That “Special Relationship” Betwixt Great Britain and the U.S.

One does have to wonder about the old “special relationship” that is occasionally invoked by a U.S. President and/or a British Prime Minister.

In one sense, the term has obvious connotations: “America” used to be a conglomeration of British colonies, and those colonies and the British both indulged themselves in the slave trade for a good long while.  The U.S. and the Brits are separated, as the old joke goes, by a common language.  Both the U.S. and Britain went all-in with regard to industrialization and one form of empire or another. And of course, there was the Great War, with the U.S. coming in late, and World War II, with the U.S. coming in late again–late but decisively.  When I taught in Germany for one year in 1980-1981, many Germans opined (other aspects of the war and the Holocaust aside) that the U.S. “out-produced” the Third Reich.  There is much truth in that, as crass and simplistic as it may sound. Endless supplies of men and materiel came across the Atlantic; it was what the U.S. did well.  Produce, produce, as Carlyle used to say.   Enough armies to hit Germany from the air, from Normandy, and from Africa-and-then-Italy.  With the Russians arriving from the East, well, there you go. Say Guten Abend, Adolph.

All right: colonies, the slave trade, industrialism, language, wars, and now cable TV.  But, seriously, what does this special relationship consist of (or consist in) now?  I would have to say not much.  I think Bush II made an awful fool out of Tony Blair, who always seemed like a fool to me, albeit not as great a fool as Bush II. Neither Obama nor Cameron seem to need each other for anything in particular. I assume Cameron and Company would love to see the U.S. Congress pass a budget and a debt-increase, which is rather like hoping a fish might be able to swim in the sea and yet watching as it doesn’t. Note to England: The Tea Party is the Confederacy.  It is the Undead. Many of us apologize, but the South has risen again, in ghastly form.

So I am left with this: the “special relationship” consists of some nostalgia and much cooperation between M-I-5 and the CIA. The “special relationship” consists of the BBC trying to mimic Southern American accents with British accents and failing miserably and of Hollywood trying to mimic Southern American accents with British actors and failing miserably OR trying to mimic British accents with American actors and failing miserably: Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood really should have brought an end to the special relationship.

I rather think (look at me, trying to sound British) that the relationship is over.  I can imagine England and the U.S. both saying, “It’s not about you; it’s about me,” and going their separate ways.  Except of course capitalism and the security states have a way of making every relationship “special.”

Oh, and the National Football League, an entity unto itself: it is looking for franchises in England.   Maybe the special relationship will ultimately be based on Monday Night Football, and not of the “soccer” kind.

Welcome to post-modernism.


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