress.com

meme: keithpp.wordpress.com

Q 14: You know this isn’t bacon, right?
A: I do. I definitely do. Sadly, my own father disagrees.

We haven’t spoken since.

Q 15: Why are your t.v. commercials for drugs so batshit crazy?
A: You lot literally sent a woman over here to sell us poo-covering air freshener. Stop.

(But really, America, can we talk about this one? The NHS sounds wonderful.)

Q 16: Why must all your cups be red?
A:  

Q 17: And why do your toilets have so much water in them?
A: The same reason you sent that woman to spread the gospel of Poo-Pourri; see also my answers to questions 4 and 6.

Q 18: While we’re on the subject, why are there giant gaps in the toilet?
A: I’ve been trying and I just can’t answer this one.

imgur

imgur   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q 19: How do we get in on this whole breakfast pizza thing?
A: You can do what a lot of Americans do and make one yourself. There’s even a recipe for a Full English breakfast pizza!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q 20: Technologically, you’re up there with the best of them. So why do you still have to sign when paying the bill rather than use chip and pin?
A: And let Big Brother Obama watch us even more? I don’t think so!

obama-big-brother

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actually, The Guardian ran a very good piece on just this issue last year.

Q 21. Exactly how many countries take part in the World Series?
A: The only one that matters. 

Contrary to popular belief, the World Series isn’t named for the defunct New York World newspaper. It really is just American arrogance. Who knew?

Q 22: And how is it possible that this is a college football game?
A: Mate, if you think that’s impressive, I want to take you tailgating at an SEC (that’s Southeastern Conference) football game.

It’s basically a giant, inebriated party before every football game, sanctioned by the university and celebrated like its bloody Christmas.

Q 23: How did Miss Florida NOT win Miss America?
A: She slapped a shark?? WTF???? I’m still reeling from the time Miss Oklahoma gave a cow a pedicure. Mind. Blown. 

Also, have you heard about our senator who “grew up castrating pigs on an Iowa farm?” Louise Mensch loves her.

Q 24. And finally, people aren’t actually called Randy, right?
A: Randy Quaid. Randy Jackson. Randy Travis. Yeah, they kinda are. 

Comedy Central/imgur

Comedy Central/imgur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well Robin, there you have it. God bless you, and God bless these United States.

 

I don’t know why I love Britain. But don’t call me an Anglophile.

anglophile

The most frequent question I’m posed, bar none, is “why Britain?” I get asked by British acquaintances who don’t understand why I love their country so much, and I get asked by Americans who can’t understand why I don’t love ours more. Britain’s broken, so I’m told, and who would want to leave the sunny states? They have a queen, I’m reminded, and bad teeth and even worse food. (Hey, I never said Americans were kind, or fair, or informed.)

Of course, I recognise the problems facing Britain. And of course I see great things in America. I’ve written about both. But the fact is I could never work for the CIA because I’m on record as saying “she is my Queen, and I’d gladly die for her.” More than once. On the same 4th of July.

To those of my friends stateside, this is my defining quirk. I’m the man who draped himself in the St George’s cross when England faced the USA in the 2010 World Cup. In university, I gave a speech defending the position of the Crown and decrying the Declaration of Independence as a treasonous document. I couldn’t sing past the second verse of “America, the Beautiful,” but by God I’ll sing through my sobs when “I Vow to Thee, My Country” plays.

For me, which country that is has always been clear. I can offer, at random, a litany of things I admire about the Brits-fair play, sturdy resolve, Jack Wills. But I have no explanation or understanding of how I developed a fascination with the UK as a child, or when that grew into a passion which has long since evolved into a full-blown obsession. Moving to Britain is, frankly, the only thing I care about, and I can’t even tell you why.

I’m not alone. There are countless Americans who, like myself, love the history, the culture and the landscapes of the British isles. We watch British telly, listen to British music, and read British books. We’re called Anglophiles, and we’re aplenty.

I’ve always found that term problematic, though, and have never felt it aptly described me. To begin with, it’s hopelessly restrictive. Anglo means English, but it leaves out the rest of the United Kingdom, which I love with just as much ferocity (except during the Six Nations Championship). And it’s not a pretty word. Anglophile. Ang-lo-file. It sounds like a tool my granddad would use to whittle away at a statue of Charles Townshend. The abstract noun, Anglophilia, is even worse, suggesting we somehow get our jollies from a phone box or Nigel Farage.

Yet many Anglophiles do fetishise the UK. Having read Jane Austen or the Brontë sisters as children, they fell in love with yesteryear. They see cobblestone streets and high tea and bowler hats. Don’t get me wrong, these are lovely aspects of British life, but they all emphasise the myth of Merry England, a utopian fantasy that never existed.

For the vast majority of them, their love stops there. They don’t recognise that the country gentry in Emma wouldn’t have associated with their sort, even if they did talk to Harriet. They don’t see that the class stratification presented in Downton Abbey is still very much a live and quite visible at the Lord Mayor’s banquet. They’ve never heard of Enoch Powell or Nick Griffin. To them, Stephen Lawrence is an adorable child star, not a murdered teen.

They long for a stereotype or a fiction, and while that means they fail to see the bad, it also means that they erase the reality of the millions of workaday Britons. Its these people whom I most admire, and whom enrich my love for their country.

This is why I’ve always shirked the label. Britain isn’t a fairytale, and British people don’t all live happily ever after. Sure, it’s glamorous; nobody does pomp and circumstance better than the Brits. But it’s also gritty and grimy, complex and diverse. Its history is proud, and I believe its future is bright, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been moral failings, and that there aren’t any now. As the advert for the BBC 2 comedy says, Hebburn is a place on earth. Heaven, however, isn’t.

Still, I am unseemly patriotic, especially considering my only claim to “Britishness” is a smattering of ancestors buried in the United States before there was a United States. I’ve dedicated my life to writing about Britain, extolling its strengths and promise while critiquing its shortcomings. I do this because I love that country, because I want to see it prosper and grow. I do it because I want, more than anything, to contribute to its success. It’s why I get up in the morning, and it’s what I dream of at night.

I certainly don’t expect anyone else to understand when I myself am at a loss. But if I were forced to give an answer, to reach into the deepest part of my soul and tell you why I love Britain, I imagine that answer would be simple and clichéd.

Why Britain? Because it’s great.

Give Thanks and Pass the Pimms: 5 things I’m thankful Britain gave the world

firstthanksgiving

We all know the story. The Pilgrims, with their funny hats and boring names, set sail on the Mayflower towards the New World in search of religious freedom. What nobody ever tells you is that they went to the Netherlands for a bit, or that they didn’t really want to come, or that loads of them got dysentery and died before reaching Plymouth Rock.

We know that Squanto fed them corn, and that the three remaining Pilgrims came together with their kind Native benefactors in thanks giving for the great harvest which kept them from becoming Roanoke version 2.0. We stop there, because the mass slaughter of the native population isn’t exactly “happily ever after” unless you’re Mike Huckabee and think the heathens had it coming and turkey is best deep fried.

So that’s the first Thanksgiving.

Nobody tells you that the Pilgrims were essentially seventeenth century England’s Westboro Baptist Church, but this may explain why Britain is more evolved on issues of religion in the public sphere. They sent their crazy right wing Christians here, and their descendants went on to found Jesusland. I mean Texas. Still, whilst the British may have given us Sarah Palin’s colonial antecedents, they’ve given us loads of good stuff too. So, quickly, here are five things I’m thankful for Britain giving the world:

1. Liberty: Okay, Americans like to pretend we invented this in 1776, but we didn’t. In fact the Declaration of Independence was, outside of being a treasonous document, simply a restatement of English principles dating back to Magna Carta in 1215. Trial by jury, habeus corpus, a free press, and the right to petition were all exported by Britain to its colonies. These weren’t homespun in Boston or handcrafted in Philadelphia. The Brits gave them to us, and their legacy lives on in our Constitution.

2. Newspapers: I hesitate to put this on here, because the British government has borrowed Miley’s wrecking ball to destroy what’s left of press freedom whilst Hugh Grant  watches, twerking and sticking his tongue out in glee. But the British press is a site to behold, a beast unto itself which simply has no American equivalent. The broadsheets are still celebrated as national treasures, even while being regularly ridiculed, and magazines like Private Eye and the venerated but defunct Punch prove that satire is the best defence of democracy. Even the tabloids serve a purpose, for I am keenly interested in everything Chantelle Houghton has to say about Alex Reid’s cross dressing. As I know you are, too.

3. Understatement: “It’s drizzling,” a British friend once said to me as the hurricane hit. The Brits really know how to undercut a moment. Win an Oscar? “I got a trophy.” Elected to Parliament? “It’s a job.” Shag a royal? “His hairline’s receding.” And the great thing is THEY’RE NOT HUMBLE BRAGGING! They really do mean it. You’d think that as an American this penchant for restrained dryness would annoy me, but I actually appreciate it. I think that Americans are too prone to hyperbole, and that dry sense of humour has made me reign in my otherwise outrageous personality.

4. Lucozade: There is no better cure for a hangover than this fizzy, refreshing, hydrating miracle water. I can hardly find it in the US, but I will trek across the city if I hear a store has it stocked. Seriously, I swear by the stuff.

5. Chris Ramsey: Because this.

chris ramsey

So there’s five wonderful things that the UK gave the world, and I’m grateful for all of them. As you may have noticed, this trails off at number four, and by number five, I’ve completely given up. That’s not because I couldn’t think of anything else; there’s so much about Britain I’m thankful for. But there’s turkey on the table and wine in my glass, so I’m off to gorge myself on enough tryptophan and starches that I sleep right through Black Friday and wake up on the other side of consumerism.

Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.

(PS: For the record, I’m very thankful for each and every one of you who read this. I have some great supporters out there, and I am very blessed! I leave you with this video.)

Has America forgotten to remember Remembrance Day?

Saturday night I had my friend Melinda over, along with her friend Jenny, in town from Sydney. Jenny noticed the portrait of Her Majesty, a commemorative token of the Diamond Jubilee, hanging in my apartment, complete with the flags of the Commonwealth countries. We got to talking about the ties that bind not just the Commonwealth, but the Anglosphere-our common language, common law, and common struggle against fascism in the 20th century. At one point, talking about Remembrance Sunday, Jenny asked that she be reminded to set an alarm so that she could observe a minute of silence for the ANZAC forces. It passed without a beat, but it left me something to mull, and raised Jenny very highly in my own estimation.

11 November is commemorated around the globe as a day of remembrance and reflection, of honoring the sacrifices of those who fought and fight for the freedom of humanity. It’s the official end of the First World War, which was thought and hoped to be “the war to end all wars.” History tells us it was, sadly, but the precursor to Europe’s darkest days and Britain’s finest hour. I’m always touched by the sombre, dignified memorials throughout the UK and Commonwealth, the tens of thousands of people who turn out at war memorials around Britain, regular folks who every year remind the world of the struggles for freedom, lest we forget.

I won’t say that we Americans forget, but the horrors of the World Wars are certainly not as vivid in our national memory. Not to reduce this to cultural tropes, but it’s always struck me that the normally reserved Brits offer more public displays of mourning than my compatriots. After all, we routinely wear our hearts on our sleeves and our flag on our lapels. Its not uncommon to walk up to a stranger in

Prime Minister David Cameron laying a wreath at the Cenotaph. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd for Getty Images)

Prime Minister David Cameron laying a wreath at the Cenotaph. (Photo by Matthew Lloyd for Getty Images)

uniform and thank her for her service or to buy a drink for the soldier at the bar. We sing the national anthem before every sporting event, pledge allegiance to the flag before the start of every school day, and unlike when the typical Brit sings “God Save the Queen,” when an American says “God bless America,” we mean it quite literally. So you’d think we’d have a more collective tradition of honouring our veterans.

Sure, the President routinely lays a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery. But if you Google “Veterans’ Day Commemorations in Chicago,” you don’t turn up much of anything. Some museum exhibitions, a brunch at a zoo, but nothing on par with the solemn pomp in Britain. You’ll see no crowds at war memorials, you’ll hear few bells tolling at the 11th hour, and for the most part, people go on about their lives with little to no regard for what happened 95 years ago today.

That we don’t really remember may explain why a nation so willingly swaddled in its own flag doesn’t make more of an effort. It could be that America didn’t experience the horrors of having its own cities obliterated. Maybe it’s not the physical scars at all, but the psychological scars of a nation that was quite literally fighting for its very survival that keeps the horrors fresh in the British consciousness. Or perhaps it’s simply that the scars of the World Wars have healed over, but that the memories of Vietnam and Iraq are still open wounds.

It’s likely all of the above, but I think it’s something more visceral, too, something intrinsic to the American character. If you take a look at Facebook, you’ll see thousands of status’ honouring American service personnel, often tagging the soldiers in our own lives, thanking them for their service. And that’s not all so surprising. Americans are famed for that stubbornly individualistic streak, and

President Barack Obama laying a wreath at the Tom of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo by Mark Wilson for Getty Images)

President Barack Obama laying a wreath at the Tom of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. (Photo by Mark Wilson for Getty Images)

perhaps that manifests itself most poignantly on this day. In so many ways, this is more fitting for the US. The poignancy of the British commemorations is that a nation so often shy of indulging in its own nationalism, for one day of the year, recognizes the valor of its soldiers and the sacrifices they made. As America shamelessly exploits its military to stoke patriotic fervor, what makes the British commemorations so powerful would make American commemorations feel trite, redundant, or disingenuous.

Besides, it’s not Remembrance Day here. It’s Veterans Day. The name itself invokes a sense of the soldier in the singular as opposed to a collective struggle. America, though fond of jingoistic displays, on this day takes a more reserved approach. We don’t remember as a group, but as individuals, paying modest tribute to our own loved ones. We don’t thank them all. But all of us thank them.