If the latter is true, then a good many Americans should also be expected to
come to BP's defense. Stats from BP's own website show that, while 40 percent
of the company's public shares are held by individuals and institutions in the
United Kingdom, American ownership of BP stock is nearly identical: 39 percent.
Is this a British company? Well, BP CEO Tony Hayward certainly speaks with a British accent, whether he's telling us that he's “deeply sorry” or whether he's arguing that the spill isn't such a big deal since the Gulf of Mexico is such a big ocean. (Tony, I'm deeply sorry, but the spill now covers a surface equal to about half of England.)
Still, though it's registered in the U.K., has British government and commerical roots that go back over 100 years and is the largest corporation headquartered in Britain, BP is among the more truly multinational corporations around, as shown by its scope of operations (the whole planet) as well as the citizenship of its shareholders. What's more, its 14-member board of directors counts an equal number of Brits and Yanks (six each), plus one Dutchman and one Swede, who happens to be the chairman.
OK, so that limits things to northern Europe and the USA, but it seems clear that this really isn't “British Petroleum” anymore.
At any rate, our cousins on the other side should understand that, as a rule, we in the U.S. are fully able to make the distinction between a publicly held corporation and the nation where that corporation is registered. Americans certainly don't hold themselves responsible when Exxon, Proctor and Gamble or Microsoft offends, so why would we blame the Brits for BP's mistakes? When news came out recently about alarmingly high suicide rates among employees at a Chinese factory where iPhones are made, I wanted to question Apple's ethics, but I certainly didn't accept any personal responsibility for the situation.
Relax, Albion. What really should be worrying you lot is our breathtaking 1-1 victory in Saturday's World Cup match. We may not understand the game, and we certainly don't know why the guys didn't keep playing until somebody really won, but we do like the fact that no timeouts means zero commercials for 45 minutes straight.
And, cor, we showed that our national soccer team is finally getting somewhere. Maybe it helps that over a third of our roster actually make their living playing for teams in Britain.