Dublin catches Yankophobia
Americans have replaced the English as Ireland's Public Enemy Number One.
- America as the new England
‘Fuck off America.’ So read perhaps the simplest and most catching placard at Dublin’s anti-war march last Saturday. Although it would be dishonest to assert that such sentiment authentically reflected the mood of all protesters, who were not for the whole part simply being ‘anti-American’, it did point to a pervasive strain of Yankophobia not uncommon in Ireland today.
A while ago, anti-Americanism was only a minority interest. The Irish have historically seen Americans as kinsmen of sorts: the nation that similarly fought off British oppression, the country where its best were forced to flee to make new lives for themselves. John F Kennedy was thus a hero for previous generations of Irishmen. His Irish-American contemporary, Chicago-born Edward M Moran, went so far as to tour Ireland in the 1960s campaigning for it to become, literally, the 51st state.
Through Hollywood, the USA has traditionally returned the compliment. Thanks to countless US films, the world now understands that Irishmen are loveable rogues, talented dancers and reluctant freedom fighters, while the English are supercilious villains, baby-butchers and closet homosexuals.
It’s a bit fresh therefore to witness such hostility today. One theory for this transformation is that ‘America is the new England’, as we say in journalese. In the Irish Republic, anti-English hostility has subsided in recent years. Fewer people remember the brutality of the 1920s, and despite the best efforts of some writers and academics trying to cultivate ‘Famine survivor guilt syndrome’, the Irish in the Twenty-Six Counties are less interested in history than any time I can remember.
Everyone’s bored of Northern Ireland, too busy getting rich and reinventing themselves as ‘Europeans’. ‘Returned Yanks’ are looked on less with awe and curiosity than with polite condescension and occasional derision.
The rhetoric has not changed, just the target. There is anger and frustration against these colonialists and imperialists: the Americans. And it is appropriate that the loudest shouts are coming from Sinn Fein. What I find a little more dishonest is Gerry Adams and co lecturing the Irish public on how they’ve been able to seek resolution through dialogue. I cannot have been the only one to have regarded with irony the countless Sinn Fein placards saying ‘Peace’, ‘No to War’ and so on. Yes, we know about the peace process and all that, but come on, spare us the piety.
- Fuming at the Yanks
Even the pro-smokers are trying to tap into this anti-American feeling. No one in Ireland is talking about the proposed smoking ban in pubs here, which is why I apologise for ‘raising awareness’ about it here for the final time. But I did think it amusing to read one correspondent to the Irish Times fuming that ‘a ban on smoking only indicates how much more Americanised our government seems to want us to become. Having forced us to accept American warplanes refuelling at our airports, the next step seems to be to adopting their social policies’.
It is not quite as funny as the Irish Times/MRBI poll which indicates that 60 percent of the population agree with the new anti-smoking legislation. On the other hand, there’s some real entertainment to be had from the now enormous warnings to be found on the sides of cigarettes. There is, of course, the regulation ‘Smoking kills’ and ‘Smoking when pregnant harms your baby’. But there are some fare more imaginative examples: ‘Smoking clogs the arteries and causes heart attacks and strokes’, ‘can cause a slow and painful death’, ‘is highly addictive, don’t start’, ‘seriously harms you and others around you’, ’causes ageing of the skin’, ‘may reduce the blood flow and cause impotence’, and ‘Cigarettes contain benzene, nitrosamines, formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide’.
It’s odd how the state oscillates from the menacing ‘You’re going to die you bastard, ha ha ha!’ theme to the therapeutic and the appeal to the narcissistic. Tough love indeed from a nanny state. Very ‘Third Way’. Though I do adore the last example. That’s not going to scare anyone. Smokers know that it’s these kind of chemicals that make fags taste nicer in the first place.
- Ireland disunited
Everyone’s far too interested in the latest Roy Keane affair to concern themselves with such trifling issues. Many are complaining in Ireland that he’s put his club in front of his country. Yet, Manchester United are kind of Ireland’s national team. The club has got a superstore in the capital, a city that has seemingly got at least twice as many Man U supporters as even London. Judging by newspaper coverage, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they play in Dublin.
It was thus appropriate that the boat on which I returned to Britain on Wednesday was absolutely heaving with Irish Man Utd supporters, making their way to the clash with Juventus at Old Trafford. There was a couple of football supporters in Juve replica kits too. It would have been funny if there’d been trouble between these ‘Italians’ and ‘Englishmen’, but sometimes journalists just don’t get that lucky.
There was almost trouble a year back on the same boat, with Irish Liverpool and United supporters making there way back home on a Sunday afternoon following both teams playing at ‘home’. As the beer flowed, banter between the two groups intensified. It evolved into stadium-like chanting, with United fans even engaging in a taunting rendition of ‘In your Liverpool slums’. It came to nothing, as I think it slowly dawned on both groups how perverse the slanging match might appear to unwitting Englishmen on board. Heaven knows we have resorted to divide and rule when it has come to Ireland in times past. But over football?
The real irony is that today, compared to the new Dublin, parts of Liverpool and Manchester do look a bit like slums too.
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