I have an announcement to make, which might come as a shock to and disappoint a lot of people.
I am not British.
Sorry, but I never have been and never hope to be. Not even if the United States’ electorate were to go completely and totally bonkers and elect Sarah Palin as President with Michelle Bachmann appointed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
For the record, in my youth, I married an Englishman. These things happen. These things – marrying foreigners – have always happened. Since the United States has been an independent country, we’ve always intermarried with our former colonial owners. We’ve even had an English First Lady. No less than one Adams, John Quincy, son of one of the major Founding Fathers, himself, married an English lass, albeit one who had an American father, and when he won the Presidency, there she was, ensconced at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and lording it over Washingtonian society as the First Lady of the land.
So take that, Jackie Kennedy.
In the late 19th Century, impoverished British aristos came, cap and hand, to the United States, courting the industrial heiresses of the East Coast new monied families. The Vanderbilts craved a title for their daughters and the Dukes of Marlborough, bluebloods of Blenheim, craved more than just a little bit of that tacky new American money to help sustain their chunks of stone and lujo lifestyles.
So when I married and went to live in England almost three decades ago, I wasn’t emigrating, per se. I was simply going to live where my husband lived and worked, and that’s the way it’s remained since then.
It’s not my home. It’s the place where I live and work. It’s the place where I pay exhorbitant taxes.
Lately, in fact, since the election of Barack Obama and the seemingly interminable discussion about healthcare, I’ve read a lot of comments made by a lot of Americans who seem to be giving up the ghost on America in general and looking, languishing and longing to live abroad, more or less because (and this is their reasoning) of the free healthcare.
Honestly, I read that so much I wanted to scream and scalp myself. And if I wasn’t reading that, I was reading about how much cleverer, intelligent and better educated all Europeans are. For everyone who’d ever complained about our President’s perceived apologising and bowing to foreign powers, these wailings were not only butt-clinchingly craven, they were totally ignorant.
Here are a few facts, and they’re not difficult to comprehend:-
1. Healthcare in Europe is not free. It never was. It’s funded through higher taxes. In fact, the French expect to have one-third of their salary witheld in order to pay for their government-funded health insurance, and that health insurance only covers 65% of their total costs, necessitating a hybrid system consisting of a 35% private top-up via employer-related health insurance.
2. Sorry, but sometimes in the UK, which has the Queen Mother of all single-payer systems, healthcare is rationed, depending on how well or how badly your local health authority has managed its government budget. And your healthcare won’t get you a private room, either, in the event of hospitalisation, or a lengthy consultation with a high-powered specialist physician or surgeon. No Harley Street for you, mate.
So that’s the healthcare debate in a nutshell. Let’s look at some other myths, shall we?
For years, I’ve listened to Bill Maher go on at length about the stupidity of Americans. I know what he means. A lot of other people do also, but it doesn’t mean that those of us who “get” Bill have to nod our heads like the dogs adorning the parcel shelves in the back of our cars and agree mindlessly.
“Yes, Bill, we’re stupid.”
“That Bill! He nails it every time. We sure are stupid.”
“Bill Maher’s right. We’re a nation of morons.”
“Yes. Bill’s got it. We’re stupid. Hyuck, hyuck.”
First of all, when Bill Maher makes a remark like that, he’s including himself. He has to be, simply because he carries an American passport. It’s meant as a wake-up call, a piece of reverse psychology. He wants us to look at ourselves and better ourselves intellectually, to understand and question and not accept blindly.
Secondly, stupidity doesn’t recognise geographical borders. There are stupid people the world over. Take a stroll with me through happy-clappy Europe, and I’ll show you stupid in four different languages.
And the equivalent of rednecks and lowlifes. The Josef Frizls of the world in Austria, who keep their daughters barefoot, pregnant and in the cellar as sex slaves to their own depravities. The slack-jawed slut of a mother of Baby P in London, no less, who made her beautiful son’s 18-months of life a living hell and still hopes to be released from prison to live with her partner in crime. The mother of Shannon Matthews, who “arranged” for he brother to kidnap the child and keep her drugged, hoping to mount a national search and reap a five-figure reward for finding the child. That happened in the industrial North of England. The McCanns, a husband-and-wife medical team, who left their three toddler children alone sans babysitters in a Portuguese resort. Whilst they revelled, “someone” kidnapped the oldest child, who hasn’t been seen to this day.
Pretty stupid, right?
And trivialities too. In Britain, the golden boy of the moment, Nick Clegg, acquired the nickname “LegOver Clegg” when – in a vain attempt to portray himself as au courant with the misogynistic lads’ pub-and-pull culture that’s rampant in Britain now, boasted in an on-air television interview to having slept with at least 30 women before marrying his wife. As if that were relevant. In Britain, obviously, it is.
Or Nicolas Sarkozy, who, within a couple of months of his second wife leaving him, stood before the magistrates’ marital altar about to marry a woman who’s chief claim to fame in Europe is that she’s a veritable continental mattress, who always goes to the highest bidder, and that she’s lining up a suitable successor when, next year, the little President is defeated at the polls, because it isn’t in Carla Bruni’s agenda to retire to the Parisian banlieux as bourgeois Mme Sarkozy – not after having graced the arms of Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger and having culminated her horizontal career as Mme la Presidente. Rumour has it that Woody Allen’s interested in reviving whatever film career she once hoped to have. We’ll see.
There’s a General Election coming up in the UK on May 6th, with each of the three major political parties here claiming “Change you can believe in.” Sound familiar? The third party perennial bridesmaid Liberal Democrats, who are neither particularly liberal nor Democratic, are heralding an amnesty on all illegal immigrants (of which there are many in the UK) and a closer relationship within the bosom of the European Union – which, for many British, means a ceding of sovereignty to the Brussels gravytrain, and economic subservience to the old enemies of Germany and France. Mr LegOver preaches to the the inspired youngsters, desperate for an Obama of their own, by saying that “the young ‘get’ Europe” in a way the old don’t.
Yes, they do. They “get” the fact that Europe is a place of sandy-beached holiday resorts with thumping, throbbing clublife, 24-hour drinking and sex on the beach with strangers, cheap booze and cheaper accommodation, so that when they return after the requisite two weeks of sun, sand and sex, they can high-ass it to the local clinic for treatment of a nasty rash or smelly discharge in an unmentionable area.
If there’s an immigration problem in Europe, there are other problems too – like alcoholism in the UK or cocaine abuse in Italy. Like racism.
Racism’s there too.
A Norwegian blogger on HuffPo begs and pleads for Americans to keep their Tea Party ambassadors away from the Right Wing of his country. A British woman with a Russian name who lives in Switzerland rounds on me on a Facebook page and spews venom about the fact that Britain is ruined culturally because of its increased Americanisation.
“The Britain I see now,” she cries, “is nothing like the Britain where I grew up 40 or 50 years ago.”
Wow, to me that says only one thing … the Britain of 40 or 50 years ago was white. The Britain she sees and deplores today is a haven of multiculturalism and a myriad of colours. And that’s America’s fault, of course.
So she sits safely watching from afar in homogenous Switzerland, tax haven of the wealthy, who’s just passed national legislation prohibiting the building of mosques by their newly-arrived and ensconced Muslim community, which reinforces Mr Liberal Finnish Blogger’s plea.
It’s a poorly disguised secret that an undercurrent of racism is rearing its ugly head (like Putin before Palin’s gaze) in Scandinavia, due primarily to the fact that they now have a tranche of immigrant society which isn’t blonde-haired, blue-eyed and fair-skinned. It was the Danish, who were responsible for the Mohammed cartoon fiasco, and that was as much a racist connotation as a religious one.
Having lived this side of the Pond for nigh on three decades, I’ve grown accustomed to hearing older societies bleat on and on about hopeless American racism and pointing to their own perceived tolerance as evidence of their moral high ground.
Then, suddenly, America elects Barack Obama, and the cognitive dissonance leaves the Euros speechless. They’re suddenly all so desperate to be Barack’s new BFF or frantically searching for one amongst their number to approximate their own great white hope of an Obamawanabee, that they’ve neglected to address the incipient racism within their own borders - the illegal immigrant question washed daily up on their beaches or stowed away in the bowels of tractor-trailer trucks or in the undercarriages of high speed trains, the legal economic immigrants who head West as far as they can legally go and who are welcomed with open arms by businessmen who’ll pay them a fraction of the wages indigenous people demand. Add that to the ingredient of a working-class element who feels increasingly disenfranchised by all the major political parties within a country, and chances are someone with a pejorative motive will step from the shadows, mouthing platitudes these people are longing to hear, with assurances that the speaker feels their pain and is listening. What’s happening in the States now with the ridiculous Teabaggers got its start in a more inauspicious and down-played way some years ago in Britain when the old skinhead National Front got booted and suited up by a prep school-educated Cambridge grad and turned into the British National Party – but fascists they are, and fascists they remain, even though their followers are the children and grandchildren of the very people who fought against that ethos. And their driving force is racism.
So, spare me the tales of woe about wanting to move to Europe and its happy-clappy socialism. It’s not happy or clappy and it’s NOT socialism.