Much as I’d want everyone to share my tastes, it’s statistically probable that some sour pusses out there actually hate the country I love. The interesting question is why.
For example, an American tourist may walk through Chelsea on match day, only to be jostled and manhandled by a throng of blue-clad louts pouring beer on one another and using the kind of language that would make Trump blush.
The next day the American may go to a restaurant where he’ll be served by a waiter who gets the order wrong because he doesn’t understand English and doesn’t even know what French fries are.
Having thus done London in two days, the visitor may return to his native shores fuming at a country where people don’t even speak their own language and, if they do, slur four-letter words because they are habitually drunk. People talk funny, few places are air-conditioned, there are no ice machines in hotels, Coke is served warm.
All of this is both understandable and innocent. But Biden’s Anglophobia has different reasons, and it may have far-reaching consequences.
As he explains, “When my great grandfather got on a coffin ship in the Irish Sea, expectation was, was he going to live long enough on that ship to get to the United States of America? But they left because of what the Brits had been doing.”
People living in Britain are called British or Britons, not Brits. By the same token, people living in America are usually called Americans, rather than Yanks.
But that’s an honest mistake. By contrast, disliking Britain for the plight of a man born in the mid-nineteenth century is silly and, for a US president, sinister. It’s also, alas, very American.
Many Americans, even those whose families have lived in the US for generations, are obsessed with tagging a modifier to their nationality: Irish American, German American, Mexican American and so forth.
It’s as if the American nationality were umbilically linked to the – by now recessive – genes of some other nativity. Resentments and feuds that plagued their ancestors centuries ago refuse to die.
When I lived in America, I was puzzled by that phenomenon and now, 33 years later, I still am.
In most cases, I don’t have a clue about the ethnic roots of my English or French friends. They identify themselves as either English or French, even if the surnames of two of my best friends sound, respectively, Irish and Corsican.
There’s no denying that the English treated the Irish abominably in the past. My late father-in-law told a story about being in Ireland and having a drink at a pub with a bunch of locals. They told him that “British soldiers killed our children, tortured and raped our women…”
My father-in-law was shocked: no Englishmen he knew showed marked propensities for such behaviour. “British soldiers did that?” he asked. “My God, when?” “Under bloody Cromwell,” came the reply.
To be fair, the English mistreated the Irish even closer to our own time – but long before Joe Biden was born. Though my testimony carries no weight, I can testify that no Britons harbour murderous intentions towards the Irish. Unfunny Irish jokes are about as far as they go.
Yet it’s understandable that my relation’s drinking companions resented the British: their fathers might have fought them on the barricades, and they themselves might have wished to see Ireland united. But they were Irish, not anything else.
Irish Americans, on the other hand, are something else – Americans. What’s this obsession with distant ethnic roots? Wasn’t the country supposed to be a melting pot in which huddled masses are boiled together to produce a new, common nationality?
Mild curiosity about one’s family history is natural. But, say, for an American whose remote ancestor was Italian to dislike another American because his ancestors were Austrian is simply silly.
Perhaps the whole notion of a melting pot is flawed. A mere couple of centuries may not be enough to form a uniform cultural, and therefore ethnic, identity. Yearning to be free and pursue happiness is enough to bring people from all over the world to America. But such human aspirations probably fall short of creating any form of cultural homogeneity.
Hence so many Americans cling to the cultures of their forefathers, refusing to renounce ancestral attachments – and, more to the point, resentments. When all is said and done, for diversity to form a nation it has to turn into uniformity at some point.
That’s not to say that people should forget the painful past of their families – especially if the past is recent. Thus I understand (though don’t approve of) American blacks who profess to hate whites. After all, black Americans my age remember the humiliating experience of riding in the back of the bus and being refused service in some restaurants.
Also, I understand (though don’t approve of) Jews who hate Germans. Some Holocaust survivors, and most of their children, are still living, and not enough time has passed to attenuate the shockwaves.
I don’t approve of such sentiments because original sin is the only collective guilt I believe in, and even that can be redeemed. People are individuals, each blessed with free will and hence the power to make free choices. If they themselves are blameless, they shouldn’t be held accountable for the misdeeds of a group to which they belong.
One of my favourite modern American thinkers, Thomas Sowell (who himself, and not his great-grandfather, suffered for his race), put a related sentiment in a nutshell: “Have we reached the ultimate stage of absurdity where some people are held responsible for things that happened before they were born, while other people are not held responsible for what they themselves are doing today?”
Intelligent Americans of Irish descent, such as William Buckley (and some of my readers), don’t hate the English, quite the opposite. Yet even Biden’s fans probably wouldn’t cite his intelligence as the reason for their affection. Typologically, he’s closer to the imbeciles who turned Boston into a lucrative hunting ground for IRA fund raisers.
One would expect the president of a great nation to set aside ancestral feuds and get on with the business of representing all Americans. Wearing a green tie on St Pat’s Day and drinking the odd pint of Guinness with a shamrock drawn on the foam is one thing. Making policy decisions on the basis of idiotic superstitions is another.
In any case, when Biden goes to church to pray for the souls of the millions of babies he pays to be aborted, he should thank his maternal great-grandpa who set sail for America. After all, the family has done rather well there, way in excess of this generation’s talents.