God knows that in 2012, there’s not much good to say about any particular country, least of all America, but if these difficult times have taught us anything it is to separate ordinary people such as me and you from our lamentably feckless leaders.
However, there’s one quality of the American Way I admire above all else: an individual’s prestige stands solely upon their reputation. Their good name actually means something.
It is true to say that people who do extraordinary things are few and far between and to reflect this, also rare in America, are the badges and medals awarded to people in recognition of achievements above and beyond the call of duty. To an American, a source of even greater pride and an honour above all others is to possess a widely recognised and respected name: Neil Armstrong, Muhammad Ali, Hemmingway, Warhol, Martin Luther King.
In the United Kingdom, by contrast, a great many men and women are given “gongs” which more often than not turn out to be “honours” or more accurately rewards for making a fat and often tainted contribution to one or other political party. Hundreds are created every year – Lords, Baronets, Knights of the Realm, MBEs, OBEs – (OMG) how politicians love their titles. An unhealthy number of them turn out to be self-centred opportunists and a few are criminal. Sadly, in Great Britain, national honours have been so diminished they are meaningless even to the few exceptional individuals who selflessly serve their country, achieve truly great things for the wider good and who legitimately deserve honour and respect. Unlike, for example, Lord Archer, Lord Black, Baroness Thatcher, Sir Fred and so on, ad nauseam.
How much more credible and sincere it is for great deeds to be recognised by your given name, to be honoured in the American way, than by some contrived title.