Dad in 1973
Forty odd years ago in Liverpool, aged seven and snot nosed in short trousers, I asked my late Father why he'd left the USA to go and live in the United Kingdom. This was 1977 and Dad had been living in merry England for some years. Why in Sam Hill did he move from New England to Old? What was wrong with America, why did he leave? With a sardonic twinkle in his bourbon eyes, he growled down at his Number Two son, "Because my country had been taken over by sissies. That's why!"
Dad in 1984
Forty some years later, Dad has gone up to the great publication in the sky and I'm the one who's living down here in the US of A, the land of the sissies. Maybe the Old Man was right about that one. I have been living here for four odd years and all I ever hear and see in this prosperous land of gleaming teeth and perfect beards is the irrational fear and hate of impotent white men. Suffice to say, right now, at times, America, my other homeland, almost seems like its own worst enemy. As for Dad, death bed observers inform me that the election of "President Trump" was one of the things that sent the Old Man, a lifelong Democrat, to the other side on Nov 28th, 2016.
But that wasn't the only shock election result in the History of my American Dad. I still remember the ashen look etched upon his face in November 1980 when the energetic Republican Ronald Reagan unseated the incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter by a landslide. Open mouthed, shaking his head at the beaming, clown-faced figure of Reagan on the black and white TV set, I had never seen my American Dad quite so melancholy. There was no trace of hope or optimism in his face. What was it, the high unemployment and inflation rate back home? So, aged ten and small change, I asked,"What's up Dad, are you OK?" He turned and shook his head from side to side with a bewildered look of defeat. "This is the worst day in the history of my nation." It didn't matter to Dad that Reagan had been Governor of California since 1966; it didn't matter that Reagan had been president of the Screen Actors Guild and active in Hollywood union politics since the 1950s; no, this was Ronald Reagan, the asshole who once played second fiddle to a chimpanzee in Bedtime for Bonzo.
Dad and the boys in Liverpool (1977).
The brilliant blue skies of Atlanta in February 2017 are a long way from soggy Liverpool in 1977, or muggy old London town in November 1980. Yet here I am, in the US of A, the land of the Old Man, the land of my grandparents and their forebears. I'm an Englishman in Atlanta, the capital city of the Old South; a Scouser in Atlanta, looking for a new narrative, new themes, new characters, new conflicts; and not because my other country, the UK, has been taken over by Brexit "sissies," I'd like to point out. That said, for the record, I am very disheartened about Article 50, our planned exit from the E.U. and the woolly hearted Labour Party going along with it all. The establishment were all for the E.U. back in June. Well, quite a few of us... what the Hell happened?
So I am taking sanctuary from Brexit woes, and the slow death of my beloved Labour Party, in Trump's America. I would like to say that I have been having a lot of insightful conversations with colonials about the shock election of the huckster tycoon, but I haven't. There are not many good conversations to be had out here in general, you see. The city seems to be peopled with dullards and ill-bred yahoos (rudeness, I gather, is very popular), and the average attention span in a conversation is only eight seconds long. Poor interpersonal communication skills aside, what gets me down about the indigenous population at post is their sheer ignorance of the world at large. None of them are informed about current geopolitical events, domestic or international, and are only interested in deconstructing the latest episode of "The Walking Dead" -- an ultra violent post-apocalyptic soap opera that borrows its premise from John Wyndham's Day of the Triffids (a book that a lot of these colonial geeks have never even heard of).
My neighbor was one of the heads behind this classic ad campaign from the early 1970s
Last year in Notting Hill, back home in London, I was complaining to my super loaded upstairs neighbor, a legendary ad-man who is forever talking about his gung-ho days as a squaddie in 1950s Cyprus, that I was fed up of going all over the world and being the most sophisticated person in the room. "I have exactly the same problem," he said. We both decided that it would be a wiser policy to keep our traps shut, our thoughts of superiority to ourselves and to just take in the ebb and flow of life without too much judgment either way. Great minds think alike and fools seldom differ. But what am I to make of Trump's America? I am an American. And Trump or no Trump, unlike Alistair Cooke, one of my journalistic heroes, I'm not that crazy about the joint. Or its people.
This is my Roy "Pretty Boy" Shaw pose (London 2010)