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There has been such enthusiasm for Barack Obama in Britain that it is strange no one seems to have looked into his feelings about Britain. It is perhaps natural for his foreign supporters to assume that their adoration of the president-elect will be returned, but there is no indication that Obama is at all Anglophile or interested in the "special relationship" in any profound way. All indications seem to be that he will be much more interested in winning the affection of what used to be called the Third World than in paying attention to the adoring electorates of Western Europe. Moreover, it's possible that he might look past all the British talk about how wonderful it is to have a black man in the White House and notice with distaste how little minority representation there is in British public life.

It will certainly be interesting to see if his election prompts a genuine and profound shift in British attitudes to America. Many people believe that the Bush presidency has deepened anti-American feeling in the UK, though the gloating reactions to the 9/11 attacks by the likes of Cambridge professor Mary "they had it coming" Beard might imply that anti-Americanism was already established as a virulent force in establishment Britain long before W. arrived in the White House. You can quite easily detect deeper currents of hostility or jealousy or disdain that have little to do with any particular administration, everywhere from newspaper headlines ("Yanks Kill Our Boys" about a friendly-fire accident in Afghanistan) to the way that popular slang has evolved: it's fascinating, for example, that "cowboy" in Britain is a pejorative adjective implying carelessness, lawlessness and lack of integrity, whereas in America its connotations are almost all virtuous.

Some clue to the way things might turn is offered by the spate of books, and radio and television programmes, prompted by the imminence of the American presidential election. They purported to examine the United States, her character and her role in the world; many of them were presented by media celebrities like Stephen Fry, Simon Schama and Jon Snow. Some, like Fry's, were genuinely affectionate. Others were patronising or verged on the hostile. It was probably telling that a BBC Radio 4 debate about the greatest influences on America included the radical leftist Howard Zinn but did not seek to balance his extremist vision of America as an agent of evil with an equally fervent pro-American booster.

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January 30th, 2009
8:01 PM
There are a lot of british people who wouldn't be sorry to see the end of the special relationship either.

December 20th, 2008
11:12 AM
Although having only visited America 3 times, as a Brit who for 30 years or so worked and lived among Americans in the UAE, Bahrain and Hong Kong, I can be counted among those Britons who love America & Americans. In my experience you're right, Americans are decent, well-mannered, confident without arrogance, and, well, just plain nice! Hospitable, friendly, interested in what's around them - I could go on, but you get my drift.... Having returned to live in the UK I've been bewildered by the strength of some people's anti-American feeling, but you have explained it satisfyingly & articulately - thank you for a fascinating article.

December 10th, 2008
5:12 PM
Hey we are different places and simplistic stereotype bashing is all too easy. Americans are just too damn over the top (fine in the US but dont get upset about our opinion of it). Your too religeous (the Taliban would run a mile if they realised how quasi religeous you all were). Aint it time you had a top woman if you are so liberal. Blacks have been in the US since the start and are established members of society. Whats all the fuss about electing one a president? They are a new phenomenon in europe and getting themselves established will take time. I would be interested to know how many Americans were in Bangladesh, in my experience they dont get around much. Why does America run the UN? Why are we in the Gulf and not the Congo?

December 7th, 2008
12:12 PM
Obama has no identifiable ties or affections toward the UK. HIs cabinet is pragmatic, and his policies will reflect this. The "special relationship" between the US and the UK will sound more and more like old imperialistic rhetoric- a relic of the past.

December 6th, 2008
12:12 AM
You're right. oddly we sort of consider the Aussies as cool Brits on holiday. Of course NZ and OZ I should have been on my list. Probably a couple of other former colonies too but point made.

December 4th, 2008
4:12 PM
To Brianson: 'There are only two places in the world I would raide my children other than Canada.The UK and the US.' You can add Oz and New Zealand to your list. Two other wonderful countries to live and raise children and in whom you can trust. Enjoy your hockey game.

December 4th, 2008
2:12 PM
Canada perspective. There are only two places in the world that I would raise my children other than Canada The UK and the US . So please feel free to trash each other over who is the second and third best places to live in the world.( Canada being no. 1 of course) But this Canuck say's "May God bless and Protect you both" and I'm proud to call you both my friends. Now grab a beer from the fridge and sit down I'm trying to watch the hockey game.

December 4th, 2008
3:12 AM
To Anonymous (posted Dec 3, 1:11pm): You said, "Perhaps the citizens of the USA should look at the reasons we do not trust them. For instance citizens of the UK need visas to visit the USA. there is no requirement the other way around." This is NOT true. Great Britain is one of 34 countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program. This program has been around for more than 20 years and has been utilized by millions of people, day in and day out. If you consider this one of the reasons you distrust America(ns), then perhaps you need to rethink things a little bit.

December 3rd, 2008
2:12 PM
I think the main problem we have here is the generalisation of both Britain AND America. But I do think it would be fair to say that I don't have a good view of America. The only things I know of America are those from the media, which, catering towards an anti-american Brit is normally negative. It reinforces stereotypes and we 'love to hate' America. I would like to say also that, I have lived in two completely different counties (or states, i suppose) and black people are very sparse (that is America NOT Britain). The make up of these counties (probably a different story in London) has been mostly 'english' followed by recent eastern european and asian populations. Relations between these populations are not strong because they come in huge groups and we do not know how to handle them. The reason they may not become politicians is purely ignorance and fear. We are scared of them, they are scared of us etc. They have the same rights and we are on the road to becoming 'one' community- they will not want to become politicians yet. We cannot compare Britain and America because they are so very different. At the end of the day, why should we care about America when all they care about is THEIR country whilst showing little regard for any other place on earth. They seem to think they rule (or simply ARE) the world. Watch any 'doomsday' film and parts of the 'world' (America) are shown and how each one of them is affected. Finally I'll say that I'll start to 'understand' America/ns when they understand and respect us in return.

December 3rd, 2008
2:12 PM
You tend to use the term anti-American Americans for people that criticize your government or its ideals. By that and only that it is clear you have no idea what America stands for and should be for the world, even though you claim to be one. Your idea of patriotism is a frightening one and will continue to spook us Europeans.

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