Teenage me would not have thought much about the Royal Wedding, yesterday. She would have reminded everyone that the monarchy is a disgusting, archaic idea that does Britain little good other than bring in tourism, which we’d get anyway, because we have HISTORY. She’d have told you, in no uncertain terms, how disgusting it was that a group of people were treated differently by sheer accident of birth. That having a monarchy means we will never be able to adequately bridge the gap between rich and poor. That they were all fairly awful people anyway, by dint of having to live such sheltered unreal lives.
In fact, I might have thought all of that, right up until we arrived in America, a few weeks ago. There is, of course, something about being in any foreign country that makes you very aware of your own nationality. Sometimes, it’s because you look around and think ‘Wow, we do it so much better at home’. Sometimes it’s when you have to speak to the waiter in very loud, very slow English because, of course, you never bothered to learn enough Spanish. Sometimes it’s because of the way people can spot you as different from a mile off (though I’ve been told this is because of the colour of the Husband’s hair).
In America, though, they love the British. Okay, so maybe it’s a little patronising; the British accent is ‘awful cute’ after all. But they are happy to talk to you; happy to hear about all the differences ‘across the pond’; happy to show you their way of doing things (You have to tip waitresses because they haven’t worked out the idea of a minimum wage yet, right?). One girl stopped us in the street. “Are you guys British?” she gushed. “Say ‘hello’”, she begged. “Hello” we said. “No! No! Say it properly!” she asked.
“‘Ello, guvner” said the Husband. She roared with laughter.
They also love America. There is no fear about being patriotic. They aren’t embarrassed that it might not seem cool. They are unashamedly and totally in love with their (frankly, ludicrous) belief that everything they do there helps every citizen to live the American Dream: To work their way up from the bottom and become something amazing.
It’s a beautiful dream. But it won’t work if you don’t help the poorest people a little more. Like with free healthcare.
Being in America made me proud to be British. I may have mentioned before that I can stop whole lessons and wax lyrical about the NHS, I believe it is so important. It isn’t just the NHS, though.
Quick aside: I was speaking to a woman in a bar in New Orleans. She worked in the medical industry. I asked her what the reasons were for a lot of Americans not wanting a free health service. She said “People like me wouldn’t get paid enough”. I said I understood, I was a teacher. She blessed me, said it was wonderful that I did such a lovely job, started talking about God. I said “Forgive me if this sounds rude but, that’s kinda my point. Don’t you think that a free health service, helping those people in society who are the greatest in need, is the most Christian thing a country can do?”. She left soon after that.
No, it isn’t just the NHS. It’s this:
A sign outside a bar in Memphis (or was it Nashville?) reminding people that they have to leave their guns at home and can’t bring them into a bar.
And it’s the radio over there, that makes me proud to be British. We drove all the way from New Orleans to Chicago, listening only to local radio stations. The music was good. I like a bit of Country. But the Husband likes to listen to talk radio when he’s driving, so we tried some of those stations. No word of a lie, I heard a radio presenter call the president of the USA: Barack Hussein Obama, Peace be Upon Him. I heard an entire radio slot that appeared to be about how odd gay men are; listing every stereotype I’d ever heard. I heard a presenter using the ten commandments as a reason why Obama’s plans to tax the rich higher were anti-Christian (It’s stealing, and that’s wrong). The level of stupidity and stubborn refusal to change made my blood boil.
(It was wholly different when we got to Chicago, I have to say – and I know that it wouldn’t be right to judge all Americans with the same brush, or whatever the saying is, but these guys were pure evil).
So, returning to Royal Wedding mayhem was actually quite refreshing, and took on a whole new meaning to me. I watched the service and was reminded again what a fantastic institution the Church of England is (though I was sad that Rowan wasn’t given the opportunity to have a little joke with the nervous pair). Even the BBC commentary on everything the guests were wearing, was so hopelessly quaint and innocent, that it made me smile.
So, it might be embarrassing, and it might not be very cool. But, I’m proud to be British this weekend. We don’t do so bad after all.