From Holly O, “Queen and Country, God and Guns,”:
Though our stars tend to rise and fall in opposition through the years, your reputation for adventure, fearlessness and a legendary hunger for more lingers, and for the most part we find that admirable— no, more than that—we find it astonishing.
We may denigrate your American whisky (as well as your tendency to spell it with the Irish ‘e’) as you joke about our pasty faces and reliance upon dentures but we are cousins—if not always kissing —and share a rich common language, culture, customs and cuisine. We are more alike than different in nearly every respect but these: One, we are a constitutional monarchy and Two, despite what you may have heard we really, really envy you your guns.
America has always seemed the dangerous, glamourous older brother. You were the cowboy, the gangster, the astronaut and the comic book hero of our collective imaginations. You were the captain of the debate team, dating the homecoming queen and cruising through life in your ’55 Chrysler, one hand on the wheel, elbow on the door, working on that car tan.
The 40’s, 50’s and 60’s were perhaps your finest hours. During World War II you were overpaid, oversexed and over here, breaker of hearts and hymens. The winds of heaven tousled with a loving hand your perfect hair, the sunlight glinted off your straight, white teeth. After the war you invented rock and roll and corn dogs and forty-seven million things to do with sugar including LSD, and we were dazzled.
While we were washing under our arms from basins of cold water in cold rooms in a bitterly cold country, you were inventing the hot tub. At the cinema, we would bask in shimmering visions of your highways and high fashions, your Endless Summer California culture, your glittering skyscrapers and flawless pavements, then trudge home and tune in the wireless for a Parliamentary debate on whether or not we could afford to clean centuries of coal smoke from our cracked, blackened and bombed-out buildings.
While you were bringing Caesar Salad, Martinis, Bananas Foster, Baked Alaska and the almighty, sacred Hamburger into the world, we anticipated the prospect of instant mashed potatoes finally becoming available down the local shops. We were unimaginably insular; it is within living memory that people in Britain believed spaghetti grew on trees.
Despite pretensions to polite behaviour we relished your films and television programmes like The Godfather, The Maltese Falcon, The Third Man and White Heat; more recently The Sopranos, Breaking Bad and Deadwood—the more violent the better. We admired Clint Eastwood’s entire oeuvre. We devoured books like Lonesome Dove and the works of Steinbeck, Hemingway, Mark Twain and Raymond Chandler. Some of us even like bluegrass but those people are mainly in the looney bin. We treasure pretty much everything about you, but we’re British so you don’t hear us mention it very often
Some Britons flinch when one suggests ever needing a gun in Old Blighty but don’t believe the lukewarm protestations. As the past few years have unfolded any remaining hesitation is apt to change, and soon. What we are beginning to remember is that for thousands of years everyone on this island was armed at all times with daggers—with swords if you could afford them, with throwing axes and longbows for truly special occasions. Personal defence was not just a choice, it meant accepting full responsibility for individual safety beyond city or castle walls. Defending ourselves with grace and strength and skill was something we once took great pride in.