Dispatches from the Former New World: Real Americans

Launching a new occasional series for the Dabbler, Rita Byrne Tull brings us our very own version of ‘Letter from America’…

Two score and one years ago I boarded a student charter flight and crossed the ocean to the New World. I had just $200 in my pocket and a backpack of spare clothing, blue jeans and mini-skirts of course, the de rigueur attire of the age. But no, this isn’t a rags to riches American immigrant’s tale of pulling myself up by my go-go bootstraps to become a dot.com millionaire. It is a confession. In all this time I have never met a Real American.

I’ve heard of them of course. Who hasn’t? They are said to roam the hinterlands between the coasts and in hunting season, otherwise known as election season, politicians converge on their habitat to stalk them down and bag their votes. You must have seen the illustrations: gun-toting, Jesus Saves T-shirted, beer-bellied, stars-and-stripes waving, gas-guzzling, mean-spirited specimens who are the only inhabitants of this vast nation that certain politicians seem to care about. What’s more, all politicians have to prove that they too are Real Americans. That means going bowling rather than say, wind surfing. John Kerry’s White House hopes were doomed when he was seen tacking back and forth on his surfboard. Barack Obama didn’t make the same mistake. He did go bowling. But being African-American he had to provide a higher standard of proof. His poor score was further evidence, if any were needed, that he isn’t American at all, never mind Real. Another Realness test is the “are you sufficiently gun loving to actually appear on TV shooting helpless animals and, in the aftermath of a college mass shooting incident, advocating that everyone, including students on campuses, must carry guns?” Again, this is a tricky one. Dick Cheney passed with flying colors by shooting a friend, John Kerry was judged not to look enthusiastic enough while shooting at ducks, and for Barack Obama the test was reversed. In one of those peculiar racial calculations that you have to live in America for many decades to begin to understand, Obama could not be seen with a gun at all because then he would be “an angry, potentially violent black man” and completely unelectable.

Maybe I haven’t met a Real American yet because I’ve only lived on the coasts: in the People’s Republic of Berkeley during the 1970’s where the 1960’s were still going on, and ever since in the shadow of the Nation’s Capital, home turf to the “librul media.” The Americans I live and work amongst are all such nice, kind, friendly people. They are intelligent and well read (I know, I work in a library). Many of them voted for Barack Obama; he was real enough for them and actually spoke in sentences. I’m beginning to wonder if Real Americans are creatures of myth, mass-produced in the fevered imaginations of politicians and their media enablers, straw men to battle over while the real real Americans, like the ones I know, live quiet unremarkable lives.

It’s hard to know, because changing countries is very confusing. On one of my visits home to England I went to pick up dinner at the local fish and chip shop. When I gave my order the chap behind the counter asked “Where are you from, love?” I was surprised by the question and answered “From here, I grew up around the corner.” “Well” he replied, “you musta bin somewhere.” Yes, I bin somewhere, and now I’m neither here nor there.

Rita Byrne Tull is an ex-pat librarian who lives in Maryland.
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Rita Byrne Tull is an ex-pat librarian who lives in Maryland.

17 thoughts on “Dispatches from the Former New World: Real Americans

  1. Stephanie_Thomson1@btinternet.com'
    June 29, 2011 at 14:06

    As someone else who’s neither here nor there, I wholeheartedly agree with you. If it’s any consolation, I’ve never met a True Brit, either…
    Thanks for making me laugh (and feel homesick!).

  2. johngjobling@googlemail.com'
    June 29, 2011 at 16:54

    You may be referring to the media generated national stereotype Rita and as we know, the media and reality do not good bedfellows make. The exceptions of course are the real Swedes, back stabbing, miserable, potential suicide cases with an attitude problem and lousy cop shows who allow fascists to use their railway system to invade their neighbours.
    Nothing to do with me, that’s what my Norgie friends think.

  3. hooting.yard@googlemail.com'
    June 29, 2011 at 17:41

    I thought what really counted against John Kerry was that it was said he “looked French” and was therefore a cheese-eating surrender monkey.

    • bugbrit@live.com'
      Banished To A Pompous Land
      June 29, 2011 at 18:03

      ‘Cheese-eating surrender monkey’ Have you been talking to Mrs Banished?

    • Brit
      June 29, 2011 at 19:16

      Come to think of it, John Kerry did look a bit French.

      Though not nearly so French as Republic Prosecutor Machard.

  4. bugbrit@live.com'
    Banished To A Pompous Land
    June 29, 2011 at 17:56

    Like you Rita I live on the coast and in addition I havent been here as long. But I do live not so very far south of you and I do meet some of those ‘Real Americans’ most every day.

    Though only one state down in Virginia I’m just a stones throw from, or in semi-automatic laser sighted personal defense weapons range of North Carolina. And while I don’t work in a library I do work in a science based business that is full of graduates. However:

    *The parking lot is full of 4 wheel drive trucks, many bearing delightful and witty bumper stickers such as ‘Real Men Love Jesus’ and ‘If You Can’t Stand Behind Our Troops You Better Go Stand In Front Of Them’.

    *These vehicles have gas mileages barely in double figures as these science graduates are largely of the opinion that global warming is a liberal conspiracy designed undermine America.

    *Many of the people I work with have guns; multiple guns, rifles, shotguns, handguns and they don’t understand how I’ve never fired anything more powerful than an air rife at the fair.

    *The bathroom reading matter is Virginia Business and American Rifleman (house magazine of the NRA).

    Oddly enough though, most of them are really quite nice as people and thankfully I’m older than 90% of them and they see me as just a more or less lovable old Brit eccentric. Perhaps I’m going native or maybe its just as Father Ted Criley so wisely remarked ‘Its funny how you get more right wing as you get older’

    I do look forward to seeing more of your occasional series and to comparing notes.

  5. info@a2zmusicentertainment.co.uk'
    June 29, 2011 at 17:58

    Love it Rita. I had the same experience and feeling as you even tho I only moved my life 300 miles away from Cornwall to London and I know u are familiar with both places of course, with your connections. Nice bit of writing. Hope it turns into a book … it would be fitting if you turned into a book writer having managed books for a career x

  6. conessex@aol.com'
    June 29, 2011 at 19:42

    I lived in Dallas for 3-1/2 years and believe me real Americans do exist and it will be a long time before they will become as elusive as Bigfoot

  7. Wormstir@gmail.com'
    June 29, 2011 at 20:27

    Great read Rita! Have never been to the states but One day I hope to go there and fire off some high powered assault rifles

  8. mail@danielkalder.com'
    June 29, 2011 at 23:10

    If you make it to Texas Worm, I will take you down the range. I have a good, knowledgeable, intelligent friend who will guide you down the path of the Holy Firearm.

    If you ask nicely he’ll even show you his concealed weapons permit.

  9. george.jansen55@gmail.com'
    June 30, 2011 at 01:30


    ‘This is a child!’ Haigha replied eagerly, coming in front of Alice
    to introduce her, and spreading out both his hands towards her in an
    Anglo-Saxon attitude. ‘We only found it to-day. It’s as large as life,
    and twice as natural!’

    ‘I always thought they were fabulous monsters!’ said the Unicorn. ‘Is it

    ‘It can talk,’ said Haigha, solemnly.

    The Unicorn looked dreamily at Alice, and said ‘Talk, child.’

    Alice could not help her lips curling up into a smile as she began: ‘Do
    you know, I always thought Unicorns were fabulous monsters, too! I never
    saw one alive before!’

    ‘Well, now that we HAVE seen each other,’ said the Unicorn, ‘if you’ll
    believe in me, I’ll believe in you. Is that a bargain?’

    ‘Yes, if you like,’ said Alice.


    On that principle, I’m willing to regard the poster as a non-condescending Briton if she will believe in me as a Real American. I will furnish evidence in that regard as seems necessary (passport, birth certificate if I can find it, old pictures from the midwest, etc.), but must warn that I may ask some in return.


    The Monster

    • Ritatull@comcast.net'
      June 30, 2011 at 04:13

      That would be the long form birth certificate I trust?

  10. andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
    June 30, 2011 at 07:00

    What I admire about Obama is his ability to out-condescend even us.

    Even that notorious bow he did to the Chinese President was, somehow, condescending.

    • johngjobling@googlemail.com'
      June 30, 2011 at 09:28

      Several years ago a lassie, entering the Ride the Divide MBR for the first time asked what were the absolute essentials for the race “a bear whistle and a gun” she was told, the whistle to ward off the Montana grizzlies, the gun to ward off the locals.
      The organisers can assure you that no locals were shot during this years race although it is not yet over, the tail enders still struggling through the brush fires into Antelope Wells.

  11. mail@danielkalder.com'
    June 30, 2011 at 19:59

    That is quite a powerful insight into Obama, Brit. I am going to ponder upon it.

  12. davidanddonnacohen@gmail.com'
    July 1, 2011 at 16:33

    Hey, can I write condescending crap about Britain? I mean, obviously I can, but will anyone publish it?

  13. Gaw
    July 1, 2011 at 17:20

    David, if it were well-written and engaging, which I’m sure it would be in your case, I think we probably would.

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