Thursday, February 3, 2011

Two nations...

The UK and the USA share a great deal of heritage, but there are some interesting differences in outlook between us. For instance, I've been at protests in the UK where signs have been held aloft proclaiming: "Come Back Wat Tyler, All Is Forgiven", or "Where is Guy Fawkes when his country needs him?". Both of these figures were rebellious, and a rough equivalent in the US would be along the lines of substituting John Wilkes Booth or Lee Harvey Oswald (side note: it would appear to be a very good idea for Presidents to avoid men with three names), and I realised that that would be utterly unthinkable. On the other hand, both Tyler and Fawkes were ultimately unsuccessful, whereas Wilkes and (according to most sensible hypotheses; I don't intend to get into that quagmire) Oswald both succeeded in killing their targets; perhaps a better parallel would be John Flammang Schrank, who failed to kill Theodore Roosevelt in 1912; in fact Roosevelt gave a campaign speech shortly after being shot. However, Schrank is almost unknown; everyone over here knows Teddy was so tough he gave a speech after taking a bullet to the chest, but hardly anyone could tell you who the shooter was. I looked it up, on Wikipedia; I have no idea of the reliability of the information.

I thought about this for a while; the national outlooks are otherwise so similar, but the British seem more inclined to allow leaders of rebellions to become folk heroes. Then, I realised; the Americans have done exactly the same. Their Founding Fathers were all insurrectionists. All of them rebelled; they won, but that doesn't keep them from having been rebellious in the first place. Really, we're not so different after all; it's just that the American rebellious folk heroes became the establishment, while the British ones were honourable failures.


  1. However, in some parts of the country, it wouldn't surprise me to see signs that said "Where is Jefferson Davis/Robert E Lee when you need him?"

    You can romanticize the failed rebellions for precisely that reason.

    Additionally, the examples you gave are from HUNDREDS of years ago. It's still waaaaay too soon for Oswald. For ex, if someone held up a Wat Tyler sign in 1405, for example, I'd bet that person's head would be decorating Tower Bridge shortly thereafter.

  2. There's also the fact that the Secret Service would defecate masonry at such things. The US has remarkably little sense of humour about that sort of thing.


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