There’s an old cliché that the US and the UK are two countries “divided by a common language”. Despite the long and generally amicable relationship between the two places (if you, you know, forget about the war of independence), people still relish the little things that divide us, like the funny way I talk.
When I first arrived in America I was invited to speak at various gatherings, and I often riffed on those differences. It was all pretty fatuous stuff: did you walk on a sidewalk or a pavement, my utter incomprehension of baseball, things like that.
With the benefit of six and a half years here, I now prefer to consider what unites our two countries, rather than what divides us. When it comes to the big stuff, we still stand side by side. Both countries are in many ways defined by their freedoms – freedom of speech, of religion, of association. These are enshrined in the Amendments to the United States Constitution, but England has no written equivalent. The Brits rely instead on cloudier concepts, shrouded by centuries of jurisprudence.
But I like the American system more. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are two of the most exciting and inspiring documents ever written. Whatever you may think of who’s in charge now, the principles and beliefs upon which this country was founded are unimpeachable. They are simply magnificent. People often tell me about their trips to England, how they love and admire all our “history”. But there are certain benefits to youth. I envy America its founding fathers and its Declaration of Independence.
In 1630, as he stood on the deck of the Arabella just before landing in New England for the first time, John Winthrop preached a sermon which talked of the new settlement as a “city on a hill”. Winthrop knew that the eyes of the world would be upon them. Nothing has changed. The world still looks to America for hope, for inspiration, and for guidance.
I feel lucky to have lived in two of the freest and most democratic countries on earth. (As Winston Churchill said, democracy is the worst system of government in the world, apart from all the others.) Living in each country has allowed me to understand more about both. Yes, baseball still drives me crazy. But you know what? There are more important things.