Bring on the daylight

Today, after six months of decreasing sun, there will be more daylight than there was yesterday. Most of us would agree that’s a happy thing. Daylight, metaphorically speaking, almost always represents something positive like clarity, honesty, and joy. But there’s one phrase in which it means something bad, and it comes up a lot in my work. You’ve heard it: “There’s no daylight between us.”

In this case, daylight strangely represents discord or fracturing, like when mortar has cracked in a brick wall. But despite that, the phrase is quite potent. When a nation, like mine, wants to make a definitive statement about its total agreement on an issue with another nation, like the UK, it gets the point across.

But its power cuts the other way too. The “no daylight” image, meant only for whatever specific context it was mentioned in, is apparently so strong that some people can’t seem to set it aside when considering other aspects of the relationship. It sets a kind of preposterous standard where any “daylight” anywhere represents a worrisome crack in the friendship. Disagreement is a threat.

But imagine the best relationship in your life. Do you agree all the time? What kind of relationship would that be anyway? In a relationship it’s not whether you disagree but how you do it.

I think about the statue of FDR and Churchill on the bench in Bond Street, the two of them in animated conversation with plenty of room for the huge personality of each man. Imagine how odd it would be if they sat so close together that there was no space between them and they were instead a monolithic bronze clump. The actual statue lets the air flow through and the daylight shine, and it’s a much better representation of our special relationship.

The US and the UK are going to disagree about many things. When I talk to students here, I make a point of discussing the areas where our policies are different. Gun laws, immigration, and plenty of others. I bring them up as proof of the strongest, not the weakest, aspect of our countries’ bond. The special relationship is powerful and enduring enough to allow for open discussion of the places where we disagree, and sometimes very strongly. Still, our trust and friendship remain.

So, in celebration of what makes our alliance so strong, let’s be open to frank discussions. Let’s look at our ability to disagree as a positive. On this winter solstice, let’s let in the daylight.