One advantage, or sometimes disadvantage, of living abroad is watching different culture react to the changes in their country and in the world. You also get to watch your home country from afar while hearing the opinions of those in a different country. For example, I experienced the UK react to Obama’s election, like I posted about before, and more recently I’ve observed the UK react to North Korea and the UK react to the US reacting to North Korea (clear as mud, right?) Anyway, it’s always an enlightening experience to see things from a different perspective while abroad. It also sometimes is very strange. This is one of those stranger times.
If you live under a rock, you’ll be surprised to hear that Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady, passed away in London today.
This left me in an interesting position. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “you weren’t even born when she was Prime Minister!! How could you understand!? You’re not British!!”
I am fully aware of these things, but that does not make me ignorant of Baroness Thatcher’s policies, actions, or legacy.
The interesting position I speak of is one of the “outsider looking in” type. I, as you may or may not have pointed out to your computer, am not British, but I am in London, and when the news broke of Baroness Thatcher’s passing, I witnessed (and continue to witness) not only a city, but a country, say goodbye to a leader.
Since the news broke this morning,
(more specifically, since I woke up this morning) I have seen responses to the passing of the Iron Lady, whether it is on Twitter, out on the street, in a Starbucks, or on the Tube. The responses varied from celebration to disdain, but the vast majority of them, even if they were from those who opposed her, were indeed mournful and respectful. (Though with a woman who was in power a decade and a half ago, it is inevitable, and sad, to see youths and others unaware of who she was.)
Some people were happy, some were infinitely saddened by the news, and some couldn’t be bothered. It is much like watching the U.S. mourn a president, but because I’m an outsider, there’s a bit of a disconnect. I am not British, so it’s not quite the same.
I’ve seen people that disagreed with her and her staunch policies and people that supported her come together to talk about the first female Prime Minister and her place in history. Most people have begun to talk about her fierceness, power, and strong will, the things that earned her the nickname the Iron Lady.
David Cameron said that he expects her to go down in history as the best peace-time Prime Minister the UK has ever seen, and Ed Miliband (leader of the Opposition Labour Party), has said that while his party has disagreed with her policies, they can still respect her achievements and her strength. (AFP/BBC)
The BBC has an entire page dedicated to covering the world’s responses to her death, and it has been going on all day. This is how important this woman was, love her or hate her, to Britain, and to the world. They list leaders and figures everywhere and their responses including Nancy Reagan, Barack Obama, Koffi Annan, Mikhail Gorbachev, and many, many more.
They also cover the unfortunate, tasteless things that people have been doing, which I cannot stand. Holding parties for someone’s death is, in my opinion, very distasteful. I know many people hated Thatcher, and I know many people who couldn’t stand Reagan in the States, but I see no reason to actually throw a street party celebrating her death. But again, that’s my opinion. (And I cannot do much to stop them anyway) It has been much like people throwing parties after the death of Osama bin Laden, which regardless of taste, I don’t think the two people should be placed in the same category. I guess this is part of the disconnect, and also where my age shows. As much as I have read or researched about Baroness Thatcher, I was not around to actually have experienced what she was like in the public eye. (Which is something to always keep in mind)
And it is an interesting position, being someone from another country, watching a country mourn for one its greatest leaders. Being an American born in 1992, and at the same time, a history major who has taken numerous poly sci classes and also happens to be a bit of an Anglophile, I do mourn her passing, but in a different way. I can, as many have done, appreciate and honor what she has done, learn more about her, and mourn, but it is obviously different. Like I said before, it feels as if there’s a disconnect.
I do not agree with quite a few (read most) of the policies she implemented, but I do understand how important she was to the world of politics (on a global scale) and how important she was to Britain. She was a no-nonsense woman from humble beginnings who is famous and infamous for leading her country back to its world status. I can respect that. Not just as an American, a woman, or a democrat, but also as a human being, I can respect her wanting to do her best for her country. (
I wish our politicians in the States would do that.)
So even though there is that odd disconnect, I join the Brits, as an observing participant, in mourning a lightning rod figure who has very clearly made her impact on the world.
Watching the Iron Lady tonight.