I am an Englishman, Leeds born – Leeds, that damned city – and go at things as I have taught myself, freestyle, and will make the record in my own way: first to knock, first admitted; sometimes an innocent knock, sometimes a not so innocent. But a man’s character is his fate, says Phil Neville, and in the end there isn’t any way to disguise the nature of the knocks by acoustical work on the door or gloving the knuckles.
Related: Alex Morgan and USA resolve to put Ellen White in the shade
So much for trying to be clever, messing with the opening of a great American novel, The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow, to set up a column about being an immigrant. I might as well say it straight.
I want the USA to beat England in the World Cup semi-final on Tuesday.
I was born in Yorkshire in 1978, grew up there, then went to college in Durham. At 21 I went to London to work. Ten years after that I met a girl from Cambridge, Massachusetts, and after three more years we moved across the sea. Now we have three girls, aged six, four and two, and all of them are Americans, New York born. They don’t play soccer yet but presumably soon they will. My wife did.
I’m firmly on their side.
Heavy thinking boosts a simple love of family. I love my homeland but I love my adopted home too
I have dabbled in the world of the hate click. In these pages, I’ve defended Bono and expressed a preference for rugby. That holds true. But my attitude to Tuesday’s game of soccer is a little more complicated, even more existential. I want the USA to beat England because I think the USA is a better place to be.
What follows is literally based on the last book I read, but I think it bears explaining. It was Impeachment: A Citizen’s Guide by Cass Sunstein, a law professor at Harvard. It’s a history of the constitutional mechanism by which the Americans can remove their leader, and are indeed supposed to if he or she has abused their power. It is obviously written for those who wish such a fate on the current occupant of the White House. As I do.
The reason I want the USA to beat England is to be found in its title. Sunstein has written “a citizen’s guide”.
If you are an American, New York or anywhere else born, you are a citizen. Nominally at least – I’m aware of America’s past, present and future of massive and shattering injustice – you are one of 329 million equals. You and your fellow Americans have the power to remove your leader, because that leader is deemed to be equal to you. You may not choose to remove him or her, for political reasons perhaps, but you have the power to do so. The same cannot be said for Englishmen, or indeed anyone else in Britain.
I live in New York and I have family and friends in Boston, Washington, California and plenty of points in between. But I am not a citizen. Should impeachment come, I cannot take part. Sunstein has prompted me to remember what in fact I am.
I am a subject of the Queen, a leader I would rather not have. Short of revolution, I cannot remove her. I am simply deemed unequal to one other Briton, London born if with German roots, and the whole rotten caste that supports her.
And so here I am, in the week of 4 July, living in a country which deems all men and women to have been created equal, a truth that holds self-evident whatever the shortcomings of the government built upon it.
Abraham Lincoln said he “never had a feeling politically that did not spring from the sentiments embodied in the Declaration of Independence”. Nor did I. Increasingly, it’s the same when it comes to sports. At another World Cup, in Japan later this year, the US men’s rugby team will attempt to compete with England. Go Eagles.
Heavy thinking boosts a simple love of family. I love my homeland but I love my adopted home too. For all its travails, the United States of America was built in service of its people. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – three fourths of which may join me in rooting for America tomorrow – was not.
I cannot be an American, New York born. But if America will have me, I can be one yet by oath.
So much for weighty decisions. Switching allegiance is easier in front of a TV, with a beer, watching a US team play a strong attacking game with stars like Megan Rapinoe, unafraid to speak truth to power in the best American way.