The ‘Special Relationship’ between the UK and the USA is frequently cited whenever one country raises concerns about the other. It seems, at least in the minds of governments, this is based on long-standing shared values.
So it can be quite a shock when events in America or comments made by Americans reveal just how different our values actually are. The latest such incident is the shocking death of George Floyd and some of the comments which have been made about that.
It seems Mr Floyd had presented fake currency in payment for something and this resulted in the Police being called to arrest him. So far, so normal. At least, one can understand how the Police might take an interest. They might want to ask where he got the note, though it’s quite reasonable he might not remember if he had received it in change for something else he had bought. It depends on whether he knew the note was forged when he tried to spend it, whether he had been an innocent victim or whether he was acting for the forgers in circulating their product. Since he will never be tried we shall probably never know that.
However, what happened next would be far from normal in British eyes. Whether he tried to resist arrest or was just wrestled to the ground, a Police officer pinned him down by placing his knee on the man’s neck until he suffocated to death, a process which took nearly ten minutes. Other officers stood by and watched but made no effort to prevent this strangling being completed. It is hard to understand why they would act like that. Once a suspect has been overpowered and handcuffed it is hard to see what could be gained by continuing to apply such dangerous pressure. It does seem the motive might have been malice rather than restraint.
The authorities seemed slow to charge the perpetrator, or maybe that was just the perception of sections of the public. It seems the officers concerned were disciplined fairly quickly but criminal charges took days longer to implement. In the meantime, protests have led to serious confrontations across America and even in this country.
What struck me, however, was the violence of the language used around the issue. People were trying to justify the destruction of property and public buildings by saying they were taking legitimate steps to remove the source of violence against them. Others were openly recommending the shooting of the protesters. Even a supposedly Christian pastor told a Today presenter if someone were “stealing your goods and setting your house on fire, you'd shoot them...” This is not something any British person can understand. No, we”d call the Police. We might try to push them out of our house or restrain them in some way, but the idea crime could somehow be prevented by murdering someone is simply not something we can understand.
The truth seems to be, hatred thrives much more in America than here because their attitudes are inherently more violent. They express disputes by fighting. Their natural resort is to violence. They expect ordinary citizens to be equipped for violence and see killing as a legitimate form of self-defence. They make and spread around the world large numbers of weapons large and small and are a threat to everything most Brits think of as civilised behaviour. And yet, our leaders claim they share our values. I may be limited in vision, but I find it hard to believe.