Safe from British bullets

Mitt Romney’s gone across the pond, and so far it’s not gone well for him. If the idea was to make him seem presidential on the global stage, it’s turned into just the opposite. If you don’t believe me, consider that #RomneyShambles is the top trending item on Twitter as I write this. It won’t be that forever, I know, but this is entirely self-inflicted on his part.

What seemed to get the ball rolling, so to speak, was the Romney adviser who claimed that President Obama did not understand the “shared history” between the United States and United Kingdom. The advisor who supposedly said this has not been named publicly, and Governor Romney has disavowed it, but it’s still another case of trying to paint the President as an outsider, as the “other.” Never mind that tens of millions of Americans thought otherwise in 2008, and will vote for him again when the time comes this fall. But Romney understands that special relationship in a way that Obama can not, at least in his advisors’ warped minds.

But the “shared history” between the two nations isn’t all goodness and light. Yes, the British are our ally today, and have been for 100 years. But go back a bit further than that, and you’ll find it was once a different story.

In 1768, John Hancock of Boston was suspected of illegally importing madeira wine from Portugal on his boat, named the Liberty. The boat was then seized by British ships, who were enforcing a duty on imported goods like madeira wine. Patriots like Captain Daniel Malcom objected to this seizure, and unrest raged in the streets of Boston. It became known as the Liberty Affair, and gave Malcom and others in Boston another reason to hate the unelected and tyrannical king of the nation that is now our ally, but once upon a time was an oppressor unlike any other.

Captain Malcom’s role in this affair has been immortalized for centuries on the walls of Boston’s Old North Church, and a copy of this tale appears above. But the most humorous and ironic part of it all is the name of the British frigate that was at the center of the whole thing. Fittingly enough, the frigate was named the Romney.  You can’t make this stuff up.

Is there any connection between a British ship from 1768, and the man running for President in 2012? Not directly, no. But the name itself serves to remind us that this “shared history” isn’t without its blemishes. Which country once set fire to the White House, and attacked Fort McHenry as Francis Scott Key got the idea for the “Star-Spangled Banner“? And here’s  a hint: The Kenyans had nothing to do with it.

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