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Jewish World Review Oct. 23, 2000/ 24 Tishrei, 5761

Suzanne Fields

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There'll always be an England. Maybe. -- THERE'LL ALWAYS BE an England, and that's a comfort in a world whirling ever faster with change. We all need verities to hang on to. The English invented wackiness, and the little old lady in tennis shoes, always thought to have originated in Pasadena, actually immigrated to California from England. There's new proof.

A formal government body, the Commission on the Future of Multi-Ethnic Britain, has delivered itself of recommendations on how to fix what may, or may not, be broke in British society, and it could only have sprung from the head of an English relative of that famous little old lady in Pasadena.

Kate Gavron is the wife of Lord Gavron, who contributed more than a million dollars to the Labor Party in the election that put Tony Blair in as prime minister. So Lady Gavron was appointed vice chairman of the commission to find out what it means to be English, and maybe even British. Not much, the commission learned.

You could have fooled some of us. We've always associated England with Shakespeare, the Magna Carta, Lord Nelson and Trafalgar and all that. If you throw in the King James Bible and the Oxford English Dictionary of the language of the race of kings, pretty soon you're talking about a pretty impressive bit of the legacy of Western civilization. And I haven't even mentioned Monty Python, Benny Hill, Fawlty Towers, and the Beatles.

But no. Britain must "revise, rethink or jettison'' its history because much of it is bad and might hurt the feelings of a newcomer. Members of minorities were left out of a lot of the history (probably because they were not around at the time), and Britons should henceforth regard themselves not as a community but as "a community of communities.'' Britons, "who never shall be slaves,'' should henceforth refrain from even regarding themselves as British, because the very word has "racist connotations.'' And "English'' is even worse, how much worse you don't want to know.

Lady Gavron has a nifty idea for making race relations smooth overnight. "It would be great,'' she told the London Daily Telegraph, "if Prince Charles had been told to marry someone black. Imagine what that message would have sent out.''

We can't imagine. If the prince, or anyone else, wants to marry someone black, or pink or green, you might think a lady, particularly a "Lady,'' would not expect him to conform to a quota system in such intimate affairs of the heart. Besides, why should a black, pink or green woman feel good about a marriage designed to make her feel white? That's racist, not romantic, it seems to me.

"We need to acknowledge that there are different ways of looking at history,'' Lady Gavron says. "The problem with the empire was the inequality of power. It was something we did to the Indians and Africans, not with them.''

It's not clear what the Indians and Africans think of all this, but we can imagine. Like all immigrants, they left their homes in search of a better life, and probably thought Britain, bad history, Shakespeare, the Magna Carta, the Beatles and all, was a good place to look for it.

Lady Gavron seems sympathetic in spite of herself, up to a point. She doesn't want to give up her husband's title, of course. She rails about the peerage, but only the hereditary peerage, which her husband's is not. His title will die with him. "We should keep the name Trafalgar Square. If you got rid of everything bad you would have nothing at all. We'd have to start losing the Norman names too if we were being purist. I love the hymns, such as `Jerusalem' and `I Vow to Thee My Country.' I am embarrassed by the words but the music is wonderful.''

Ordinarily, no one would be obliged to treat any of this as anything more than the daydreams of eccentrics with their arteries going hard and with nothing to do at tea time. But some people in London have been acting a little strange lately. A year ago consultants urged British Airways to jettison the Union Jack emblem on its jetliners, because Britain ought to quit thinking of itself as a nation and regard itself as a "brand,'' like Coca-Cola. And the government did pay for this new study, and is trying to appear to be taking it seriously.

What this may mean is that political correctness, like most American cultural junk, has taken a long time to cross the Atlantic. The British often get American stuff slightly askew, as any visitor to London who has wandered into the Old Kentucky Pancake House looking for old Kentucky pancakes, or Wimpy's looking for a hamburger that Wimpy would recognize, could tell you. Maybe we should just take it as entertainment. While we still can.


10/19/00: The celebrity candidate
10/16/00: 'Ladies night' at the second debate
10/12/00: Gore vs. Bush: Volvo vs. Maserati
10/10/00: We weep for Rami for he is dead
10/05/00: Looking at Lieberman from inside the 'ghetto'
10/02/00: Campaigns, candidates, and kissy-face
09/28/00: Laughing and crying over Joe Lieberman
09/21/00: Targeting teenagers for money
09/21/00: Sexual politics in New York
09/18/00: Surviving the stereotypes and debates
09/14/00: Gloria Steinem runs cheerfully into captivity
09/12/00: Sex in the eye of the partisan
09/07/00: 'Sex and death' on the college campus
09/05/00: Joe Lieberman as a 'Menorah Man'
08/31/00: Rising suns of the conventions
08/17/00: Changing icons: From Loretta Young to Hillary Clinton
08/14/00: The Creator returns to the public square
08/10/00: Bursting with pride, but caution too
08/07/00: Brains, beauty and beastly politics
08/03/00: A candidate with a superego
07/31/00: The sizzling Lynne Cheney
07/27/00: The party of the aging Playboys
07/24/00 Hillary drives the Jewish wagon into a ditch
07/20/00 Conservatives gone fishin'
07/17/00: Snoop Doggy Dogg was a founding father, wasn't he?
07/13/00: When a teenager doesn't need a prime minister
07/10/00: Abortion as cruel and unusual punishment
07/06/00: Surviving 'survivor' TV
07/03/00: Independence Day with Norman Rockwell
06/29/00: Here comes 'something old'
06/26/00: Waiting too long for the baby
06/22/00: Good teachers, curious students and oxymorons
06/19/00: Wanted: Some ants for Gore's pants
06/15/00: Like father, like daughter
06/12/00: Culture wars and conservative warriors
06/08/00: Return of the housewife
06/05/00: Hillary and Al -- playing against type
05/31/00: The sexual revolution confronts the SUV
05/25/00: Waiting for the movie
05/22/00: Pistol packin' mamas
05/18/00: Journalists and the 'new time' religion
05/15/00: There's nothing like a (military) dame
05/11/00: 'The Human Stain' on campus
05/09/00: We've come a long way, Betty Friedan
05/04/00: From George Washington to Mansa Masu
05/01/00: Gore's ruthless doublespeak
04/28/00: Doing it Castro's way
04/24/00: Women's studies beget narrow minds
04/17/00: The slippery slope of anti-Semitism
04/13/00: A villain larger than life
04/10/00: When mourning becomes an economic tragedy
04/03/00: The last permissible bigotry
03/30/00: Seeking the political Oscar
03/23/00: The gaying of America
03/20/00: Pointy-eared quadrupeds on campus
03/16/00: The shocking art of the establishment
03/13/00: Sawdust on the campaign trail
03/10/00: Campaign rhetoric of manhood
03/06/00: The Amphetamine of the People
03/02/00: Elegy for Amadou
02/29/00: With only a million, what's a poor girl to do?
02/24/00: The changing politics of change
02/16/00: Tip from Hillary: 'Let 'em eat eggs'
02/10/00: No seances with Eleanor
02/07/00: Campaigning like our founding fathers
02/03/00: When neo-Nazis have short memories
01/31/00: George W. -- 'Ladies man' and 'man's man'
01/27/00: Dead white males and live white politicians
01/25/00: Smarting over presidential smarts
01/21/00: A post-modern song for `The Sopranos'
01/19/00: When personality is a long-distance plus
01/13/00: French lessons in amour --- and marriage
01/10/00: Reaching for the Big Golden Apple
01/07/00: Liddy Dole as the face of feminism
01/04/00: Hillary: From victim to victor
12/30/99: 'Dream catchers' for the millennium
12/27/99: In search of a candidate with strength and eloquence
12/21/99: The president as First Lady
12/16/99: Columbine with blurred hindsight
12/09/99: Homeless deserve discriminating attention
12/07/99: Casual censors and deadly know-nothings
12/02/99: Why mom didn't make general: A reality tale
11/30/99: Potholes on the road to the Promised Land
11/25/99: A feast for the spirit and the stomach
11/23/99: Fathers need to say 'I (can) do'
11/18/99: Adventures of a conservative pundit
11/15/99: Traveling with Jefferson on the information highway
11/11/99: Wanted: 'Foliage of forbiddinness' for the oval office
11/09/99: Eggs, art and rotten commerce
11/05/99: Al Gore, 'Alpha Male'. Bow wow.
11/01/99: Gay love
10/28/99: Lose one Dole, lose two
10/26/99: Rebels with a violent cause
10/21/99: Reforming parents, reforming schools
10/19/99: The male mystique -- he shops
10/13/99:The campaign of the Teletubbies
10/08/99: Money is in the eye of the art dealer
10/01/99: Lincoln's 'Almost Chosen People'
09/29/99: Introducing Bill and Hillary Bickerson
09/27/99: Must we wait for the next massacre?
09/24/99: Miss America meets Miss'd America
09/21/99: Princeton's 'professor death'
09/16/99: The Cisneros lesson
09/13/99: No clemency for personal politics
09/08/99: M-M-M is for manhood
08/30/99: Blocking the schoolhouse door
08/27/99: No kick from cocaine
08/23/99: Movies don't kill people
08/19/99: A rude awakening
08/16/99: Dubyah and that 'language' thing
08/09/99: Chauvinist sows -- oink oink

©1999, Suzanne Fields. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate