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Home of the brave?

Andy Stone

When did the British turn into Americans? I’m not talking about 1776, when a bunch of rowdy British colonists turned into the original Americans. I’m talking about right now – this year or last year or maybe five years ago, the British became more “American” than Americans.Once upon a time (as all good fairy tales begin), Americans were brash, boisterous, broad-shouldered, sharp-elbowed troublemakers, with a healthy disrespect for authority.We used to challenge authority, harass politicians. We used to speak truth to power. We used to look someone powerful straight in the eye, wag our finger in his face and tell him the truth – no matter what it cost. We did it because, by golly, we were Americans.Well, it ain’t like that any more.Now, when we come face to face with power, we Americans lower our voices to a polite murmur and bow down – and it’s those fancy-pants, effete Brits who stand up and tell the truth.My wife pointed it out when we were watching the news the other night. They were covering the British election and there was Tony Blair, out in public, facing his critics.There were British citizens standing there, nose to nose with the prime minister and saying, “You’re a liar! You lied to us about Iraq!”And Blair looked them right back, square in the eye, and gave his best, eloquent answer. No one backed down.And it wasn’t just Blair under fire, either. His opposite number, the leader of the Conservative Party was shown in a front-yard face-off with an elderly gent who told the distinguished national leader, “You’d better start thinking about your pension,” because he was going to be out of a job after this election.During our election campaign, when President George Bush held a “town meeting,” it was by invitation only, everyone in the audience was carefully pre-screened. You couldn’t attend a Bush campaign rally without signing a loyalty oath to the president.And I’m not letting Whatshisname Kerry off the hook either. Kerry tried too hard to please everyone, playing the middle against all sides. The British politicians stood up and made clear, fierce statements. Over in England, the voters bit the politicians and the politicians bit right back.Meanwhile, here in the Land of the Brave and the Home of the Free, we have politicians who go mumble-mumble, meeble-meeble … so mealy-mouthed, so careful and so uptight that when they break wind only dogs can hear it.Oh, sure, we still play rough – but we do it like cowards.We used to speak truth to power, now we tell lies to the TV camera. We used to look our opponent in the eye, now we get some shadowy surrogate to stab him in the back.A British politician, George Galloway, a member of Parliament, came to Washington, D.C., this week to testify before a Senate committee. The committee had accused the Brit of profiting from the corrupt Iraq oil-for-food program.Galloway marched into the committee room, reared back on his hind legs and tore a hole right through that committee. Instead of the usual squirming humility of people called before a panel of majestic U.S. senators, he went right after them. He called their charges “preposterous … beyond the realm of the ridiculous.” He said it was “the mother of all smoke screens.”As the BBC put it, “Far from displaying the forelock-tugging deference to which senators are accustomed, Mr. Galloway went on the attack.”Now, I’m not saying that Mr. Galloway is a hero. I’m not saying he’s even telling the truth. I’m just saying that he stood up for himself. He appeared before a committee of U.S. senators and refused to grovel.Remember when Americans refused to grovel?Oh, sure, we appear before Senate committees and we lie. We weasel and we obfuscate … and the whole time, we grovel.We act like caricatures of the British, bowing down before the Queen.Meanwhile, the Brits are standing up, looking their prime minister square in the eye from about a foot away and saying, “You’re a liar!”So I ask you again, when did the British become Americans?And, by the way, what became of us? Who are we now?Andy Stone is former editor of The Aspen Times. His e-mail address is andy@aspentimes.com


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