Saturday, March 7, 2009

Say "Thank You", Gordon

Maybe I'm looking at a certain situation all wrong, but I'm extremely confused about something. See, I was either taught or I learned along the way (sorry, parents) that if I received a gift, any gift, I was to be appreciative of said damn gift. I cannot tell you how many times I was reminded that no one has to give me anything, that there might be traditions, but there are not obligations when it comes to gift giving. Therefore, one should make themselves as gift-worthy as they can if they would like to receive any gift during their earthly existence. (OK, that last sentence wasn't ever said in those terms to me, thank God, but I got the gist!)

So I'm a bit confused as to why the Brits are all up in arms about the gifts that they received from the Obamas. First of all, I guess I'm a bit naive to the placating practice of heads of state exchanging gifts with one another when either are visiting. Apparently, the gift? Quite a big deal (at least for the Brits). It's a huge freaking deal to one Brit, namely a Iain Martin who wrote a piece for The Telegraph titled "President Barack Obama dislikes Britain, but he's keen to meet the Queen." So, Iain, tell us how you really feel about it. Geez.

Apparently, Mr. Martin has his knickers all in a bundle over the gifts that the Obamas gave to Prime Minister Brown and his wife, Sarah. President Barry presented Brown with a blockbuster "special collection set" of 25 classic American movies on DVD. That seems nice. It seems very "American". I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't know how this gift-giving thing goes (as I've already said), but they don't even know each other. And they have two boys, so a bunch of DVDs seems like a very appropriate gift that oozes the pop-culture lifestyle of the United States. You know, that pop-culture lifestyle that got him elected? That's the one. Seems reasonable.

They also presented the Browns with two toy helicopters that are made to look like Marine One. Cool. Again, that seems reasonable. To me. That seems reasonable to me. It did not seem reasonable to this Iain fellow based upon what the Browns gave the Obamas. Are you ready for this? (If you didn't think that the Brits were snobby and/or snotty before, you will now.) They gave President Barry:
  • "A pen holder fashioned from the oak timber of HMS Gannet, a Navy vessel that served on anti-slavery missions off Africa."

  • "A framed commissioning paper for the HMS Resolute, a Royal Navy ship that came to symbolize British-American goodwill when it was rescued by the U.S. from icebergs and given to Queen Victoria. It is the sister ship of the HMS Gannet."

  • "A first edition of Martin Gilbert's seven-volume biography of Winston Churchill, whose World War II partnership with President Franklin Roosevelt symbolized the U.S.-Anglo alliance."

Oh, for Christ's sake, are you kidding me?!?! Am I supposed to be impressed or touched or something that the pen holder was made from the wood of an anti-slave ship? You know, President Barry wasn't a slave. Neither was his father. Yes, I am aware of the atrocity that was slavery. But is this gift supposed to hold more significance than if it was given to George Bush simply because President Barry is our first half white President? And a seven volume biography of Winston Churchill? Why not a biography (not a seven volume one) of George Washington? Or Abraham Lincoln? Why is it OK for Prime Minister Brown to give gifts that reflect his culture, but it isn't OK for President Barry to give gifts that reflect the US culture?

I mean, I'd like to know what Mr. Martin would have found more acceptable? A set of George Washington's wooden teeth? Monica Lewinsky's blue dress? Some tea from the Boston Tea Party? The key that Benjamin Franklin tied to his kite string? Joe Biden's fifteen volume autobiography (with footnotes AND an index)? I'm sure we can scrounge up some extra skin from some of Nancy Pelosi's many face lifts. Is that what they want? I don't get it.

And you're going to tell me that Prime Minister Brown went out and picked these gifts out himself? Went down to the ol' Dead English Rulers Shoppe and found that Churchill bio himself, did he? I don't think he did. Whereas the Daily Mail reports that "...the movie set included ET, Star Wars and The Wizard of Oz and was produced by the American Film Institute on "special request" from the White House." Special request. That sounds like a little bit of personal thought went into it. I'd way rather have a gift that someone thought about rather than a gift that someone else bought for them to give to me because someone else thought it would be "appropriate".

It's also noted in both the Telegraph and The Daily Mail that "...Mr Brown is not thought to be a film buff, and his reaction to the box set is unknown." See, and I don't know how it could be unknown, as the reaction should be and should have been "Thank you". But it would seem as if the US gifts given to the Brits don't ever meet their standards. Apparently W gave Brown a fur-lined leather bomber jacket, a fine gift if there every was one. Very cool. Nope. Didn't like that. Apparently Brown is a stodgy suit-wearer at all times. That's unfortunate.

The Brits, or at least Iain Martin, need to get over themselves. It's a fine gift that reflects America and Americans. Perhaps (one can only hope) that Mr. Brown will enjoy seeing the films with his family. (I don't know how old his boys are, but if they haven't seen Star Wars, watching them watch it for the first time brings a whole different dimension to the movie.) And perhaps President Barry will enjoy looking at the seven volumes of Winston Churchill sitting on his shelf. (Winston Churchill himself looked quite a bit larger than just seven volumes, I'll tell you that.) Here's a question for Mr. Martin: Why do you pay so much attention to the gifts that your Prime MInister receives from other world leaders? Might I suggest a night out in some village and knocking back a few pints with your fellows for a change? But here's another question, one that's more relevant to the situation rather than Mr. Martin's narrow view of the world as he would like it to be: Would Brits be just as appalled by the gift of DVDs if it was Ronald Reagan who had presented the gift? After all, Reagan was a Hollywood actor who had starred in movies. Would it have been OK coming from him? If so, then the Brits just need to lighten up. And if not, then the Brits just need to lighten up.

Thanks for the pen, Gordie!

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The Intellectual Redneck said...

Does Obama dislike the British? The answer seems to be-Yes. He really dissed the British Prime Minister. That could not have been an accident. He has too many diplomatic advisers for that to occur. Read more here.
Does Obama dislike the British?

grannyann said...

I didn't know they exchanged those gifts. Very interesting. I think I'll have to think about whether it was appropriate gifts or not.

Ruth@VS said...

Speaking as a Brit, can I just say I really don't care about the gifts or the visit of the Prime Mentalist to the US! Sorry he was inflicted on you, it's just we can't stand to have him in our country for too long.

Mare said...

I don't know that any of the other "errors" were of President Barry's own doing. Is he the one that is responsible for getting the flags in place? I don't think he is. Is it that important to folks? Apparently to some, it is! But by saying that "could not have been an accident" are you implying that the President told his folks "Screw the Brit, don't put up any flags?" I think not. Again, I think the whole "giving gifts" between heads of state is a bit odd and probably unnecessary. What is it supposed to prove? That if you give some ridiculously extravagant gift that your countries will get along just swimmingly?! Perhaps someone should wrap up an oak pen holder for the bin Ladens and send it on it's way. That will solve a LOT of problems! (Or not.)

Sorry, didn't mean to get overly snarky there, but I don't think that the President dislikes the British. (He might start too if they keep going on like this, however. I might too!) By the way, your comment about the plastic pink flamingos was classic. Very funny.


I'd be interested to know what your conclusion was as far as the appropriateness of the gifts.

And God bless ya, Ruth! Excellent response! Prime Mentalist, that was funny. I might be using that in the future. I, too, think folks are getting a bit too worked up about the gifts. Can you take him back now? We're done, apparently, and we haven't done it very well! =)

~ M

Ruth@VS said...


Thanks! We have a number of nicknames over here for the man who has ruined our economy - including The Dear Leader, The Supreme Leader, Jonah (on the basis that any business he visits tends to go bust or make loads of people redundant soon after - in the vein of Jonah and the whale), there are others but i can't remember them all. Some of them are really disrespectful...

And by the way, he has frequently told us all that Americans caused all the financial problems of the world - didn't seem to play that up when he visited, did he?

Anyway he's back now, more's the pity, until he gets thrown out of office next year, we all wish it were sooner!