Frankly Speaking

I am apparently the last person on earth to have really paid attention to who Carrie Underwood is. Yes, I know it’s a bit shocking. Nonetheless, when I saw her contrasted with blue-state-wannabes Dixie Chicks and trotter-in-mouth lead singer Natalie Maines, I thought I ought to give her a listen. She’s gotta be about the best thing I’ve heard in a long time.

My favourite tune right now is “I Ain’t in Checotah Anymore”. I used to drive through Checotah when I was living in Arkansas and would travel back to Texas. Well, I used to drive around it on the bypass. Of course that was long before Carrie Underwood was even singing at the annual Okrafest. As I’m sure you know if you are one of the 5 million people who has bought the CD, the song harkens back to growing up in small town America.

In the first job I had after moving to this country a number of years ago, my colleagues frequently remarked that I was the most Anglicised American they had known. After all, I liked drinking tea (or cider when we would go to the pub for lunch) and watching football (the round black and white version). I was conversant in British politics and geography and most certainly history.

The longer I live here the more layers of this country I peel off and the more I understand it. The more I understand it, the more American I really am.

Britain is in many ways a filthy place. The language is horrible. The moral climate stinks of decay. The welfare state has perpetuated an underclass of non-achievers that are surely world class. The teen pregnancy rate is the almost the highest in Europe. Corresponding the number of abortions continues to rise.

Britain is a violent place. Much more violent than the US. The US may have more gun crime, but with fewer guns, Brits are happy to knife you or beat the living crap out of you. The thugs are getting younger and younger.

And this is living in Middle England, as it’s called. But that’s just a couple of layers down.

On another level, and a more personal level, it is a matter of communication. This has nothing to do with vocabulary or accents. I get feedback occasionally that students don’t know how to deal with communication style. I know that colleagues sometimes don’t know how to deal with my style. Interpersonal communication in this country is very couched and guarded. No one says what they mean and sometimes they don’t mean what they say.

The British don’t do well with frankness. It’s one of the differences between Tony Blair and George Bush. George is the WYSIWYG President. It endears him to the red states, including the solid South. The blue staters and the British hate him. Tony stumbles around the same way, but mostly behind closed doors. He comes out with smoke and mirrors and makes himself look intelligent while still having no clue.

One of the enduring characteristics of 19th century Southern men is frankness. As Robert E. Lee wrote to his son Custis in 1852, “Frankness is the child of honesty and courage. . . Above all, do not appear to others what you are not.”

I tell students what I think, including exactly what I expect them to do. I tell colleagues what I think, of the students, of the education system. I tell blog readers what I think.

It’s not very British, and frankly I don’t care.


2 Responses to Frankly Speaking

  1. Friggin’ amen!

    I’m all for directness. Where I work, there is a culture somewhat similar to the dynamic you describe. I have already had a handful of occasions in which an issue has arisen and my boss has asked me how I wanted to handle it. “Bring ‘im in and let’s talk face to face.”

    Direct and honest.

    Now, I do not intend to communicate being mean. Simon Cowell isn’t direct, nor is he honest, he’s a rude, arrogant prick. He plays to the television audience, not to the person he’s talking, er, ripping apart.

    There’s a difference between a good ‘n needed kick in the seat, and just venting one’s prideful spleen.

    Anywho, that’s what I think.

  2. Mary says:

    ..”the more American I am…”

    I have to say that we, your American brethren, are really glad to know that you have come to this conclusion at last. There really is a difference in the way we who have been raised in true freedom think…our world view, our expectations and our aspirations. It is in our blood and cannot be got out by living overseas or over a border, not by changing our dress, not by changing our accents to nor even by marrying in. We ARE Americans. We ARE the land of the FREE and the Home of the BRAVE. We ARE Patriots. God Bless America and America, BLESS GOD.

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