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Forum: The Yanks are all right

Writing from England, James Black pledges solidarity with America during the challenges ahead

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Editor's note: The following text arrived by e-mail last week preceded by this note:

"Dear Editor: I am a journalist with the Daily Mail in Britain and this may be the slushiest thing I have ever compiled. But it is truly from the heart. I do hope you can find space to print some of it.

"I have just returned to Europe from a trip in the USA and have finally, after over 10 visits, realised what a fabulous and misunderstood nation you really are.

"OK, you don't really have the cheapest wine in the world, you would probably all sell your granny for cash your desire for entrepreneurship is so strong, and your television is full of ads. But what a sense of right and wrong - admirable.

"Regards, . . ."

Dear America: You quirky mix of 280 million misfits that have somehow blended (like the finest human whisky) into the strongest nation in the world, I am writing to offer you, in the best way I know how, four apologies and two vows.

  James Black: jamesblack@btconnect.com 

I, James Black, a European passport holder whose parents are Scottish, whose wife is English, and whose four children are free to be whatever they may want to be (directly because of the sacrifice of your nation), would like to let it be known that I am ashamed, yes ashamed, for pointing out to a colleague while visiting your country three weeks ago that Winston Churchill was wrong when he said the biggest difference between Britain and the United States was the fact we both spoke the same language. Instead, I told him, the real difference between our peoples was actually about 100 pounds per person.

I, James Black, who works as a journalist with the Daily Mail, one of Britain's national newspapers and (directly because of the sacrifice of your nation) is able to say exactly what he wants whenever he wants without fear of death or imprisonment, would also like to apologize for saying to the same colleague that many of the Americans I met were far less sophisticated and worldly than Europeans and that many of you thought Europe began with the letter "Y."

I, James Black, a man born free of social or physical shackles and chains, who is able to travel around the world and visit other countries and who (directly because of the sacrifice of your nation) is able to converse, discuss, even argue with people from other nations, would like to apologize for mocking your president and your political system. Yes, like many of your people, your president may not be the sharpest knife in the cutlery set, but I now understand that he and the good people of the United States operate not just from a high intellectual stance, but also from the heart -- a heart that knows the difference between good and evil. And importantly, for a trusted but unedged knife, your president was smart enough to have picked the best fork and the best spoon to sit with him at the world table.

I, James Black, whose friends, family and colleagues are allowed to set up home, take a job, even run for politician, in any part of the European Union (directly because of the sacrifice of your nation) without being rounded up because of their religion or shot on the spot for their place of birth, would finally like to apologize for the biggest mistake the people of my continent have ever made -- their total lack of respect for the greatest friend they will ever have -- the United States of America.

My anger at some of my fellow Europeans is palpable -- more than palpable -- I feel scalpable when I hear the self-centered, cowardly and just plain annoying words thrown out by "old-minded," "old world," so-called "leaders of the Free World." I may have made fun of America and Americans, but deep down I know this is only friendly banter between the greatest of friends -- and friends who should give their all to each other when called upon to do so.

So, I come to my two vows.

I, James Black, a man whose grandfather fought in both World Wars, and had the good humor to suggest that the Americans were late for both events, but the sense to point out they ensured victory when they finally did show up, make my first vow.

I will never forget, or dishonor the amazing and courageous sacrifice of the people of the United States in coming to the aid of the world over the past 10 decades. These are the men and women who left peace and prosperity in a land of plenty to face bullet and shrapnel on the beaches of Normandy and around the world. I will honor the debt my small island nation owes for your unswerving devotion to aiding our continued freedom. Your help came when we stood small and alone against the plague of Nazi aggression. Your assistance served in making us strong when the battle was finished and the peace began, and you continued your protection from a "colder" enemy in the decades that followed.

I have stood, and I will stand again, with my own family, in places such as the cemetery of Colleville-sur-Mer, an eternal resting place for over 10,000 teen-aged and 20-something Americans who gave over all their future so that my children and I could have a future today, and I will again pledge my eternal gratitude.

I, James Black, a man who simply wants his children to live in a future where all good and constructive things are possible, a future where we can discover, we can invent, we can enjoy, without fear of fanatics or madmen or the weapons and pain they may wreak, pledge my assistance to the United States in its fight against evil.

This pledge is not some brainwashed verse, but based on the honorable history and proven friendship the United States has with Europe. Further, it is based on the fact that the people and leaders of the United States have the foresight to see that the world, even life itself, is futile without someone to love, things to build and create, and things to look forward to -- and none of these things are possible in a world awash with nuclear, chemical and biological arms controlled by those who despise the life we lead.

I may be one person, I may speak for one, but there are millions like me who thank the United States of America and wish your nation and your people all the best over the next few months -- and will be there by your side when the times get tough.

Yours with all my gratitude,

James Black
Wychwood Park
Weston, Cheshire
CW2 5GH Britain

P. S. It is said that today is the tomorrow we worried about yesterday. Perhaps you should be proud as a nation that you have something to do with the fact it didn't turn out so badly after all -- and nor should it again.

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