Watching the U.S.-England World Cup soccer match the day after Thanksgiving couldn’t help but make me reflect on how much Bainbridge Island and Britain have in common.
Both of us are islands. BI and the British Isles share the same initials. We both speak English, more or less. (There are slight differences. For example, say you saw a Bainbridge boy wearing suspenders and a Bainbridge girl with a prominent rear end taking some cookies and sausages from the trunk of their car to enjoy a picnic on the hood of their car as a police officer passes by. In British English, that same scene would consist of a bloke in braces and a bird with a bum removing bangers and biscuits from the boot to eat on the bonnet as a bobbie goes by. See? Virtually the same language!)
Britain is connected to mainland Europe by ferries and a channel. Bainbridge is connected to mainland Washington by ferries and the Agate Pass Bridge. The British are obsessed with tea; Bainbridgers are obsessed with coffee. The British aren’t the French, and neither are we. Both of us drive on the right side of the road, except for the British the right side is the left side.
Britain is ruled by a king, a prime minister and a Parliament, all of whom generally treat one another with respect and dignity and carry on their public discourse in intelligent and articulate good humor. Bainbridge is ruled by … well, Blair King is the city manager. And our City Council — did I mention that we have a bridge?
Another thing we share with the British is an almost pathological obsession with understanding and talking about what it means to be an islander. Just as Britain is a part of Europe but whose people think of themselves as British rather than European, Bainbridge Island is a part of Kitsap County, but most of us probably think of ourselves as islanders rather than Kitsapiens.
Many islanders are more closely connected politically, economically and socially to King County than to Kitsap County. I’m surprised this hasn’t spurred an island-wide movement to secede from Kitsap County and be annexed by King County, or perhaps declare ourselves an independent republic — the People’s Republic of Bainbridge. Perhaps as a prelude to declaring independence, we might first consider naming Britain our sister island and see how that works out. I guess if we did that we’d have to drop Ometepe as our sister island, or at least downgrade it to a Second Cousin Island, once removed.
Some years ago, an incoming English prime minister introduced a package of British-pride bolstering measures that included, among other things, an effort to come up with a national “statement of values” that defines what it means to be British.
That effort was spurred by a hope among some Brits that, in an era of decentralized government and an increasingly diverse citizenry that tends to define itself less by its similarities and more by its individual differences in region, ethnicity, gender, political affiliation, sexual orientation and attitude toward the dressing up of small dogs in sweaters (which I oppose), such a statement of values might serve a useful unifying rallying point for all British people.
The British public reacted to the proposal as you might expect. They put their differences behind them and rallied in a united front to make fun of their government and its silly obsession with trying to define what it means to be British. The British press, in contrast, used the opportunity to announce a contest to come up with a catchy phrase that would, in a few carefully selected words, capture the essence of the British personality.
Among the entries were “Dipso, Fatso, Bingo, Abso, Tesco” (Abso stands for anti-social behavior control, a law-enforcement tool, while Tesco is the name of a ubiquitous grocery chain), “Once Mighty Empire, Slightly Used,” “At Least We’re Not French” (my favorite) and the eventual winner, “No Motto Please, We’re British.”
I’ve always been of the opinion that just because an idea is silly is no reason not to embrace it, and if we islanders want to keep pace with our British brothers and sisters/second cousins once removed, then we, too, need to adopt a Bainbridge “statement of shared values.”
And why stop there? Why not adopt a snappy new flag, an island currency, an anthem, and single out a smaller and weaker island on whom to declare war (I’m thinking Palu or Easter Island).
For those of you who may have taped the England/USA World Cup match and not seen it yet, I won’t spoil things by telling you the outcome. Truth is, I’m not sure who won. I was too busy wondering why the British have an “h” in their alphabet but never seem to use it.
Tom Tyner writes a weekly humor column for this newspaper.