Clem Sunter

Don’t mess around with Americans

2011-05-19 08:50

Clem Sunter

The head of the IMF obviously does not understand America if he has done what he is alleged to have done. You don’t play games in America with other people, with tax returns, with anything ever.

As he found, the police arrive and yank you out of your first class airline seat before you can even sip the champagne. The smiling air hostess is replaced by a burly cop reading you your Miranda rights. The handcuffs are slipped on as you are escorted to the police vehicle, you feel the rough pressure in your back as you are pushed into the back seat and all of a sudden you are Mr Nobody.

Things get worse when you are arraigned as the perpetrator and denied bail. You get to do the "perp walk" off to prison to await trial, handcuffed again and by this time bleary-eyed and unshaven. Flash photographers, which in the past you welcomed as you made some important announcement with pretty aides at your side, is something you now ignore. On your mind is the possibility of a 25 year jail sentence if found guilty.

Foreigners forget that in terms of the law America is one of the most equal countries around. In this case, a hotel chambermaid laid charges and there was no attempt to shut her up, pay her off or smooth over the incident. Think about what is going on in one of the member states of the European Union where the head of state is accused of orgies and having sex with underage girls. Elsewhere in Europe, it is called "le droit de seigneur" which was the supposed right of a feudal lord to have sexual relations with a vassal's bride on her wedding night.

America doesn't have lords or other hereditary titles. It has no king or queen. It is a republic which has economic inequalities but no class system which puts you above or below your fellow citizens. Yes, there is the Ivy League; but don't start pushing where you went to school or university too hard. You will get the cold shoulder because it is your performance on the job or your contribution to society that counts.

In America, you have sharp distinctions between what is legal and what is illegal. As long as sex is consensual, anything goes. But if you get caught out like one golfer we know or abuse your partner like one actor we know, the court of public opinion is still around to judge you. Presidents can have mistresses but if there is a hint of coercion, they will go to jail too.

The British found out the hard way in January, 1815 that you don't mess around with Americans. At the Battle of New Orleans "they ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles and they ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn't go". The Japanese discovered the same in 1945. More recently, so did Saddam and Osama. Cross Americans and the day of retribution is around the corner. Connections don't count.

The late Stieg Larsson, the Swedish author of the Millennium Trilogy, must be looking down from heaven and nodding his approval. Lisbeth Salander, his heroine in the war to promote the rights of women, would be telling the chambermaid to be uncompromising in her fight for justice. She herself would have used a taser in the crotch. 

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