Donal Blaney writes:
It is often said in Britain that innovations, trends or ideas that begin in the United States will pass into British society and culture after five years, and then into European society and culture some time after that. These trends may be musical, dietary, lifestyle and often ultimately political.
Recent years have seen the spread in Britain, and even in Europe, of hip-hop and rap in the musical sphere. Britons in particular have devoured an ever growing number of Big Macs and Starbucks coffees in keeping with the habits of their American cousins, with equally negative effects on the waistline. In response Britons too are fast developing the health conscious reaction to the dietary ills of recent years with a plethora of gyms opening up around the country.
And political trends often translate from across the Pond too: a powerful Reagan was followed by a gentler, kinder Bush who, in turn, was followed by a social democratic spinmeister in Clinton - so in Britain a powerful Thatcher was followed by a gentler, kinder Major who, in turn, was followed by a social democratic spinmeister Blair.
Yet Britons and Americans must realise that these trends do not only travel in one direction. While it is inevitable that such traffic may ordinarily move from the Western Hemisphere eastwards, there are increasingly occasions where the United States does look towards Britain and Europe - not least in respect of its jurisprudence, where the United States Supreme Court has, in recent years, taken far more consideration than is proper of the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.
A story that has secured some media prominence in Britain in recent concerns Patrick Agin, a 17 year old student at Portsmouth High School, Rhode Island. His hobby is re-enacting medieval battles, an interest that developed out of his mother's work in making and selling period clothing. Patrick's graduation photo - or at least the photo that he submitted - shows him dressed in chainmail and armour wielding his favourite sword. He is one of 35,000 members of the US-based Society for Creative Anachronism.
The humourless principal at Portsmouth High School, Robert Littlefield, has said that the flagrant wielding of a potentially dangerous weapon was a clear violation of school regulations. It is to the credit of the otherwise awful American Civil Liberties Union that the ACLU has filed a case on Patrick's behalf.
What does this have to do with Britain? Surely this is yet another example of political correctness gone mad and political correctness is a creed that developed in the United States, not in Britain.
That may be the case. However I think that there is more to it than that and it revolves around the left's concerted attempts to undermine Second Amendment rights in the United States. Not content with trotting out arguments domestically that all too often fall on deaf ears (in particular thanks to the outstanding efforts of the National Rifle Association), the left has broadened its assault by pointing to the behaviour of other Western nations. These more ancient (and, in the left's eyes, more civilised) nations do not condone gun ownership, "violent" hobbies or, indeed, capital punishment. "Oh", say America's band of America-hating leftists, "if only we could be more like our European forebears".
Few people in England realise that the English have a Bill of Rights and that it predates the US Bill of Rights by almost 100 years. The English Bill of Rights 1689 is, indeed, the basis for the US model enacted shortly after Independence.
One of the ancient rights and liberties that was codified in the English Bill of Rights was "that the subjects which are Protestants may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions and as allowed by law". This is the clear forebear of the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, the "right to bear arms".
The US version, however, is absolute in its wording: " A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed".
This has not prevented successive liberal, activist judges who are incapable of interpreting the US Constitution in a manner consistent with the intentions of the Founding Fathers from attacking the Second Amendment. Now, it seems, that a 17 year old High School graduate is himself to become the latest weapon in the fight between constitutional purists and revisionist left-wing activists.
The fact that Second Amendment rights are under attack should not come as a shock. In Britain, where handguns were banned a decade ago and there have been ever more steady erosions of other gun owners' and country sports' enthusiasts' rights since then, someone like Patrick Agin would probably be taken into care and brainwashed out of his thoroughly nasty and violent hobby (as the bien pensant left would describe it).
The actions of Patrick's headteacher highlight the prescriptive and offensive manner in which those who wield authority all too often abuse their positions of power. It is not a medieval sword that is dangerous. It is not even the concept of "the right to bear arms" that is dangerous. What is truly dangerous are the attitudes and actions of men such as Patrick's headteacher, Robert Littlefield. Their zeal in curtailing the rights of otherwise law-abiding people highlights the very worst in the human condition.
It is not Patrick's High School graduation photo that should be removed from his yearbook - it is Robert Littlefield who should be removed from Portsmouth High School and attitudes such as his that should be removed from America's classrooms.