Mark Watson Live - iTunes

Plea for people to be slightly less dogmatic in their opinions both for and against America

I was watching Beyonce’s new single unveiled on CNN. It was introduced by Piers Morgan who is now presenting himself as a proper journalist again rather than what he perhaps ought to have stuck to – a man who judges competitions for talking dogs and knife-throwers. The single is a version of ‘God Bless the USA’ and basically Beyonce tootles on about how pleased she is to live in America, where she is free. It’s a great place, America. Every American should be proud. Et cetera. This is just a few days after our old friends the Americans shot bin Laden and then lots of them danced in front of the White House chanting ‘U-S-A!’. With their flags.

Now here’s the thing – America has a lot to be proud of. It was founded on ideals of equality and opportunity which, although obviously tainted by time, still engender a culture of vigour and creativity that’s unrivalled elsewhere in the world. The USA produced an enormous amount of the film, literature and music that defined our last century, as well as a huge number of cultural innovations across the board. People who complain about everything ‘becoming too American’ would do well to remember that we’re indebted to them in quite a number of ways. So I don’t support the inevitable anti-American backlash which tends to follow periods like this. We’ve always treated the USA as an upstart kid and never quite got used to the idea it’s not only left home but earns more money than us now and has a pretty cool conservatory. We should all get over it. Or get over it already, as a New Yorker might say.

BUT at the same time, I think we can agree this is a very bad time for people to be crowing about having executed a man who – wrongly, but still – is a hero to a certain section of the world. A very small section, yes, but a highly motivated one full of people who’ll die for their cause. If we’ve learned anything from the past ten years, it’s surely that the world is much more volatile, much more easily inflamed than we thought in say 2000. Extremist jihadists aren’t going to just pack it in and say ‘OK then, maybe a bit of golf instead’ just because Bin Laden got killed. The threat of another huge terrorist incident, maybe in New York, maybe in London where I and some of you live, remains absolutely open and it’ll get closer every time the Western world crows over a successful act of violence. Yes, Bin Laden deserved to die all right, but let’s put the flags away, and Beyonce – I know it’s a charity single and everything, but – pipe down a bit, will you?

In short, this has been the first annual Mark Watson Plea For People To Be Slightly Less Dogmatic In Their Opinions Both For And Against America. Thank you for listening.

15 Responses

  1. Catherine aka Cathy says:

    Well that brought me up short. I have been so excited about my good grades that I forgot about the real world for a while. I am going to Mexico in July. My brother is moving to UAE to teach journalism. We will stick out like a sore thumb. We are both tall and fair complexion (Irish roots). I hope the people in those two countries don’t hate us just because we are from the United States. It has crossed my mind that we might be targets just because we are citizens of a country that no one seems to like. But we are going anyway. We want to see the world from the inside and not just outside looking in. Enough rambling.

    Happy Mother’s Day to everyone who’s a mother. Sunday is Mother’s Day in the states.

  2. Katy says:

    I think you’ve just summed up exactly what I’ve been trying to say to people in the last few days.

  3. There was a point made on the news the day after bin Laden was killed, that Pakistan as a whole is painfully aware that at any moment there could be a huge backlash from his supporters. It brought me back to earth with a bump because although many people this side of the world are happy he’s dead (myself not included, because I can’t reconcile death with rejoicing in any way – but also because I think death is a cop-out for him to be honest) there are a lot of people whose lives may have been made much worse by it.

    America are a world power, whether we like it or not – it doesn’t mean they should be lauded for it though. Thank you Mark for another balanced blog post :)

  4. Zoe says:

    A bit of a shallow point but I was glad that the blog turned out to be about opinion on America, rather than ‘slightly less dog’ that my iPod told me it was going to be. Would the world be better off with ‘slightly less dog’? Who knows?

  5. Rachael says:

    Very well put, you are absolutely right. As always!

  6. Lizzy says:

    I can just imagine you and Beyonce having a face to face argument about this – because she’s all sort of sassy and strong so I doubt she’d back down – and you’d be all like articulate and ahhh that’d be cool.
    She’s the next logical step from Dawn French.

  7. Misha says:

    I personally quite like America, i’m frequently annoyed by the oft appearing view on the internet that the American world view is The world view. But apart from that, it’s ok.

    I do think you’re right though, it’s no good hopping about going “ooo yipee that bad man is dead” because another one will take his place, and it’s how they get to power. By blaming the western powers, like America and like England; desperate people will resort to unspeakable things, as was made clear in Hitler’s rise to power.

    It’s a worrying thought though, that there could be another major attack on New York or London etc. The last time they happened I was too young to understand really what was going on. Not so much for 7/7, but for 9/11 I didn’t have the foggiest and was merely annoyed that there was no after school telly on.

    Anyway, this comment doesn’t have an end, instead it will merely just stop.

  8. I could go on for hours about America, but I won’t I will just say a few things and then go off to polish my bust of Nelson.

    First, a nitpick. America wasn’t formed on “ideals of equality and opportunity” but more “ideals of wanting to steal land off the natives but not being allowed to by the Brits”. This is the freedom the “founding fathers” were going on about.

    Secondly, I think one of our main problems with the US in the UK is that we sometimes forget that they’re a different country. If Brits acted in the way we see the vast majority of Americans in the media acting, we’d think, as we do think, that they’re crass and arrogant and jingoistic. But we have to remember that they’re a different bunch of people, like the French. Although, we do think the French are crass and arrogant too, but whatever.

    The third one was going to be important, but I’ve forgotten it.

  9. coffee says:

    Just saw your show at skycity this evening – absolutely hilarious. Thanks so much for a great evening.

  10. LisaD says:

    Here’s the thing, I didn’t dance in the streets over the news for two reasons: 1) my Quaker upbringing–while largely irrelevant to my day-to-day life, revolts at the thought of celebrating violent death.
    2) I know how it feels to turn on the news and see people dance in the street because something bad happened to an American & I’d rather not perpetuate that feeling.

    That being said, while I don’t need to tell the a nation that is home to the IRA that terrorism is not fixable with more bloodshed, this isn’t just any terrorist to be replaced by the next guy. Not only was this the founder and pin up boy of Al Qaeda, he was also the billionaire keeping it afloat since while they’ve been in a decline. Also, in the last two years we’ve taken out leaders 2-17 so they’re a bit short on charismatic leaders at the moment.

    More importantly, after YEARS of going after people that had little or nothing to do with the New York attack, the Obama administration turned it around and went after the actual guys while pulling soldiers out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Surely that’s better than the horror Bush and Blair put our nations through? So no, I’m not dancing in the street, but on some level I am celebrating the fact that if nothing else we now have a leader who, thoughtfully and methodically does what he said he’d do.

    I’m really grateful, as ever, for the plea to be less dogmatic. It’s just simpler. Though in fairness to Beyonce, the single got recorded well before the news on Sunday. That’s just a fluke of timing. Or President Obama is a REALLY big fan.

    PS Josh, I’m gonna have to nitpick your nitpicking. If your’e talking about the first settlers and their crimes against Native Americans, technically they were British, and rather proudly so. In fact the “war” against the Pequod tribe of Massachusetts was perpetuated by the colonial governor by the specific request of the English government. The Brits had no problem with stealing land from the natives. In fact, considering the nature of the Empire before the sun set, one could argue that it was kind of their thing. The founding fathers, 100+ years later, were motivated by Enlightenment principles and did their best (falling short on more than one occasion) to live up to them.

    I think that attempt, more than anything else is the what it is to be American: to try and live up to our potential, fail, try again, fail again, try harder and so forth until we die.

  11. Beau Brummel says:

    You say Osama
    I say Obama
    Osama – Obama
    Obama – Osama
    Let’s call the whole thing off..

  12. Vicky says:

    I came across this blog by accident, while looking at what I could book at Basingstoke. I should, perhaps, be doing something more constructive on a Sunday. However, I cannot agree more with what you wrote above, including your comments on Piers Morgan!

  13. Meg says:

    Harry Potter hasn’t exactly helped the matter by suggesting that if you kill off the top guy, all those below him will also fall. I’ve always wondered why the remaining Death Eaters didn’t even attempt to avenge their master’s death. I’m not saying that the ending of Harry Potter has influenced the entire USA to celebrate Bin Laden’s death, but it’s an interesting thought.

    Brilliantly balanced and thoughtful blog, once again Mark.

  14. Craig Tubb says:

    I agree. A lot of Americans just don’t think through what they’re doing sometimes.
    Although i’m sure that’s simply because there are a lot of americans, all with different personalities, opinions and ways of life.

  15. Andrew says:

    In my experience, most of the pejorative stereotypes perpetuated about Americans are either just inaccurate or greatly exaggerated. I have a tremendous amount of affection for some of what America has given us – for The Simpsons and Steely Dan alone I would forgive almost anything, and my life would be significantly diminished without Coke.

    That said, the one stereotype that holds up at all is a sense that America sees itself as a template for the world, an example of just how a country should run and conduct itself. This is dangerous territory into which to stray. We’re all aware of the history of Britain, the period where we stomped around the globe telling everyone we knew what was good for them. Well, we didn’t, and it’s taken an awful lot of dismantling and lingering resentment to undo all that. Catherine aka Cathy may find herself, as English people do in countries all around the world, having to apologise (ridiculously) for her nation.

Leave a Reply