To my dear American Cousins and their Kin

To my dear American Cousins and their Kin

Dear Cousins and your offspring, friends and neighbours – too many to name each…

Your generosity to our family in Britain during WWII was only the first sign of a loving, delightful group of relations in Minnesota, United States. My American mother, Agnes, died at thirty-four, when I was fifteen months old and my sister, Jane, just a year younger than I. The lead-up to WWII and the absence of our British father at his duties as a Naval Officer made for a disrupted world. But you remembered us through the war. After it, we came to visit you and see for ourselves the tremendous success our German emigree family had made of their beautiful town halfway between Minneapolis and Duluth.

Little Falls is the epitome of the American Dream. Our emigree families intermarried, bringing the best of the German Jews to combine with the best of the non-Jewish Germans. They worked as hard as all the developers of America worked. They were rewarded with successful and happy lives. They earned, they gave, they had their cabins by the lakes and they watched the loons arrive, breed and move on. Few things in this world are idyllic. Theirs was.

Bless them forever for the example they set my sister and I. 

We knew even then why they didn’t have to call the USA “great” – because it was. In the changed America of today we hear US politicians qualify their country with the sobriquet ‘great’ more times than they use almost any other word. It’s as though they were no longer so sure. How could that be? Economically, the US is the biggest in the world. Socially, the constitution aspires to the very highest standards of behaviour. Democratically, the aim to give everyone a vote has largely been achieved. Only the weak have to Trumpet their power.

And so, do US politicians doubt America is ‘great’?

I can ask this because, having been born in Britain, I am a British citizen and I have watched what happened to Great Britain – a thoroughly decent, if hierarchical, country – when it found the End of Empire hard to handle. Now scurrying around to be friends with anyone except the neighbours, anxious to maintain the ‘rights’ of conquest, our politicians have lost most of the dignity our country had developed. Undignified losers are almost as bad as insecure winners.

The foibles of claiming to be top dog are of little significance to the ordinary voter. In a country as big as America there are plenty of nooks and crannies in which to hide – at least from most things, but not from international nuclear war. Nor from war that threatens the world’s food and water. Nor from the sufferings of the neighbour, who is now anyone accessible by internet. It means that all neighbours see us and everyone competes with all others. In moderation, a wonderful opportunity to develop further. In excess, the end of the species.

Faced with cataclysmic problems of climate, population, pandemic and artificial intellectual threat, competition becomes selfish and disastrous. A further course of action designed to rile the other country is incomprehensible and extremely dangerous. 

So what should the USA do? It can’t have Chinese spy balloons investigating its munitions stores. It cannot give away the US-invented tactical advantages of technology to a society that is content to keep its costs significantly lower than that of America.

Vigilance, astuteness, political adroitness, learning about the foibles and quirks of a different culture are all competitive and can all be won or lost. True competitors are grateful for the challenge. At the end of each day they sit together, drink a toast and keep an eye on the other person’s firearms. They don’t precipitate the threat of war.

My family will, I am sure, all agree with this. They are people of moderation and tolerance. Can I ask them, please, to try to pass some of that reason to those of their compatriots of extreme views and pugnacious inclinations?

My American family cares for you and I, and for the people in China, Russia and on the Moon, just as much as we care for them.

And that’s a whole lot more than American politicians are showing at present.

God Bless America. God Bless China.

And go on then…

God Bless Great Britain, too. 

Good morning

John Bittleston 

Your views as always more than welcome at 

02 July 2023