By the end of this week in the United Kingdom, if recent trends remain consistent (and there’s no high-profile reason to believe they will deviate), one person will have died from gun violence. That figure is still an integer too high, but let’s compare that with the United States. As of this afternoon, 150 people have been killed by unfortunate exercises of the country’s Second Amendment freedoms – and the week isn’t over. Also because America is nothing if not a democracy, over 28 states contributed to the week’s body count, from every region of this great land.
Switching gears from the contrast in international murder, let’s take a look at the week in racism (gun violence and bigotry are often inextricably linked in the U.S.A., but that’s an expostulation for another day). Today, May 19, 2018 is the day that the very English Prince Harry married a bi-racial, divorced American actress named Meghan Markle– and his father Prince Charles walked her down the aisle. The British Royal Family has officially taken the stick out of its arse and joined the 21st Century. What a time to be alive. I hope somewhere the late Princess Diana is smiling at the fruits of her own progressive battles with convention and tolerance. Cheers to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
Meanwhile over here in the United States of America, President Trump referred to undocumented immigrants as “animals” during a Wednesday meeting at the White House. And since we already know that POTUS doesn’t care for pets and finds those that adopt them to be “low class,” we can assume the name calling wasn’t misspoken affection.
The chasm between the national values and morals of the Land of the Free versus the Motherland has seldom felt wider. Time was, say during the Boston Tea Party days of 1773, we could creditably argue occupation of the scrupled high ground. Leaving aside the conditions of native people, women and men of color (which pretty much everyone did in 1773), the white male British subjects in the New World felt a superiority to those across the Atlantic. That belief was grounded in something more than delusion. Writing in The American Colonies: From Settlement to Independence, Richard C. Simmons observed:
“[There emerged a] kind of unformed nationalism…growing up with more and more men in more and more colonies speaking and writing of an American cause that they largely defined in terms of protecting American liberties against British tyranny.”
What a difference 245 years makes. It’s not like England is perfect in 2018. We’ve got a Cheeto as our Commander-in-Chief, they’ve got feckless Prime Minister Theresa May and the very stupid self-made mess that is Brexit. But there’s a lot that can be forgiven when a nation’s citizens have socialized access to healthcare and education. American families possesses one and a half trillion dollars in student loan debt, and 55 percent of our residents have medical bills they can’t afford. It’s no surprise that on measures of income inequality and middle class sustainability, the United States lags woefully behind the U.K.
Two wealthy nations with interconnected histories, both led by self-declared conservatives. But as time marches on in the Trump era, the dissonance between Washington’s cesspool of corruption, hatred, violence and gold-plated inequality versus our professed founding embrace of “liberty for all” grows louder and more painful. At the same time, seeing England’s imperfect embrace of social modernity via this weekend’s Royal Wedding is all the more enviable since the throngs of British people taking to the streets to celebrate are unafraid of public massacre.
GunPolicy.org estimated that there were 3.78 guns per 100 people in the U.K. in 2010. The U.S. meanwhile has more than 100 guns for every 100 people. Our nation’s children have been victims in 22 school shooting so far this year. Across the Atlantic that number is zero.
The escapism offered by the marriage of Prince Harry to an American commoner was good fun while it lasted. We must now return to a national reality without castles, public safety, much of a social safety net and transparently racist leaders who make stuffy old Queen Elizabeth look like a modern Jeremy Bentham.