Consider this part two of the rant I started yesterday; it was purely coincidental that things would set me off today in this same direction of complaint. So let’s recap. From yesterday, America is a big country and it’s full of interesting places, some of which are NOT located on the coasts. And for today: America is a big country and full of interesting people, some of which do not share all the views of those living on the coasts. The two are related. If a Brit only knows of the NY-LA stereotype, then they are missing a large part of the country and characterizing a lot of places as dull and people as stupid without knowing the fine details. I am, of course, from Minnesota, the only state that voted for (democrats and first ever female VP candidate) Mondale-Ferraro over (Republican) Reagan in 1984. So this sort of gross generalization again does not sit well with me.
Ironically enough for this story, I am a card-carrying democrat but politically a bit of a libertarian, so actually my views on many things political fit in well with the locals here in the UK. But the thing that annoyed me today was the assumption that that had to be the case. That if I really was a whole-hearted McCain-Palin supporter it would not have even occurred to the locals.
I’m feeling a bit sensitive in general about the rest of the world thinking it has a voice in the US election. I mean, I had nothing to do with the choice of Gordon Brown and I LIVE HERE but recognize that I am but a stranger in a strange land, not a local with a voice in how the country is run. So this sort of thing, where Brits somehow get all political on-the-stump about the US election, really annoys me. And like I said, not because they’re in disagreement with me as a money-giving member of the democratic party!
Today I was in a meeting at work with around 15 people and one of them felt the need to start ranting about America and the election, and I have to admit I silently stewed. I did not respond or comment back at this Brit, but thought it odd that there was this assumption of tacit agreement that everyone in the room would automatically have the same views–including me as the token American. I have many, many relatives (including parents) who are Republicans, and there is nothing in that particular upbringing that would have prevented my moving to the UK for a job opportunity. So I COULD HAVE been sitting there silently stewing because I was offended by the ranting diatribe being issued at the intelligence of the populace of Americans in general, even though it turns out I was less offended by the political views than by the manner by which they were expressed. Hmmmm. This one is complicated.
I really appreciated the comment yesterday from Iota on how you have a crash course in your new country when you arrive there. I certainly feel the same, that the local subtleties of someone excusing a fellow Brit’s behavior by saying “they’re a northerner” is a similar subtlety in geography to being from someplace like Minneapolis. I guess you really do have to just move countries to get that experience, and so I guess for the general populace I would legislate a study abroad year for any college degree. A bold proposal, but one that I’d bet would reduce the level of text written on this blog in any given year!
The thing is, what happens in British politics doesn’t honestly affect America very much. But what happens in American politics hugely hugely affects Britain and indeed the whole world. That’s why people want to talk about it. It may well be that the choice of leader of the world’s most powerful nation for the next four years will affect human history for the next century or more. I don’t think that is over-stating it.
Europeans talk about politics much more openly than Americans, and expressing an opinion doesn’t imply any offence at all (that’s offence, not offense) to people who don’t share that opinion.
If I were you, I’d take it as a compliment that “the manner by which they were expressed” was one which kind of assumed you’d share those views (if I’ve understood this post correctly). That means they feel you are one of them, and they didn’t have to tread on eggshells in what they said.
Don’t you feel it’s a shame that people ARE Republican/Democrat, and don’t just assess which way to vote on the policies and people of the moment? Of course the same happens in Britain: people say I’m Labour, or I’m Tory. I suppose one can admire the loyalty, but times change, parties change, the world changes. Isn’t it better to re-evaluate and decide each time?
Much as I enjoy your blog, its contradictions continue to baffle me. On the one hand you complain about Britons’ interest in American politics, but on the other hand you chide them for their ignorance of American geography. There’s no pleasing you, is there? 🙂
> the rest of the world thinking it has a voice in the US election.
I don’t believe it does think it has a voice. What it does have is an interest in the outcome.
I agree – all college degrees should involve a year studying abroad – preferably in a foreign language. Then again, English and American are often different enough that the discombobulation is almost the same as dealing with a foreign language 😉