Monday, 7th July 2014
So far, this title defeats the purpose of the prose, because we’ve not even sniffed the UK yet, let alone laid a step on the pastures green. After a well deserved night’s sleep, we got up the next day to take Ana to Miami Airport as she had to work in Puero Rico. Then Joshua treated us to a city tour of Miami.
First of all, before I start, I must state that I was reading Alistair Cooke’s book Letter from America, a present from my cousin Hannah West, which gave me a wonderful view of the US that seems intelligent, very insightful and honest through an archive of letters through his time as a journalist for the BBC and the Guardian, stretching over 50 years or so. He’s been there to report on the USA’s most significant events for the past century (right up until 2004 when he died) and paint them with a profound view which I admire. Below I have tried to paint my own view of the US and a series of jumbled and meandering thoughts. Almost an ode to Cooke himself (I hope I don’t leave him rolling in his grave).
The US has always been a place of transit. A night here and a night there and then I find myself somewhere in the world. Apart from New York, the Rockies and maybe Chicago, I’ve never had that massive need to be in the US. When you have a fountain of a thousand amazing different cultures on your doorstep, why go to one 8 hours away on a plane which kind of derives from the one your from? But then again, Britain really is very, very different, and this time Pamela agreed with me. I’ve never really got to grips with the grandiosity of it, in exuberance, size, portions of food, capitalist survival of the fittest nature, and the great customer service attitude. These aren’t criticisms, nor do I want to knock the American dream. I have many friends from the US from Democratic and Republican backgrounds, very different from each other but still pointing their finger at the other side claiming how naive or dumb the other side is (American news is quite horrific). I find it hard to believe how polarised it still is. Of course, I am generalising, and I hate the image of ‘stupid American’ because I don’t think they are. Brainwashed in patronism? Maybe a little bit (look at Fox News, although the hypocrisy on all channels I find a bit odd, any slight socialist leaning is given a rubber stamp “communist”, a propaganded lexis which stinks like shit there, not to say the British media is much better) but I can see why the Americans call the Brits a bit snooty, because we see and hear brainwashed comments and we naturally feel there is a slight naiveness to what they say, and then we open our big British gobs and say something that might cut their view of their world to pieces. There is an brutish edge that you need to survive there. Little politeness and more of a ‘do it’ attitude that has kind of gone out the window back in the UK. I can see a bit of ourselves in the US, the British imperial attitude in Europe of land and conquer (Brits in Spain come to mind) is similar to a kind of superior attitude (again, trying desperately hard not to offend, just an outsider looking in). You can feel it is a superpower when you land, and then talk to the people. I have spent time in Houston, Atlanta and Miami and I always feel that there is a strong scent of the working class (sometimes of poverty) which is the backbone to the US. It comes in the form of all races, but mainly ethnic minorities (similar to the UK and the rest of the Western world, and very generally speaking). It’s this side of America that interests me the most. It’s one that allows the rest of America follow the American dream, but it’s the sector that gets trodden on the most. Liberty? Only if you’re willing to incorporate yourself into this model. Survival of the fittest. If you’re willing to work hard, you get your rewards. I know it’s a bit more complex than that. Is it a fair system, in theory maybe, but theory isn’t really reality. It’s the way the UK is going. I’m not sure I’m saying anything different from what people have said before. That’s why America stifles me. It’s too grandiose to understand. Pamela and I spent two full days in Florida (not really a long or justified enough to make such sweeping statements about the US, I must admit), where we got to see the rich and poor of the USA.