Two generations ago, when I was in my early teens, the general attitude of Americans towards Great Britain was summed up by Roger Miller in his classic pop tune, “England Swings”:
Now, if you huff and puff and you fin’lly save enough
Money up to take your family on a trip across the sea
Take a tip before you take your trip
Let me tell you where to go
Go to England, oh
England swings like a pendulum do
Bobbies on bicycles, two by two
Westminster Abbey, the tower of Big Ben
The rosy red cheeks of the little children
That was the same England that our family moved to, and even though it wasn’t the rosy-cheeked picture painted by Mr. Miller, it was still a cultural entity that was recognizable to us as England, albeit in its post-war post-empire incarnation.
To Americans, England was the Mother Country, even for those of us whose ancestors came from somewhere else. It was the ultimate source of our American values, and although we had fallen out with George III a while back, we still recognized Britain as being like us in essential ways. We were willing to overlook their snobbishness and condescension towards us colonials, and the bad food, and the appalling weather, because England was… well, England.
Alfred the Great. 1066 and all that. Chaucer. The Magna Carta. Shakespeare. Sir Isaac Newton. Queen Victoria. The sun never sets on it.
Our eccentric elder brother, that nook-shotten Isle of Albion.
But not any more. According to Investor’s Business Daily, Americans are revising their opinion of the Mother Country based on its recent behavior:
Why U.S. View Of Britain Is Tanking
Public Opinion: Most global surveys on image spotlight negative views of the U.S. But a new poll of U.S. perceptions of Britain shows a plunge. Since it’s the U.K.’s turn under this microscope, we’ll venture some reasons.
First, it’s no pleasure to see U.S. perceptions fall so precipitously for our oldest and closest ally — the one with whom we went through two World Wars and the Cold War, and in each simultaneously elected great leaders who rose to the occasion.
But from a BBC World Service poll of 1,000 Americans, it’s clear U.S. views of Britain have fallen sharply. The BBC said “positive views” of Britain stand now at 45%, down from 67% a year ago. Those holding negative views are at 42%, up from 18%.
What happened? The poll gives no reason for the big shift, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to gauge at least some possibilities:
First, it’s clear Britain is no longer the ally it once was. In the great war on terror, its leaders are going wobbly, despite the valor of British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Britain’s weakening commitment signals an unreliable partner, which whatever the rationale, isn’t admirable.
And under direct fire, some British forces looked downright soggy. When an Iranian National Guard boat brazenly took British sailors hostage in 2007, the U.K. military leadership sought to free them at any cost, including national honor.
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The released seamen disgraced themselves further by whining about iPods, praising their captors when they were let go and then accepting Iranian swag bags on the way home. The British public completed the sorry picture by making a tabloid spectacle of it.
Although some of these bad moves were eventually halted, the fact that they happened at all signaled a military gone soft.
That brings up a second repellent trend — a culture gone so soft it won’t defend itself. Several events happened to show it.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, who leads the Church of England, said Britons will eventually accept some aspects of Muslim Shariah law — the same rules that cut off hands for stealing, heads for blasphemy, and force women behind the veil.
As practiced, it’s the very system responsible for the stagnation and poverty of Arabic and Muslim cultures over a thousand years — which happens to be why many Muslims flee to Britain in the first place. If the Archbishop won’t stand up for British values, who will?
It’s a good question: Who will?
Are the imams and the BNP our only choices?
The U.S. is constantly bombarded with news stories of Piglet mugs being banned to avoid offending Muslims, U.K. flags being taken down in prisons because their crosses offend Muslims, and mosque Minarets rising among the historically dreaming spires of Oxford.
All these are strikes against some of the strongest and most beloved symbols of Britain. If a culture doesn’t want to defend itself, no one else will. But certainly, no one has to admire it.
Then there’s the lack of seriousness about terrorism. Against the Orwellian quality of British law enforcement, such as ubiquitous street cameras, there’s been remarkable inefficiency in fighting terrorism — and Britain has been hit by three terror strikes as a result.
And then there’s that old favorite, Yank-hatred, which — unlike Pak-hatred or Arab-hatred — is not yet considered “racism”:
Despite its role as ally, British officialdom is loaded with anti-Americanism, which frequently spills over to the public. Everyone from Prince Andrew to local pop stars feels it’s OK to make anti-American statements. The fact that Mark Malloch Brown, who has expressed open contempt for Americans, can reach a high advisory post in the government, or that crazy leftists like Ken Livingstone or George Galloway can even be elected, dampens our affection, too.
The editorial points out that the negative attitude towards the Brits held by Americans has arisen in part because of our historical affinity for the island. A falling-out between brothers is more rancorous than an argument with a mere acquaintance.
The whole thing could turn around instantly at the first sign of spinal regeneration on the part of the British. But every week brings another collection of bizarre and disheartening news stories about dhimmitude and institutional cowardice in the United Kingdom.
We’re all eager to see the situation change.
Hat tip: Queen.