The United States and the United Kingdom
Does antipathy towards the USA bolster British resistance to democractic change?
"You like po-tay-to and I like po-tah-to.
You like to-may-to and I like to-mah-to.
Let's call the whole thing off!"
George & Ira Gershwin
from Shall We Dance (1937)
It is sometimes said flippantly by British people that Britain and the USA are united by a common culture but are separated by language. The truth is that the British have adopted much of the American language but have failed to understand how different the cultures are.
The British gleefully find confirmation of their cultural superiority in reports of the weirder corners of American life. Yet they live their lives in a wash of bizarre practices to which they are blind.
The British see the corrupting influence of money in American governance. Yet they acknowledged the right of "Lords" to inherit seats in their own legislature.
The British see their country as the birthplace of democracy. Yet they are willing to contemplate outlawing the expression of opinions that they find particularly objectionable.
Prejudice against "Yanks" (north as well as south of the Mason-Dixon line) is the only one that even the politically correct are still allowed.
In America Seen we draw attention to some of the more distorted and bigoted opinions that the British, particularly the British news media, still find it acceptable to express about the United States. We do so because they are often used as a defence against the arguments for change in Britain's antiquated institutions and attitudes. When we modernise, it is often implied, we become more like the US. And what could be worse than that?
Some American insights into British life reproduced in American Views question the perception amongst many British people, and some Americans, that Britain has a society that is markedly superior to the American and not in need of considerable change.
A Different Kingdom offers some surprising images of and facts about Britain, the kingdom you may not know.