An ode to America

You always know you are dealing with an asshole, when they respond with comments or Tweets which say: “Stick to motor racing”, usually hiding behind some silly Internet name or  an avatar which makes them feel good. This is the ultimate in condescension. I would love to be able to reply: “Stick to being a bank clerk” or “Stick to being a fishmonger”, but the anonymity of the Internet means that one never knows with whom one is dealing. The question I always have for these people is this: who does have the right to discuss politics?  Is it only politicians? There is poignant irony here, of course, because at the moment the people writing these things are supporters of US President Donald Trump. They have elected him because he is not a politician – because they don’t trust politicians.

Trump is a businessman with no political experience. I am a businessman with no political experience, so as far as I am concerned I have the right to a voice. You don’t have to read it, and you certainly don’t have to agree with it, but I can do as I please. My blog is my house and I allow readers in as my guests. What these rude people are actually saying is: “Only my view counts …because only my view counts”. How very Trumpish.

When I was growing up, my fearsome grandmother, an Edwardian grande dame without the money, who had a friend called Doris with an impressive moustache, taught us that we should never talk about certain subjects in polite society. She didn’t mention sex, of course, because that did not exist in her world, but she believed that one should never discuss politics, religion nor money. Perhaps this is why the British are always going on about the weather…

On the whole it is good advice even if  times have changed, although I am still rather uncomfortable when people talk about money as openly as they do, particularly in America. Before you write me off as an American-hater, you should know the following about me. I love America. My son is an American citizen and I visit as often as I can. Some of favourite places are in America and I have many friends there – Republicans and Democrats. I am also anything but a screaming liberal or a socialist.

love what the country stands for.  I know your history, I studied it. I know your literature and I know your culture. I can name more US states off the top of my head than any American I have ever met, and I can point out where they are on a map with decent accuracy, although Arkanas can catch me out. I appreciate the good things about America. I know what a generous nation you are. According to the World Giving Index, an annual report published by the Charities Aid Foundation, the US is the second most generous country in the world per capita. It used to be top but, rather strangely, it was knocked back to second in 2015 by Myanmar.

Anyway, it is the generous nature of Americans and their attachment to liberty which has made them loved around the world. The pledge of allegiance to the republic as “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” are fine words, although it is odd to see that “under God” was not added until 1954. I have always believed that America’s greatest strength is that it was built by generations of energetic refugees, who came with dreams and built themselves lives, through hard work and good thinking. They took nothing for granted, put down roots, helped others and sent their kids to college.

They were welcomed by the Statue of Liberty and its inspiring  inscription: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

This is why America became the leader of the free world and why nations fought as allies with the Americans in so many wars. It was because we respected the country. We respected what it stood for and how it went about doing business. What made it great was the respect from other nations.

And yet, the average American does not travel much. It is an inward-looking country in lots of ways. There are 322 million Americans but only 30 million outgoing trips by US citizens each year. OK, 10 percent you might say, but in reality it is smaller than that because many of these trips are undertaken by the same people, some of whom travel abroad 10 times each year. So the actual number of U.S. citizens who venture abroad each year could be as low as five percent. Around 46 percent have passports and in surveys around 50 percent says they have been abroad, even if it is only Mexico or Canada. In Britain, by comparison, 91 percent of people have travelled abroad, around 41 percent of them having been to the United States. Most have been to an average of seven countries, mainly in Europe. Why is that? America is a big country with many fabulous places to visit, Britain is small but very varied and beautiful. Why then? Because it is easier not to?

I have always believed that travel is important because it broadens the mind. The more you travel, the more you understand about the world, and about the different people who live in it.

Why does it matter? Well, because Donald Trump was elected because he said that he was going to make America great again. It was a political slogan, of course, but lots of people seem to have believed him. But, making America great again is not something that Americans can do on their own. This does not depend on what you think of yourselves, it depends far more on what the world thinks of you – and whether it wants to do business with America. It is more interesting to ask the question: why do Americans not think their country is great? OK, there are economic arguments. America has lost business because other nations offered better choices, whether that be down to price, to quality, to service or whatever. America lost jobs because America was not competing, but in so many other respects America is still great.

The disaffected people have elected a man who says things they want to hear. They reject expert opinions, just as the British rejected expert opinions on Brexit. They accepted lies and did not care. They attacked anyone who asked questions – and they still do. It’s frightening to see this administration’s attacks on the media. It is reminiscent of dictatorships elsewhere and in previous eras. The supporters decry everything as “fake news”.

Out here in the world, people do not think Trump is making America great again. They are either appalled by his reactionary thinking, frightened by what he is doing and worried for the future, or they are laughing at him as an ignorant rich buffoon with bizarre hair, who will not remain long in the role. Out here, we doubt he will be a great leader. We wonder if he will come to the aid of allies if they are attacked. We are uncomfortable with his chuminess with Vladimir Putin, who clearly does not share Western views of freedom and justice. In short, we are losing our trust in America. We see a man who is undoing the work of decades of progress, who is dividing  the nation that is supposed to be “indivisible” and he is taking away liberty and justice for all. The only response to terrorism is to maintain normality. Everything else is a victory for the terrorists. Trump’s travel bans are a victory for terrorism. It will encourage them to continue.

The reason that people here are so vocal about US politics, is that we are worried. All that was once taken as read is now being questioned. So, rather than trying to tell us all what you think, why not venture out here and find out what we think.

Or at least listen…

Right, I’ve said what I want to say. I don’t need to say more. Back to motor racing…

Please think about donating to the Jill Saward Fund, which aims to continue the work of my sister Jill Saward (1965-2017), who campaigned to help rape victims and to reduce the number of rapes in the world.