I don’t know whether that was a baptism by fire or merely an avalanche, but let’s just say that my post in which I listed 10 places I’d sooner live than have a green card has left me feeling kind of dumped on.

Quite right too: when you stick your neck out, you’ve got to stand there and let the rotten tomatoes rain down on you. Thank you for all of your comments, whether I like or agree with them or not. I was a little surprised at how many respondents read things that were not written. “Hate”, for instance. I hate neither Americans nor their country. It was also interesting to watch the tone of comments change the more they poured in. They started off warm and friendly, cooled a little, chilled, and once 24 hours had gone by it had become a barrage of outrage and not a little venom.

Who said anything about hate? I certainly did not. I love so many American things that I could fill a book with them; my life would be significantly the poorer without all the American things that brighten any dull day.

I do not, repeat not, wish to live there and I was a tad rude, I guess, in the way I chose to make this point. I was smiling at the time of writing, but not everybody saw the funny side of what it might be like for some non-Americans to be surrounded by Americans everywhere you go, day in and day out.

Some people feel that way about the Brits or the French. The English are terribly rude about the Irish and the Welsh. Many Irish cannot stand the English, except perhaps for Liverpudlians. The Welsh have a go at the Irish too. A speaker at a dinner at Powys in Wales years ago said: “The Welsh are just Irish who can’t swim.” I think he was English. I was never quite sure who was being insulted, by whom, but everybody laughed.

I stand corrected on the matter of who doles out green cards in lotteries; I had presumed “America” might have something to do with the granting of the right to live there. But the point remains valid: there is a perception that a green card is just so damn desirable that surely almost anybody would kill to get one. To many it is, but there are some of us who are immune to its charms.

Several places in the US are near the top of my travel wish list. I’d kill to visit San Francisco and New York. New Orleans sounds like the most compelling place on Earth, Katrina or not. Las Vegas and Los Angeles complete my admittedly short list, for all of the obvious reasons, and those respondents who remarked on how sure they were that I had never been to the US were right. I’ve been longing to go for many years, but somehow life has not taken me there. I live in hope and I have no doubt that I will be richer for visiting the US. (If they’ll let me in.)

Having said that, we all experience America in many ways, even without the privilege of visiting the US. Yet you get a sense that some Americans seem not to be aware of quite how deep and broad their country’s influence in the world is. People from other countries feel they have a right to comment on the things Americans do and say, simply because America has thrust itself so resoundingly on to the world stage and sits there making a lot of noise, not all of it welcome.

The tentacles of America’s political and cultural influence intertwine over the entire globe. So many American things are a routine part of my life that I could not begin to count them. Without all the American things in our daily lives, life on planet Earth simply would not be the same. Much of it is marvellous: jazz, rock’n’roll, musicals, literature, poetry, most of the greatest movies ever made, superbly crafted stage plays. Who could hate all that? Not to mention the way Uncle Sam has of poking his nose into the business of certain other countries. Sometimes that is welcome, but not always.

And so we feel that we have a vested interest — because we do — in who governs the US. And so we follow the American presidential race keenly, because whoever America chooses as its leader is to some extent our leader too, whether we like it or not. Because America makes it so.

For me the presidential race is pure theatre. I love it. I have been following presidential elections ever since Jimmy Carter ran for office; it was pure spectacle watching this Southern peanut farmer cut a swathe through state after state.

Back then, being a child of the Sixties, I had thought of America as a land of tremendous freedom, a country that rejoiced in the enshrinement of civil liberties. I had interpreted this as meaning that most Americans were fairly libertarian in outlook. When, four years ago, Americans handed George Bush, hardly a libertarian, a landslide return to office for another four dreary years, I was not merely disappointed. I was shocked. I do not thank the American electorate for that and I know that I am not alone.

When Americans go to the polls, when they cast their vote, to a degree they are voting on behalf of the rest of the world, such is the country’s global influence. Come November 2008, some of us will be hoping that the leader America gives the world will be one a damn sight more capable of running a country, let alone a planet, than the present incumbent.

So, please, if there is any way you guys could keep bomb-bomb-McCain out of the Oval office, please do. It wasn’t the greatest of the Beach Boys’ songs by a long shot, if you’ll pardon the expression, but this kind of insult Brian Wilson did not deserve.

The America that the world admires is not the one that bombs and occupies foreign countries. It is not the one that wags its finger at the world and tells other countries that they should do things the American way. Nobody likes a bully.

Give us back the America we knew and loved, even from afar. There’s a chance coming up to do that, this November. We are all part of the American world. Make it worth living in again. Please.


Tony Jackman

Tony Jackman

Tony Jackman is a journalist, budding playwright and sometime chef. He's written two plays, An Influence of Ghosts and Blue Train Coming, and back in the day wrote loads of songs. He paints a bit in watercolours...

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