Friday, August 12, 2005

British Not That Different from Americans in One Important Respect

Clive Davis, writing in today's, presents a brilliant look at British hostility toward America that includes skepticism about the US as a model for democracy and fear that US culture is overtaking everybody else's. It's a good piece, worth reading.

One section caught me, though:
Perhaps as a consequence of all those hours spent sighing over Hugh Grant, Americans tend to assume that British are much more worldly and sophisticated than they really are. The truth is, when it comes to knowledge of American history and institutions, the Brits are woefully uninformed. What they are familiar with is American popular culture, which is -- as I don't need to remind you -- a different thing all together. The result of that false sense of familiarity is a toxic combination of ignorance and arrogance.
Sadly, Americans are as ignorant of our history and institutions as the Brits are. This has dreadful consequences for our society and politics. One example is the way Americans now use the phrase, American Dream, which diverges substantially from what the phrase meant to us historically.

America is more than its land mass, prosperity, or military power. Americans forget that at our own peril--and not owing only to the perceptions of America in the world.

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