American Shithole #24 — A Love Letter to the UK, Revisited
By Eric Wilson
I penned this love letter to the United Kingdom in the summer of 2016, quite possibly hours after news of the Brexit vote (a decision that will likely end up as the worst in the Commonwealth's history). I felt awful for my friends across the sea, so I did what I could. I tried to make them laugh, and feel loved.
At the time I was still reasonably certain sanity would prevail, both here and abroad — we were in the dark about many things. Sadly, and to all our misfortune, America (never keen to be outdone) followed UK suit a few months later with an election result that made the Brexit debacle look fairly manageable, by comparison.
Can you remember what it was like to be somewhat carefree and ever-hopeful, the way some of us idiots were leading up to that November 2016 horror show? Well, smell the joy I was once capable of, dear reader! Sniff the whimsy. I was happy once. Anywho, I hope you enjoy this celebration of culture.
My sentiments remain the same.
June 30, 2016
A Love Letter to the UK
Dear United Kingdom,
I look forward to my evenings in the living room, like many Americans. We tend to gather there at the end of the day. I find comfort winding down when the lights are low, enjoying some candlelight perhaps, and the gentle whir of my fan — after the others have gone to sleep.
Quite often at this hour of the night, I’m catching up on world events on the BBC, or watching other UK programming on the telly. Since I won’t be enjoying (non-Brexit) BBC news for a while, tonight instead I’m listening to the plucky, determined, soothing voice of Sir David Attenborough narrating Planet Earth: Frozen Planet.
I love BBC America. It isn't just the vernacular of dignitaries like Attenborough that draw my attention, although I do love the dialects of the UK. I love language in general, but I have always had a particular fondness for the accents of the United Kingdom. I love BBC America's window back to fond childhood memories (which I will get to in a moment) but there is so much more. I love the culture of the United Kingdom. I feel a need to be close to it. I feel, and have always felt, drawn to Scotland, Ireland, and England.
I would include Wales, but I have only recently figured out where Wales is, and I still have no idea who the Welsh actually are. The English and Welsh, I liken them to the Pennsylvania Dutch and the Amish. I know where they live, I know they are different, but I don’t quite know how.
Pardon my wandering ways, I am writing today to celebrate. I love the Culture of the United Kingdom. I love your music. I love your film, I love your literature, and I love your comedy.
Sunday nights when I was 13, in 1981, I had you all to myself. I had Monty Python, Dr. Who, and Hitchhiker’s Guide every Sunday night, and I didn’t care that I was stuck in my suburban bedroom, hovering inches away from my tiny black-and-white television. I was transfixed, hypnotized by these seminal works in comedy and science-fiction, and they still shape the way I approach comedy and storytelling today.
— At this juncture it should be known that Ari, my trusted friend and living companion, has decided to narrate for the bison on Frozen Planet.
A young, powerful bison encroaches on another alpha bull's territory during mating season, edging dangerously close to the females...
(Ari, slyly) “What’s up bitches…?”
The Clash! You gave the world the Clash! I love The Clash. And Bowie, Elvis Costello, Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, the fucking Rolling Stones. You gave me Pete Townshend. Jeff Beck, Clapton, hell, we had to give you Hendrix because we Americans were too daft to appreciate his genius the way only you apparently could. Joy Division, New Order, the Cure, the Smiths, I mean, jeez Britain — your rock pedigree and prowess are beyond formidable — bringing UK rock into a debate on modern music, is equivalent to bringing a fourteen-inch wang to the Shag Olympics.
I loved your music so much, that I loved you, dearest UK, from the very beginning.
Two great males center off, one young, one old, each reaching for that last burst of momentum as they lunge, crashing together, their horns colliding with a deafening, reverberating crack...
(Ari scowls at the display) “This male, do anything to get your dick wet, even die behavior is the…”
While Ari’s observations on the shortcomings of man are accurate, her appraisals often weave in and out of other stories — where sometimes I tune back in to find she has moved on to a dream she had about Orange is the New Black. In fairness she is not the only one who drifts. Back to my love letter, oh Greatest of Britain.
Bringing UK rock into a debate on modern music, is equivalent to bringing a fourteen-inch wang to the Shag Olympics.
As if Hendrix wasn’t enough, we even gave you the greatest stand-up comedian of my generation, Bill Hicks. We didn’t get him either. Not that you needed him, you’ve been an embarrassment of riches with comics like Eddie Izzard, Billy Connolly, Stewart Lee, Jimmy Carr, Frankie Boyle and so on. And the sketch comedy that came in the wake of Python is unmatched. Sketch comedy is where you really shine. Black Adder is literally peerless (although technically not sketch, per se). That Mitchell and Webb Look is unstoppably funny. Absolutely Fabulous destroyed me back in the day. Humor permeates every aspect of your society.
This brings me to literature, where we really get to talk about an embarrassment of riches. There are more dusty tomes regarding the importance of your literature, than many countries produce on all subjects combined. Granted they are mostly written by Brits, but this does not diminish the gravity of the contribution in literature that the United Kingdom has bestowed. Shakespeare’s work alone must tip the scales. The scope of its influence is mythic itself and near unfathomable, which is the rarest of air to breathe. Charles Dickens, George Orwell, Jane Austin, Charlotte Brontë, J.R.R Tolkien. Not to mention your poets…
The young bull, defeated, stumbles off into the cold, bloodied and alone.
“You had him,” Ari whispers. “How the hell did you let this happen?”
Oh, England…how did you let this happen?
So I know you are hurting, UK, and I could ask you the same question, but I already know the answer. Instead I offer this — a love letter from me to you. Culturally, artistically, you have brought more to the table, per capita, than any nation in the world. I am not going to get into a discussion about ancient Egypt, Greece or Rome, and what they’ve done for humanity.
You came up with the important things, like Chicken Tikka Masala, and pairing the fish with the chip. Regardless of its heritage, you gave us rock 'n' roll. Your literary masters aren’t giants; they are the titans, the gods themselves. And for me, above all else, I love your culture for the heart of it, where a love for laughter and comedy like no other resides.
So here it is UK. I know you are hurting right now, but I love you. Europe loves you. I know it doesn’t seem like it right now, but they do. And really, could you blame them if they didn’t? Look, we all make mistakes. I once intentionally stuck my foot into the spokes of the front wheel of my crappy BMX bike as a kid. While going downhill. Don’t let this get you in a funk. This is a love letter, my good friends. So listen up, and listen closely. Lean in.
Just fix it. We‘ll help. You gotta get in there and fix this one though. Everybody up and at ‘em! Dust off your copy of 1984, put on London Calling, contact your Ministry of Silly Walks — whatever you’ve got to do to get the confidence to get on top of this thing. You guys are Great Britain! You have Great right there in your bleeding name! What would David Attenborough do?
Come November I hope you’ve no need to write us a similar letter in return. That would be awkward.
(Author's Note: Two years later, it's still awkward, embarrassing, horrifying, etc...)
Many warm wishes,
Unemployed American Wanker