Farewell to liberal America?

Ed Vulliamy, the Observer’s correspondent in the US for the past six years says farewell to the States in a long piece looking back at his experiences.

In a nutshell Vulliamy says that there were lots of things he loved about the US before living there, many things he enjoyed while he was resident, but like any expat he found things which disturbed him and depressed him. In the end he seems glad to be leaving.

I found the piece interesting and certainly very well-written. It is of particular interest to me as my brother and my best friend are both about to pack their bags and become expatriate Britains in the US.

What Vulliamy criticises about the US is the atmosphere of intolerence he sensed in the past year or so and the lingering racism and poverty in parts of the south.

On the issue of intolerence – those of us who interact with Americans every day in the ‘blogosphere’ have been frequently told that the reports we get in the British media are hugely exaggerated.

But whenever I talk to British people who have spent any time in the States they confirm that there has been a real decrease in tolerance of dissent. Not that people are being rounded up or anything just that the atmosphere has changed pretty dramatically.

I have never visited the US (although obviously with my best mate and my brother heading to two different US cities that will change pretty soon) so I can’t pass any judgement on who is right about the intolerance levels.

But when I read blogger Jeff Jarvis’ comments on the Observer piece, I did start to get a feel for what people are talking about.

Jeff is a liberal American and says of the article: Ed Vulliamy, leaves the U.S. and it appears it’s not a minute too soon. He pens a bitter, mean, angry, anti-American (and badly written) farewell piece that is filled with nothing but negativity: terrorist bombs, lynchings, poverty; he sees our world through dung-colored glasses……….Jeesh. Good riddance.

If an American liberal feels like that after reading a piece which so clearly expresses a deep affection for liberal America then clearly something has changed deeply.

And I think Jeff reveals exactly what it is – criticism of the US makes the author anti-American. You cannot get a better benchmark of intolerance.