Yankee Come Home
I read somewhere that less than two percent of Americans own a passport. As someone who spent 18 years abroad, I can fully understand the average citizen's reluctance to experience the joys of surly service, high prices, questionable hygiene and murderous Muslims. Still, as a journalist covering a multi-national industry, I do my best to keep an open mind about other lands, other cultures– or at least ignore them as best I can.
And then Steve Sutcliffe goes and writes a review of the Ford F150. The feature was called "Meet the world's best-selling vehicle: it's got a 292bhp V8, rear-wheel drive, rides like a 7-series and you can fit half your house into it…" The Autocar rant is a perfect example of Europe's view of America, illustrating the combination of hatred and envy that drives our so-called allies to subvert American foreign policy at every turn.
In his piece, Mr. Sutcliffe wastes no time exposing his anti-American prejudice. In the first paragraph, he states that the F150 appeals to two audiences, "those who don't take life too seriously (which is fine), or those who have so much fresh air between their ears they wouldn't even know how to spell global warming, let alone understand the threat it may pose to our species."
For those of you too stupid to know when you're being called stupid, Mr. Sutcliffe shares a commonly held European belief that the average American– including President Bush– is as dumb as toast. This basic precept gives Mr. Sutcliffe the freedom to criticize American automobiles even as he enjoys them. They're stupid but fun. The reason why the author gives "people who don't take life seriously" a free pass is equally clear– at least to those familiar with Mr. Sutcliffe's predilection for high-speed automobiles whose mileage figures rarely crest single digits.
The hypocritical, condescending scribe's opening salvo also betrays the perspective that global warming is a fact, vehicles are responsible, America has lots of low mpg vehicles, so America (more than anyone else) is killing the planet. Mr. Sutcliffe spells it out even more directly, saying he couldn't possibly endorse the F150 "in an era of giant tsunamis washing away thousands of people on the other side of the world and extreme weather events rapidly turning into ordinary weather events far closer to home".
Of course, it's a bit of a stretch– linking an earthquake-created tsunami and the UK's notoriously miserable weather to America's love affair with a pickup truck– but don't expect any of Mr. Sutcliffe's compatriots to disagree. The UK's political mainstream is rabidly anti-car, taxing personal transportation with unrestrained zeal in the guise of protecting the planet from harmful emissions. Going against the grain would risk alienation from the college-educated chattering classes, of which journalists are a founding member. Better to embrace miserly, unsafe econoboxes, blame the Americans and be done with it.
It's paragraph three, we're still not anywhere near a review of the Ford F150's character, and Mr. Sutcliffe is turning nasty, rejecting his own argument that the US' environmental irresponsibility is down to our mental limitations. He wonders if the Ford truck is "the biggest irrelevance on four wheels and conclusive proof that, by and large, Americans aren't just mugs but thugs in ecological terms." This before even driving the thing.
When Mr. Sutcliffe does begin his actual road test, he can't help but like the F150. This is the envy side of the equation. Quite rightly, he praises the pickup for its ride, steering, acceleration and agility. His adoration is such that he begins to make excuses for the F150's popularity, citing the usual sop that American drivers have "vast amounts of space" and cheap gas. The fact that the F150 sells well in US states smaller than the UK, and that the UK is an oil-producing nation, doesn't appear on Mr. Sutcliffe's editorial radar.
Of course, such flattery must be tempered, which creates the kind of comical love – hate tension you can see throughout European culture. "Despite its impressive ability to do pretty much whatever you ask it to do on the road, we do not, never have, and never will NEED a vehicle like the Ford F150 cluttering up our world." As one of Mr. Sutcliffe's countrymen said so succinctly, methinks he doth protest too much.
The article concludes by stating– again, twice– that the F150 is not for the UK because the roads are more congested, petrol is more expensive, and "our lawmakers (thankfully) have a fair bit more between their ears." And then he doffs his cap and says "no hard feelings, y'understand?" Speaking as a patriotic American who was black-listed by Mr. Sutcliffe, I'm afraid it's not that easy. These days, if you can't play nice, America isn't going to play nice either. You have been warned.
Sherman Lin on Apr 24, 2007
Its always been my understanding that most European countries high taxes on Gas had more to do with historically discouraging civilian consumption of scarce military resources. Then after WW2 it was just socialists run amok. Oh well at least Mr. Sutcliffe can't hold up some British car as paragon of virtue.
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