Sometimes, I take a moment to reflect on my native land.
It’s usually triggered by seeing some crazy American stuff for sale over here.
There is a quote in David Sedaris’s, Me Talk Pretty One Day, that I love, “People are often frightened of Parisians, but an American in Paris will find no harsher critic than another American.”
I can be a very harsh critic.
It doesn’t help that Americans are fairly conspicuous abroad. If it’s not the obvious sartorial tip-offs, you can usually hear an American tourist coming from a few kilometers away. We are a loud people. I love that Americans are friendly and genuinely exuberant. I hate that they shrilly announce their every thought and feeling in the crowded u-bahn. You better believe I’m judging you Mr. crewneck university sweatshirt wearing, complaining about carrying €1 coins instead of bills ‘Merica.
But I’m also protective of my culture. Seeing and hearing what others think of America often leaves me bewildered. For example: the American section of KaDeWe.
and then there’s this travesty…
I’m horrified that there is a whole section devoted to Squeeze Cheese. SQUEEZE CHEESE. 1) I never knew there were so many varieties of the abomination. 2) I’m appalled that they apparently sell enough bottles of it that they actually created an etched-glass sign to help shoppers find the display. 3)Gag
My defenses also activate whenever someone refers to the US too monolithically. Often, it can be amusing, as in when a well-meaning friend asked me, “What is the nightlife like in America?”. I’m barely able to describe the nightlife in Los Angeles, let alone NYC, Juneau or Tallahassee.
It becomes more frustrating when it’s a political or foreign policy judgement, and I become the unofficial embodiment of all fifty states, and its armed forces. David Sedaris describes it as morphing from an”American” to “America”. It can, of course, lead to comedy when in the middle of a discussion of patent law in your International Political Economy course, the entire room turns and stares at you after the professor relates that the proper way to swing on a swing was awarded a patent in the US. Yes, fellow students, I work at the US Patent Office, and am thereby responsible for that.
I don’t mean to say I don’t appreciate criticism and discussion of US policy decisions. I just want to be involved in the discussion, and not as the physical manifestation of the decision. Because, believe me, I love a good critical discussion.
And, let’s face it, with a country this big and varied, there’s always something to critique.
The anti-intellectualism, anti-expertise culture in America is exasperating and frightening. Yet, I must remind myself that despite sometimes celebrating shocking ignorance, the US fosters the democratization of knowledge, harbors some of the foremost intellectual institutions in the world, and quite simply allows citizens to argue and critique.
So you know, it’s a complicated place. I will criticize it, and love it always. Oh and speaking of love…
If you are from the LA area, I hope you appreciate this card as much as I did.
My bff’s live in Ventura County, so I’d amend this to:
I’d take the 605 to the 105 to the 405 to the 101 for you. At 4pm on a Thursday. That’s real love.
Ok, I’m done with actual reflection, now I just want you to appreciate the price of these American items in KaDeWe.
P.S. I think it’s fun learning the native “redneck” pronunciations of countries
Anybody know some others?