Friday, September 5, 2008

British Hotel Refuses Room to Soldier: How Americans are Viewed Abroad

"World opinion of U.S. sinking / Dislike of everything American on the rise." Everybody knows it. And has, for years. As one publication put it, a couple of years ago, "The United States has often irritated the rest of the world, but lately it's gotten worse -- and more dangerous."

So, it's no surprise that a hotel in England refused service to a soldier. Everybody know what a low opinion the world has of America, and particularly the American military-industrial complex.

Just one thing: this soldier is Corporal Tomos Stringer, soldier since the age of 16 in her majesty's army. He's currently serving in 13 Air Assault Support Regiment of The Royal Logistic Corps.

Corporal Stringer wasn't in uniform when he tried to check in to the Metro Hotel, on Crown Square, in Woking, Surrey, England. He did, however, present his (British) army warrant card when asked for identification.

Then, as The Times put it, Corporal Stringer was told "That it was company policy not to accept members of the Armed Forces as guests."

Corporal Stringer spent the night in his two-door car, his wrist in a cast - healing from a combat injury. My guess is that he's slept in less comfortable places, but that's not the point.

The Metro Hotel, Surrey, has received letters from Corporal Stringer's local MP, Hywel Williams, the British Defence Minister, Derek Twigg, and Bob Ainsworth, the British Armed Forces Minister. All of them suggesting that the hotel acted inappropriately.

The Metro Hotel, after being deluged by phone calls and threats, asked for police protection. And, finally, apologized. That may not be enough. Somewhat non-positive reviews are popping up in travel sites: "Metro Hotel - Military Personnel NOT welcome" (TripAdvisor.com), for example.

According to the Metro Hotel, a receptionist made a mistake. Anyway, the Metro has experienced " 'some rather serious incidents" involving soldiers from the nearby barracks," as a letter to a Mr Williams, MP for Caernarfon, put it.

The Metro Hotel is owned by a company called American Amusements, Ltd. So far, I've found two addresses for American Amusements, Ltd. One is on Crown Square, Woking, Surrey. The other is in Bournemouth, Dorset. Despite the name, by guess is that it's a British company.

How America is Viewed Abroad

Corporal Stringer's mother isn't a statistically significant sample of the British population, but I think her comment, quoted in The Times, was quite interesting:

"I'm very, very angry. It's discrimination. They would never get away with it if it was against someone of ethnic origin."

That's not the really interesting part. This is: "In America, they treat soldiers as heroes. We went to Disney World with Tomos and the whole family was moved to the front of the lines. Everybody was standing up and clapping and cheering. Here, soldiers can't even get a bed for the night." (The Times (September 5, 2008))

She doesn't seem to be expressing an anti-American sentiment.

I've long suspected that America and Americans aren't quite as roundly despised, world-wide, as the self-described best and brightest think. Sure, there's anti-American sentiment in many quarters, including some American universities, but I do not see evidence that it's quite as wide-spread as might be hoped.

In the news: Some of my views on how America's 'better sort' view America:

2 comments:

Brigid said...

Hmm. You'd think a place like that would want soldiers bunking with them. Remember that bar in Sydney that would've been robbed blind if a biker club hadn't been meeting next door? As I recall one of the poor saps trying to rob the place ended up hog tied.

Now a military man would be a little more disciplined in dispatching hoodlums. ^_^

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Brigid,

There are two sides to the coin here. The bar in Sydney is a valid example. And, one of your aunts was profoundly grateful when a convoy came along and let her drive between two of the military vehicles.

On the other hand, I remember the time when I was living in San Francisco, and a dozen or so sailors had a party on the floor I lived on. They were a lively, and well-oiled bunch. Military police showed up after a few windows and some lavatory equipment had been smashed.

I feel a little sorry for the highest-ranking sailor in the bunch. As the man who was, in effect, the senior officer on deck, he was personally responsible for what had happened.

I've never seen anyone sober up so fast.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

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