Baltimore, regina! That's Latin for "Welcome to...


May 15, 1991|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

SALVE AD Baltimore, regina! That's Latin for "Welcome to Baltimore, queen!" I speak in that language in the spirit of one of your former prime ministers, Harold Macmillan, who said it was your nation's role "to play Greece to America's Rome -- civilizing and guiding the immature young giant."

I think we're mature and civilized enough, now, queen. Thanks. I'm not being sarcastic. You Brits did "civilize" us. But that took place long before Macmillan was prime minister in the 1960s, and it didn't take place at the diplomatic level.

It took place in the crafting of our political, economic and social institutions from the very beginning. After all, the early colonizers who rowed ashore in Virginia and Massachusetts in the 1600s were not Americans but Elizabethans.

For the next 300-plus years the civilizing continued in thousands of classrooms, where most American school children probably read as much British and English history and literature as they did American. Certainly more than that of all other countries and civilizations put together. That was true even after America was no longer largely of British stock, but a melting pot.

French-American and Italian-American kids memorized more Shakespeare than Moliere or Dante. All Americans still are entertained and instructed by our British heritage, from Robin Hood to James Bond, from Richard the Lion Hearted to Winston Churchill.

Churchill, I think, coined the phrase "special relationship" for how the two countries became so very closely re-linked in this century. Like many others, he thought our shared language, culture and ethos made the Atlantic Ocean in effect narrower than the English Channel.

I agree, and I think you Brits are making a big mistake digging that tunnel under the channel to the continent, queen. If you can't go it alone anymore, you should not seek salvation in a United States of Europe, but in the United States of America.

And you can't go it alone anymore. As one British writer put it recently, the British relationship to the U.S.A. "is not so much Greece to America's Rome, but Charlie Brown trying to pitch in the World Series."

Statehood for Britain is my motto. London is closer in travel time to Washington than Honolulu is. It's not that much farther in time from London to New York than it is from London to Rome.

I guess "statehoods -- with an s -- for Britain" should be my motto. If you Brits decide to join us, you'll surely want to come in as the states of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. That would give you more clout in national affairs -- eight senators instead of two.

The problem with this is, the Constitution doesn't allow a nobility. Yet Britons could not do without their royal family. Nor could Americans. We are as smitten with you as your subjects are. Why is this? One British historian once explained it this way: "It's the fairy tales. Whoever heard of a girl kissing a frog and it turning into a handsome senator?"

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