Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why I can't talk bad about the Brits

I made a vow not to talk bad about Britain, the Brits, or most things associated with Britain. David Beckham doesn't count. He thinks he international, so I can say bad things about him.

The reason for doing so lies mostly with my daughter. She was born in the UK, is being raised here, and barring some unforeseen circumstance, will be a Brit throughout her life. Having a British mother and an American father will be enough strain on her, especially considering the situation between her mother and myself. So I made a vow to never be negative about Great Britain.

It wouldn't be appropriate for me, as her father, to talk bad about her country. And while I will do everything I can to make sure she knows she is half-American, having an American father doesn't make you an American, anymore than Obama's father being African makes him an (word that has replaced black to refer to a certain segment of society in America, but that I refuse to use as long as I am referred to as a white person). And I'm not talking about the bad word.

So I have to be very sensitive about saying the wrong thing. Even though I'm sure she'll grow up hearing negative comments about Americans and the US most of her life. Most of it isn't actual insults. Its kind of how we talk about the French, but without the hostility. And not nearly as bad as the Missouri-Kansas border war.

Another reason is because of something stupid I did before she was even born. One day, at the beach in Angola, sitting with a bunch of people I knew, and some others I didn't, I got a little hot under the collar. I'm not sure how the situation came up, but we started talking about September 11, and the attacks on America. A British guy, that I didn't know, made the comment, "that it was all our fault and we got what we deserved". Now, this isn't about politics, but when considering I was in the Army, lived 3/4 of a mile from the Pentagon that day, and have seen the aftermath of it, that's not really a good thing to say to me.

I got a little pissed. So I cussed him. Loudly, and quite well, I might add. I let him know what I thought of him, and his opinion, and what he could do with it, and how we could never be friends. I'm paraphrasing, obviously. I don't regret calling him a piece of shit. Or an SOB. Or anyone of the dozen other names I called him. What I do regret is calling him a British piece of shit. And a British SOB. And British other things. That was completely wrong, and out of line. And I regretted it immediately. I almost got fired for that one. But that wasn't what I regretted.

What I regretted was referring to him as a "British" anything. Because it was said in the context of two people having a discussion, not a UN summit. Add to the fact that my fiance (now my daughter's mother) is British, and my best friends mostly British, and most of the people I associated with were all British. And it was completely unfair of me to say what I said, considering that it wasn't official British policy to say anything like that.

Side note*** I didn't hang around Americans when I worked at embassies, and neither did anyone else. The State Department people are the biggest bunch of snobs you could ever meet in your life. They looked down their noses at me because I was military, and then because I refuse to sit in the ivory tower, and actually went out and had a life. They can't stand it, because it makes them less special.

The next day, and for several days after that, I apologized to my fiance and all of my British friends for what I had said. They all instantly forgave me and told me not to worry about it. They understood the context in which it happened, and weren't angry. In fact, a couple of them were more pissed off than I had been, and I actually had to stop one from going and finding the asshole.

But as soon as my finance got pregnant, I realized I was forever tied to Britain, and had to change the way I think about things. So, no UK bashing. No jokes about the British. Peace and harmony and good will. The problem I have, however, is some of the American-bashing that goes on by Brits. Not the majority, but a few. I've been sitting places (bar, restaurant, train station) and someone will hear my accent, and ask if I'm American. When I say yes, the next phrase is usually, "You know what I think about your country/Americans/your government/etc."

So, while I've made the vow to be the better person, I still have to listen to the flip-side, on more occasions than I care to hear. But that's the price you pay for living in a foreign county. Unless its foreigners living in the US, then we're supposed to sit and be the better people. But this is our life. And I don't regret being here, and if I have to listen to some of that from time to time, so be it. I'll survive. And I can do it without saying negative things about the UK.

The exception to this is any international match involving the US, and then I get to be a flag-waver all I want. Just not be rude. Unless my daughter is in another room. And can't hear me.

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