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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 February, 2003, 10:35 GMT
How to love the United States

By Ryan Dilley
BBC News Online

With the United States the target of anti-war demonstrators' anger, France's President Chirac has declared that despite his differences with the US, he still loves the country. And when you look at it, there are hundreds of things the US has done for us.

With London peace protesters toting effigies of President George Bush and placards lambasting the United States, Prime Minister Tony Blair has warned of the dangers of anti-Americanism.

Even France's Jacques Chirac - a one-time Harvard student and forklift driver at a US brewery - has said his fierce criticism of Washington does not lessen his fond regard for America as a nation.

Has the current tide of anti-Americanism blinded many to the United States' many positive contributions?

THE SPACE PROGRAMME
The Soviets might have stolen the march on America by launching Sputnik, sending space dog Laika to her doom and putting Yuri Gagarin into orbit, but does that help you keep the sun out of your eyes?

Buzz Aldrin on the monn
"Any flavour apart from cheese and onion, Buzz."
The funding behind America's mighty space programme has produced so many marketable by-products, Nasa even sells a magazine - Spinoff - listing them all.

Aside from UV radiation-blocking scratch-resistant sunglasses, the space race gave us back on Earth foil crisp packets, aural thermometers, cordless drills, bullet-proof vests and laptops.

MILITARY MIGHT
When Germany and France suggested that America's armed forces might do more harm than good in Iraq, tabloid newspapers in the US and UK were quick to point out that many Europeans were more than glad to welcome the GIs in 1944.

Though it was Hitler who declared war on America in 1941, President Roosevelt did provide vital military equipment to the British and Commonwealth forces standing against the Nazis.

It's only right to lend your garden hose when your "neighbour's home catches fire", Roosevelt explained to Americans wary of joining another European conflict.

Even before Pearl Harbor, 244 American pilots had volunteered to serve in an RAF decimated by the Battle of Britain. Some 77 died fighting.

The late, but nevertheless decisive, entry of the United States into the war did cause some confusion.

British prisoner of war Desmond Llewelyn - later famous as Q in the James Bond films - was liberated in 1945 by American troops keen to root out Nazis hiding in his camp. Asked how long he had been held captive, Llewelyn replied: "Five years." "The war's only been on three years," he was told.

SANTA CLAUS
People may decry the commercialisation and secularisation of Christmas, but the idea of a jolly old man distributing gifts to well behaved children remains a cornerstone of the season of goodwill.

Santa Claus
Thank Uncle Sam for Father Christmas
Though based on the 4th Century Turkish bishop, Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus became synonymous with Christmas thanks to Dutch emigres in New York.

Clement Clarke Moore's ballad "'Twas the night before Christmas..." cemented Santa Claus in the popular consciousness in 1822.

In 1863, cartoonist Thomas Nast - who gave the Republican Party its elephant logo and the Democrats their donkey - used the Moore poem as a basis for his familiar depiction of Santa.

Coca-Cola ad-man Haddon Sundblom used Nast's Santa to promote the soft drink in the 1930s, decking out the bearded present-giver in Coke's red and white colours.

THE INTERNET
You wouldn't be reading this if it weren't for America. And there are plenty of good things on the internet, too.

The net as we know it grew up from a US Department of Defence project to create a communications system which would survive a nuclear attack by the Soviets.

When, in 1969, civilian academics linked two computers at Stanford and UCLA - at opposite ends of California - the Advanced Research Projects Agency Net (ARPANET) was born.

The users were supposed to sharing each others' computing power, but soon began to send personal messages and news at the government's expense.

The Wright Brothers launching Flyer I
"Orville, I'm bored."
IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
Powered flight was pioneered by Americans Wilbur and Orville Wright, and once the novelty of air travel had worn off, the American airline TWA pioneered in-flight movies in 1961 to keep passengers happy.

It was an "Old Europe" carrier, Germany's Lufthansa, which offered flyers the chance to surf the net at 35,000 feet earlier this year.

THE ZIP
The so-called clasp-locker was invented by American Whitcomb Judson in 1890 - to help a friend whose bad back stopped him stooping to tie his shoes.

Judson is just one of a crop of US inventors who gave the world such modern wonders as the battery torch, the dishwasher and the Frisbee.

The daddy of American inventors is Thomas Alva Edison - who held a world record 1,093 patents and was widely considered the best things since sliced bread (also invented by an American, Otto Frederick Rohwedder).

David Beckham with cut eyebrow
Sometimes you need protecting from 'freakish incidents'
HELMETS FOR FOOTBALLERS
The managers of America's football teams make sure their multi-million-dollar stars are protected from head injuries by helmets.

Of course, they only work if you wear them. US President Lyndon Johnson once said of Gerald Ford (later to enter the Oval Office himself): "He must have played without a helmet."


Things to love America for. Some of your comments so far:

Bright yellow mustard that even little girls can eat.
Squiz, Islington

Jimi Henrdrix, Jazz, Elvis. Need I say more?
Peter, UK

San Francisco. A beautiful city, an artistic and technological powerhouse, and the home of the best gridiron team!
Steve Mansfield, England

I love visiting America, where their predilection for fast food means that - if only for three weeks a year - my normally portly 14 stone frame feels like the body of an Olympic athlete. Oh, and I think they invented snowboards too.
Sven, UK

The Muppet Show alone is reason enough to love our American cousins.
Merry, England

Jeans. If it weren't for the Americans, all us British men would be dressed in itchy tweed trousers, or even kilts!
Tim Burke, UK

What about the Simpsons? The world's greatest TV programme. And the irony (US readers, I suggest that you look up this word in the dictionary) is that the joke is about Americans and the Americans still haven't realised. OK, a few have cottoned on, but are happy to share the joke.
Roy Chapman, UK

I love to visit the States. The service and sheer friendliness of the people leaves us far far behind.
Marko, UK

California girls!
Paddy, Liverpool, Britain

They did invent house music, and for that I'm truly greatful.
Richi, UK

I love America. I spent my 21st birthday in NYC and said the word 'Liverpool' to the them and they treated me like royalty. I also bumped into Steve Buschemi, and we sang Here Comes The Sun together.
George Banks, UK

The three great social movements of our time - civil rights, taking feminism to the next stage, gay rights. Not having a monarchy.
Teresa Giles, United Kingdom

If America wasn't on this planet, who else would the aliens abduct?
Erik, UK

What makes you glad to share the planet with America? Send your comments using the form below.

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SEE ALSO:
Gulf divides US and Europe
18 Jan 03 |  From Our Own Correspondent
US gets the cold shoulder
31 Dec 02 |  Americas



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