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.