If Only They Didn’t Speak English by Jon Sopel

Britain covets its special ties with the US, but a shared language makes us forget it is a foreign land, leaving us puzzled when its interests conflict with ours. As the BBC’s North America Editor, the author has experienced “The Greatest Country on Earth” from a perspective that most could only dream of. In this book, he sets out to answer our questions about a country that once stood for the grandest of dreams but which is now mired in a storm of political extremism and racial division.

Jon Sopel is the BBC’s political editor for North America whose extensive coverage of the United States means there are very few British journalists working today who understand the American political and cultural landscape as he does. He has had rare access and insight to those shaping the world’s most powerful nation, having interviewed President Barack Obama and reporting on the last three presidential campaigns.

Then in February 2017 Jon went head-to-head with President Donald J. Trump at a notoriously combative press conference where the Commander-in-Chief hissed menacingly, “I know who YOU are…” after being challenged on his Executive Order for an immigration ban. The 2016 election shone a light on the divisions between black and white, young and old, rich and poor, urban and rural, educated and uneducated. And in this new political era Jon’s book, If Only They Didn’t Speak English: Notes from Trump’s America, is our essential guide to this New America.

Join Britain’s best-known political journalist as he tours the country sharing his first-hand experiences from a country whose ‘special relationship’ with Britain has never felt so uncertain. Jon explores American life through British eyes and questions how ‘the Greatest Country on Earth’ has become mired in a storm of political extremism, radical division and increasingly perverse beliefs. Source Penguin 

Lesson plan

Listen to the radio interview on BBC Simon Mayo Drivetime with Jon Sopel. Start the listening on 1:09. Take notes while listening and write a post on your blog where you mention the 5 points listed here.

  1. What happened in Miami, and why do they discuss changing gun laws in the USA?
  2. The difference between the Brits and the Americans as described in this interview.
  3. What and where is Youngstown in relations to Trump’s America?
  4. Write about globalization vs prior optimism on getting your job back. Mention the American dream, and why so many were angry during this last election.
  5. People addicted to pain killers in the USA.
  6. Using the lyrics in the song by Bruce Springsteen discuss the reasons for and the impact of being unemployed in the USA today.

by Bruce Springsteen.

Here in northeast Ohio
Back in eighteen-o-three
James and Dan Heaton
Found the ore that was linin’ Yellow Creek
They built a blast furnace
Here along the shore
And they made the cannonballs
That helped the Union win the war Here in Youngstown
Here in Youngstown
My sweet Jenny I’m sinkin’ down
Here darlin’ in YoungstownWell my daddy worked the furnaces
Kept ’em hotter than hell
I come home from ‘Nam worked my way to scarfer
A job that’d suit the devil as well
Taconite coke and limestone
Fed my children and make my pay
Them smokestacks reachin’ like the arms of God
Into a beautiful sky of soot and clayHere in Youngstown
Here in Youngstown
Sweet Jenny I’m sinkin’ down
Here darlin’ in Youngstown

Well my daddy come on the Ohio works
When he come home from World War Two
Now the yard’s just scrap and rubble
He said “Them big boys did what Hitler couldn’t do.”
These mills they built the tanks and bombs
That won this country’s wars
We sent our sons to Korea and Vietnam
Now we’re wondering what they were dyin’ for

Here in Youngstown
Here in Youngstown
My sweet Jenny I’m sinkin’ down
Here darlin’ in Youngstown

From the Monongahela valley
To the Mesabi iron range
To the coal mines of Appalachia
The story’s always the same
Seven hundred tons of metal a day
Now sir you tell me the world’s changed
Once I made you rich enough
Rich enough to forget my name

And Youngstown
And Youngstown
My sweet Jenny I’m sinkin’ down
Here darlin’ in Youngstown

When I die I don’t want no part of heaven
I would not do heaven’s work well
I pray the devil comes and takes me
To stand in the fiery furnaces of hell


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