The ally the British love to hate
The cultural animosity toward the US will not help the UK in the long run.
Quick quiz: Who has a more vitriolic relationship with the US? The French or the British.Skip to next paragraph
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If you guessed the French, consider this: Paris newspaper polls show that 72 percent of the French hold a favorable impression of the United States. Yet UK polls over the past decade show a lower percentage of the British have a favorable impression of the United States.
Britain's highbrow newspaper, The Guardian, sets the UK's intellectual tone. On any given day you can easily read a handful of stories sniping at the US and things American. The BBC's Radio 4, which is a domestic news and talk radio station, regularly laments Britain's social warts and follows them up with something that has become the national mantra, "Well, at least we're not as bad as the Americans."
This isn't a new trend: British abhorrence of America antedates George W. Bush and the invasion of Iraq. On 9/11 as the second plane was slamming into the World Trade Center towers my wife was on the phone with an English friend of many years. In the background she heard her friend's teenage son shout in front of the TV, "Yeah! The Americans are finally getting theirs."
The animosity may be unfathomable to those raised to think of Britain as "the mother country" for whom we fought two world wars and with whom we won the cold war.
So what's it all about?
I often asked that during the years I lived in London. One of the best answers came from an Englishwoman with whom I shared a table for coffee. She said, "It's because we used to be big and important and we aren't any more. Now it's America that's big and important and we can never forgive you for that."
A detestation of things American has become as dependable as the tides on the Thames rising and falling four times a day. It feeds a flagging British sense of national self-importance.
A new book documenting the virulence of more than 30 years of corrosive British animosity reveals how deeply rooted it has become in the UK's national psyche. "[T]here is no reasoning with people who have come to believe America is now a 'police state' and the USA is a 'disgrace across most of the world,' " writes Carol Gould, an American expatriate novelist and journalist, in her book "Don't Tread on Me."