Our Friends’ Views

If you are in the US, you probably saw reports of large protests over the weekend here in the United Kingdom directed at the visiting current President of the United States. In the wake of them, I just want to note this. It is a sensitive subject, but one that should not be avoided:

Sorry, I just couldn’t resist. The top line is not my invention: it’s a full tweet I saw by someone with, sadly, 75,000 followers. The protester I referred to there in the second sentence is, of course, Charles James Fox:

[Excerpt from Conventions: The Garden At Paris. On Kindle for iPad. Click to expand.]

The American Revolution (and its aftermath) was much more complicated than as it was introduced to American school kids on US television in “Schoolhouse Rock!” in the 1970s between Saturday morning cartoon programs:

That tweet led me also to recall this Harold Macmillan observation. Macmillan, British Prime Minister from 1957-1963, once remarked that he felt he had to contend with two types of “anti-Britishness” among Americans, and especially among US officials, but fortunately it did NOT seem to extend to the then very top – to Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy themselves. That “anti-Britishness” took two main forms, he believed: 1) dislike of the United Kingdom from Catholic Irish-Americans, and 2) disdain from “establishment” WASP (white, “Anglo-Saxon” – meaning Great Britain and Northern Ireland – descended, Protestant) snobs who felt they needed to prove that their ancestors were at the Boston Tea Party.

Given his “We fought a war…” point, that tweeter evidently considers himself something of the latter.

That said, note this that a British journalist, clearly aiming at American readers, wrote on Friday on the NBC News site:

…As president, Donald Trump has done virtually anything possible to insult and damage his allies, while boosting and praising our traditional shared adversaries. So for most people in Britain, welcoming Trump would feel to be a bitter and hollow act: While most of us still firmly believe the United States and its people are our friends, its president is not.

Notice as well the carefully qualifying, and necessary, “most of us.” The word “most” is usually a required caveat because “all” is never the default realistic position in anything involving human relationships, let alone state-to-state ones. It is of course possible to detect an “anti-Americanism” in some few British voices at times, too.

However, this past weekend any of those “few” who might have been mixed in were not anywhere near “most.” The anti-Trump protests were overwhelmingly about people displaying a dislike of only this president because they feel he is doing them wrong and they want us Americans to know that. And I agree: I do not believe, for example, that if, say, Republican Mitt Romney had visited instead as US president, that he would have evoked nearly the same levels of antipathy.

[Lulworth Cove cliffs, Dorset, England. Photo by me, 2006.]

In fact, I also suspect that had this president been greeted by nothing but adoring crowds, those British demonstrating that opinion would have been deemed just fine to the likes of that “We fought a war…” tweeter. I don’t agree at times with some opinions offered by non-Americans who I believe do not fully understand us, yet it’s worth remembering too that, as our friends may in our individual personal lives, foreign allies may at times see our country’s problems more clearly than we do. And we should certainly not be quick to dismiss their opinions outright simply because our predecessors as Americans fought “a war” – technically, two – with their predecessors over two centuries ago.

And insofar as we can tell it does not appear that anywhere near a majority of Americans at home are big fans of this president. As I have already admitted, I’m not wowed by him either. I did not vote for him in 2016 and I have no plans to vote for him in 2020.

And I am also a registered Republican… although with him as an ostensibly “Republican” president, I do increasingly ask myself this question: Why?

Have a good day, wherever you are. 🙂

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