uploaded : Wednesday 8th Nov 2006 at 13:24
by : Carol Gould
A transcript of Carol Gould's appearance on BBC 'Any Questions?' may be found at this link:
This past weekend I was a panellist on the nationally-broadcast BBC Radio show ‘Any Questions?’ hosted by Jonathan Dimbleby live from Blackpool, England. Notwithstanding my years of experience in radio, television and theatre I was petrified of the prospect of facing a hostile panel and audience of America-haters.
It transpired that the experience was far from unpleasant, and had I known how congenial the panel, Mr Dimbleby and the warm people of Blackpool were going to be I would have said a lot more than I did.
This column is my chance to say the things on which I was circumspect in Blackpool.
One of the questions posed on the programme related to the ICM Guardian poll in which nearly 70% of Britons said they regard George W Bush a greater threat to the world than North Korea’s Kim Jong Il or Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Frankly, I find this such an outrage that it is possible my brain went into a sort of ‘disconnect’ when Dimbleby asked the panel to comment. OK, I was a coward and should have said ‘The Brits deserve bin Laden or worse’ but I did not. I looked down at the attentive and benign crowd and could feel their warmth. I did not want to insult my hosts. But this idea that any group of people -- be they Guardian or Telegraph or Sun readers -- would consider the American president a greater threat than the potentially genocidal maniacs of North Korea and Iran is beyond belief.
Effectively the relentless radical wing of the British media and Parliament, aided and abetted by the Marxist Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, have brainwashed the British public into believing that George Bush is top of the axis of evil. Much of the hatred of Bush emanates from a loathing of Israel and of the over-hyped ‘Zionist lobby’ fuelled by the media.
On Sunday CSpan broadcast a seminar from the Pew research Centre in Washington in which a similar poll was discussed; the Pew poll found that the world’s citizens now hate Americans, not just George Bush. Having just had to cope ( along with another 200 bewildered Americans) with 1,068 drunken, rowdy and utterly uncouth Britons on a holiday on the Queen Mary 2, I wonder how the world can dislike a nation that so loves Britons and is so polite as a people. On recent trips to the USA I have been stunned by the impeccable manners of Americans of all races and social classes, most particularly of teenagers and children.
The care, generosity and tactile affection displayed by American parents toward their children at sports events I attended is something one rarely sees in Britain. A charge levelled most recently at the Benjamin Franklin Symposium in London last week by a British panellist is that 80% of Americans do not buy passports. I told the group that this accusation, which implies the insularity and ignorance of those dumb Yanks, needs to be put to bed for one reason: Americans get just two weeks’ holiday a year compared to five weeks given to employees here in the UK and six weeks to workers in Europe, plus our many religious and Bank holidays. How can a family tour Europe, China or Australia in a two-week vacation? Family is still a major force in American life, and two weeks gives one just enough time for parents and children at home.
As I stated on the BBC radio programme, America was vilified in 1956 when President Eisenhower refused to come to the aid of Britain, Israel and France in the Suez crisis. When the United States has been resolutely isolationist it is regarded as a pariah. When it intervenes and supports Israel, it is ‘the greatest threat to the world.’
Hearing tonight that Federal Express has cancelled its order for a fleet of European Airbuses and switched its loyalty to Boeing, my mind could not resist a bit of caprice: might this be a morsel of revenge for the relentless anti-Americanism of Europe? If the bumbling incompetence of Airbus is the only reason, that itself underlines the lies about ‘how stupid Americans are.’ If those idiot Yanks can manufacture and deliver on time a fleet of superb 777s they can’t be that dumb. If Fed Ex has given Europe a little taste of revenge against the tsunami of America-hatred, that is a an added bonus of the Boeing deal.
At the end of the protracted debate on President Bush an audience member assessed the American leader as a conglomeration of tyrant, megalomaniac and religious fanatic. I have never understood the extreme reaction George W Bush generates in Britain and Europe. Despite the debacle in Iraq, Bush has presided over an America that is infinitely more socially stable than Britain. Violence has begun to creep into football matches on the Continent, and in recent days players and officials have had to be stretchered off the pitch in home games because of fans throwing missiles at them. Binge drinking and juvenile crime in Britain very likely outdo the same problems in the United States.
College applications are going through the roof in America and crime remains low in many cities. Church and synagogue attendance are high in the USA, and no American youngster does a ‘gap year,’ an exercise I consider a useless and costly interruption to the momentum of college education. I am pleased to learn that the British government is to raise the age for ‘leaving school’ to eighteen. There is minimal aimless ‘school-leaver’ culture in the United States as we have aplenty in the United Kingdom. The African American leadership has involved its youth in community activity through the church. American children are too busy earning money to afford college to go abroad or ‘hang out.’ Both Bill Clinton and George Bush have presided over an America that is moving upward in its collective goals, and the visceral hatred in Britain of the present Commander in Chief is not justified.
The next question on the radio programme dealt with the results of a survey that reveals the high rate of alcoholism, under-age pregnancies, drug abuse and violence amongst British teenagers. They far exceed their European peers in delinquency. Again, I did not want to enrage the gracious Blackpool audience at the Highfield Humanities College, but I still believe American youngsters tie circles around any others I have met anywhere in the world, except perhaps in Israel, where all teenagers, male and female, have to serve in the military.
My mind goes to the upcoming November 11th Remembrance Day commemorations of the sacrifices made by British soldiers at the Somme and on the beaches of Normandy in the two world wars. They had fought to keep Hitler from these shores but now drug-dealing, violence, narcotics, alcohol and under-age sex are the order of the day in Britain. From the Blitz to this: it boggles the mind.
Earlier this year PD James observed on 'The South Bank Show' that in the Britain of her youth the church, respect for the police and national pride united a nation, but these basic values have long ago evaporated. The Union Jack is bizarrely associated by the politically correct powers-that be with neo-Nazis, whilst in stark contrast the Stars and Stripes are proudly ubiquitous across America.
The head of the Daunt Books chain has told the ‘Evening Standard’ that it has refused to stock George Walden’s ‘Time to Emigrate?‘ because the book has a Union Jack on the cover, perceived as ’racist.’ If British children are told that their national flag is an object of shame, how can they even begin to have a sense of pride and identity? There is considerable ridicule heaped upon America in the European and British media, but the opportunities available for the huge majority of American teenagers of all races and faiths far exceeds those on offer to the youth of inner-city Britain.
First, sporting facilities are second to none in high schools and colleges. Girls and boys can expect to be in televised games if their varsity teams make the major leagues. High school basketball attracts huge audiences. Being in a team, in a cheerleading group or in a school band builds friendships and boosts interracial harmony. Young people who have sporting ability receive scholarships to college. Sport is a solution to obesity and keeps teenagers off the streets. A respondent to my radio appearance wrote in to the BBC that they had just spent time in the USA where they had seen the teeming Friday night activity in a local school. They had beem mightily impressed.
Second, the ROTC (Reserve Officers' Training Corps) provides university scholarships to boys and girls who agree to do military training. In recent years many youngsters have been sent to Iraq and Afghanistan and there has been increasing anger about the death toll, but until 2003 ROTC was a popular scheme that reduced juvenile delinquency. As a caller to BBC ’Any Answers’ pointed out after my radio appearance, ( she resented my reference to ’council blocks’ as the source of child crime) wealthy children can turn to crime. American children from wealthy families who go to West Point or to a Naval academy no doubt stay away from trouble.
Third, the church contributes to a reduction in American delinquency. In ’The Atlantic Monthly’ last year a lengthy article detailed the effect the church has had on the African American community. It was decided thirty years ago that the appallingly high crime rate in the inner cities could be solved by bringing black youth into church work. It has been reasonably successful. When I was in Washington last year I learned that youngsters were encouraged to attend church and therefore meet businessmen at afternoon brunches or Sunday dinners. They were sent out to visit heroic black war veterans and the elderly in veterans’ and retirement homes. They took up delivering meals to the needy and old. They joined gospel choirs, some of which had television engagements.
In Britain, where churchgoing has become a source of ridicule and is associated with ‘George Bush fundamentalism’ it would be a tough uphill battle to engage young people in church work, but the Alpha Course is in fact gaining ground in Great Britain.
Finally, American young people work their way through high school and college. They are pleased to wait on tables and wash dishes. The shameful situation in the UK where it is accepted that ‘Britons won’t do these jobs’ (565,000 people have entered the UK this past year including thousands from Eastern Europe) has created a generation that would rather ‘hang out’ than earn money to help their parents.
American children -- including myself -- have for generations worked in two or three jobs to pay for prohibitive college tuition costs. My late father went to college at night and worked i the day. I worked in two jobs, including the college cafeteria, and still got a prestigious Phi Beta Kappa BA degree. Jobs for the young should be a top priority in the UK.
No doubt there are millions of wonderful children emerging from British schools. But radical change in the inner cities is needed before the appalling activities of the painfully young crop of delinquents proliferate nationwide. If this is the Britain of Tony Blair's new Labour I fear for the future of the nation.
On the programme the issue of global warming attracted lengthy discussion. For years -- and even today, in a taxi! -- I have been assailed by angry Britons blaming the USA for this worrying world problem. The United States is responsible for 25% of carbon emissions. So why do the same angry Britons never get excited about the other 75%? I am reminded of the Nazis blaming the Jews for the wheelbarrows of money they had to carry to buy a loaf of bread. Yes, Americans use a lot of energy and that is because they are incredibly hard-working and conscientious. It is a 24/7 society where one may order a pizza at 3AM or get something fixed any time of the day or night by a cheerful, immaculately-groomed and obliging tradesman or woman.
Americans get two weeks’ vacation a year, take an hour for lunch and do not slope off for tea breaks and endless sprees to the local wine bar. This week the American head of the Olympic planning committee has left in disgust. He probably had to deal with a committee and workforce that waffled, took hours for alcohol-sodden lunches and had long discussions about where they would next take their ‘hols.’ Most of all the jaded London Committee probably put him down at every available opportunity and secretly hoped he would leave.
One issue that did not come up on the radio show is the controversial 'Supercasino' planned for London. Since the untimely death of Butch kerzner, who was heavily involved in securing the finance and in the management of the project, the entire exercise seems in jeopardy. Another city in contention is Blackpool. It reminded me so much of Atlantic City. Contrary to the fears many Philadelphians and Jersey shore residents had about the advent of the casino culture, the evil empire did not materialise. The casino hotels are strictly supervised and patrolled. Yes, gambling is a dangerous addiction and every year many suffer as a rsult of this affliction, but the overwhalming majority of visitors to Atlantic City have a splendid time and go home still solvent.
My visit to Blackpool was pleasant and the people delightful. Perhaps I should spend more time in such places, where the populace seemed to welcome me. And maybe the Olympics should be moved to Blackpool, too.