Lately if you turn on the news in Britain or look at a British newspaper, all you hear/read about is the “Eurozone crisis,” “bailouts,” and “European Union discussions.” I won’t pretend I understand much of what is going on—economics is not my strong point. What I gather is that there are a bunch of countries in debt from the recession that started a few years ago, and a lot of important shit is going down.
The European Union is an economic and political alliance among 27 member states, many of whom now share a single currency (the euro). It was created right after World War II to stabilize Europe’s economies and help create peace among its nations. Britain has been part of the European Union since 1973. But I have never felt, nor will I ever feel, “European.” I feel very British. And I get sentimental over the British pound (£), so I’m glad in a way that we haven’t adopted the euro.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world completely, the Queen is visiting Australia. One of the Queen’s duties is to tour countries within the commonwealth, and she is paying special attention to the victims of the floods in Brisbane early this year. I’m of two minds on the subject of the Queen, and royalty in general. On one hand, I’m a republican (not like an American Republican—here it means you believe that a nation should be governed solely by elected representatives, and are against preserving the monarchy). On the other hand, in the UK, the monarchy’s role is largely ceremonial. The Queen is pretty harmless. And what she does do, she’s very good at: refusing help to walk down steps at the age of 80-something, meeting a lot of people, collecting flowers off said people, timidly waving. I feel like Australia is our favourite, really rad cousin somehow. A cousin who’s cooler and younger and SURFS. In the UK it’s like we’re all siblings: England (oldest), Scotland (second oldest), Wales (third oldest), and Northern Ireland (youngest, and therefore, in my opinion, brushed to the side a little too often). We hate one another sometimes but really love one another very much deep down.
This all might sound crazy complicated to North American readers. Sometimes it seems to me that the United States is lots of little countries joined together in name. America’s landscapes alone span the whole range, never mind the cultures. So it’s easy to understand how some (a few) Americans seem lost in their own sprawling nation, oblivious to the outside world. Why would you need the outside world when you have everything right there?! The U.S. is, to us across the pond, like the rich kid you try to learn a lot about so that one day you can impress them with your knowledge and strike up a conversation.
The world is a complicated place. As you can see, I like to make it less complicated by personifying every country. All I know, from studying history (finally finished German unification—bye, Bismarck, and good riddance), is that Europe has been quite a volatile place for a long time. Since the European Union was created, it’s has been pretty much (dare I say it) peaceful. So I like being friends with Europe, but I’m not quite ready to call it family. ♦