Narrative arc

I’ve posted on Facebook about the fact that I’m becoming a US citizen this year. One response I haven’t seen from anyone is surprise. Circa 1995, my (American) friend Leah said I was the most American British person she had ever met. Earlier, in the 80s, I remember someone remarking on my use of obscure Americanisms. Further back still, there’s a photo of me as a child in my favorite shirt of the time — with its US air force insignia and CLEVELAND OHIO on the sleeve. My first computer was a TRS-80 made in Fort Worth, Texas. My first digital watch was from Texas Instruments. I used to sit and read and re-read books about Mission Control, Houston, and the JFK Space Center at Cape Canaveral. I always intended to at least visit here.

I also felt European, though, long after the England I cared about had been trashed. How many people have made a point of going to see the EU headquarters in Luxembourg? I did. I visited Italy, France, Spain, Germany — but also Brussels, de facto EU capital. I came home with EU flags to annoy narrow-minded Little Englanders with.

I never felt like a subject of Her Majesty the Queen. I remember finding the whole Silver Jubilee a really odd event. Seeing my mother post enthusiastically about the Queen’s 90th birthday has been even weirder. Overall my feelings are closer to those expressed by Scottish comedian Arnold Brown back in 1988:

The royal baby. What is it to be called? That is what they are all talking about… Parasite is a nice name. I can see the headlines now: “Little Parasite took her first steps today, at the taxpayer’s expense.”

I was never that angry about the existence of the Royal Family. What has made me really angry is seeing the UK descend into US-style post-factual politics, and watching the UK print media with their overt racism and xenophobia. Yes, they went full Godwin. The fact that the UK’s biggest group of MEPs is the anti-Europe UKIP group is shameful. What, you think the EU is undemocratic and you have no say? Well, maybe that has something to do with your sending someone there who explicitly wants to wreck it. Don’t imagine that the brexit vote is some new aberration — British voters have been giving the finger to Europe for years. (I was tempted to write “giving two fingers”, but that whole Battle of Agincourt V-sign story is a myth.)

This long slow growth of anti-Europeanism and xenophobia, and then the final crescendo of the UK brexit vote coinciding with my approval for US citizenship, makes it feel like my personal journey has been inevitable, somehow fated to be — though no, I still don’t believe in fate.

Overall, it just feels like England and I grew apart over the years. We had our rough patches, we stayed together for years and remained on cordial terms even after I moved out, but now the increasingly frequent angry drunken outbursts make me realize it’s over. The more difficult question I’ve been facing is how I feel about being American. More on that to follow.