The world owes the United States a great debt. From security and trade to technology and culture, the world has so much to thank America for. But one American export we don’t all appreciate are your culture wars.
I was born in Britain, and as I write, my own country keeps getting roiled by culture wars imported from yours.
Three years ago, when the United States had its #MeToo moment, it flooded straight across to Britain. It took down, among others, a UK defense minister who 15 years earlier had put his hand on a female journalist’s knee. It was a very British sex scandal, for it involved no sex. But it had all the fury and certainty of America’s sexual counterrevolution.
This week, when a Democratic senator started pretending that the term “sexual preference” is a homophobic slur, the legacy gay press in Britain ran with the same crock claim. Within hours, a term everyone in Britain — including gay people — politely used until yesterday had become a “hate term.”
And, of course, thanks to Black Lives Matter, a very American race-debate has been transplanted wholesale into the UK.
Four years ago, I watched the first major BLM protest in Britain. Echoing the false claims about what had happened in Ferguson, Mo., these protesters marched along London’s Oxford Street with their hands in the air chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Along the route, the protesters were escorted and kept safe by unarmed British police officers, who couldn’t have shot the protesters if they had wanted to.
But the radicals who are trying to impose America’s race wars onto British society keep getting their way.
Ever since the death of George Floyd, we have been flooded with a very American culture war about race. It is taking down some very unlikely victims. The latest is our greatest naval hero.
Admiral Nelson used to be renowned for defeating the French at the Battle of Trafalgar. After his death in 1805, his statue was erected on one of the tallest columns in London. For almost two centuries, Nelson’s Column has stood in Trafalgar Square, staring over Westminster, unmolested by anything but the pigeons.
Now he too faces a toppling. Radical leftists and racial-grievance campaigners are calling for Nelson to go for the same reason that everyone else from the past, including US abolitionists, must now be toppled. Because Nelson is accused of holding views not precisely in line with those of radical progressives in 2020.
Campaigners say that Nelson was a supporter of slavery. The single letter that they base their claim on has been shown to be a forgery, produced after Nelson’s death to recruit his good name to the pro-slavery side.
But toppling him for this fictitious crime is no longer a fringe idea. No less an institution than the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich has announced that it is reviewing Nelson’s “heroic status.” How does it justify this? The museum says that in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, it is re-evaluating the “barbaric history of race and colonialism.”
It is same with almost everything else from our past and present. Ever since events in Minnesota, almost all of British history has been assailed in the name of Black Lives Matter. All major UK institutions have felt compelled to condemn the killing of George Floyd, as though they are suspected of having had anything to do with it. Since the killing, there has also been a ramping up of claims that Britain is “white supremacist” and that our past is “racist.” A country that has done integration as well as any is accused of exercising “white privilege.”
No one and nothing is safe. Since May, BLM protesters and others have repeatedly attacked the statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square. The world’s most famous anti-fascist — the real thing — has now been repeatedly graffitied and attacked by people claiming that Churchill was a racist and that his statue, like everything else, must go.
Ours is a culture war that is now continuously echoing and imitating the culture wars ripping through your great country. I love the United States, as do most of my fellow countrymen. But, oh boy, do we wish you would keep this stuff to yourselves.
Douglas Murray is the author of “The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity.”
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