A Quiet American

nervous_uncle_samI’ve noticed that since moving to France, I often avoid telling people where I’m from. I say “Je parle anglais” and don’t bother to correct anyone who thinks I’m from England. It’s somehow easier that way. While there have been times when I’ve been proud to be the only American in the room (when everyone else in the room was British),  truth be told, more often than not, I am just embarrassed to admit it and hate it when I have no choice but to expose it. When someone, like a translator, is speaking on my behalf and loudly declares, “Elle est Americane”, I actually shrivel a little. Can’t I just be a citizen of the world?

It’s a shocking subtle touch of shame that I didn’t expect to feel here. I love America, and despite it sounding like a total contradiction, I am proud to be an American. It shouldn’t be that difficult to understand my mixed emotions given our history. When I consider what my forefathers hoped to build through the writing of The Constitution, I am proud. When I think of the way they failed to be inclusive of women and slaves, eh, not so much. When I think of the landing at Normandy during WWII, I am extremely proud. When I compare the ability to conduct business in the US with the way things are here, I’m proud to be an American.  But when I think of George Bush and Dick Cheney, I am completely mortified to be American. When I think of the way we bulldoze ourselves into other nations (including of course, our own) decimating the people, land and culture, I am deeply ashamed. When I compare our healthcare and educational systems, I am embarrassed. Of course, with all the latest political developments in the US right now, specifically the rise of Mr. #Drumpf (otherwise known as #Trump), I am beyond mortified.

I’ve also noticed that whenever I encounter one of my areas many Moroccan immigrants, I am at first afraid to be known as American. This has nothing to do with what one might expect…fear of them. On the contrary, I am afraid they will judge me based on my racist counterparts and the US media that spews so much anti-knowledge about the Muslim faith. This initial impulse wears off when I remember that I am perhaps the only American they will ever meet and have a chance to show them we are not all gun-toting, anti-Muslim idiots. But that nasty undercurrent of shame remains, I, a meager representative of an apology they will never hear.

Now, thanks to this wholly absurd and surreal political climate back home (it will always be home), I have to wonder if I will ever again cop to being American unless I have to. If America actually elects a narcissistic con-man like you know who, I think my nationality will remain a deeply-guarded secret revealed only in whispers.

I am happy to declare that my friends back home are completely same and rational people who abhor he who cannot be named again. Most Americans are. And all of us maintain the hope that this sad little man will be put in his place. But even if he is, the damage has perhaps been done. He’s already rallied and emboldened people too full of pain and ignorance to understand their anger. He himself is a silly man, a complete fool. It’s the people who seem to worship him and the absolutely insane beliefs for which he stands that make me shake for the Republic for which America was meant to stand.

For now, I tremble to be an American, and I weep for my country.




2 thoughts on “A Quiet American

  1. Well, I think you’re mistaken in hiding your nationality here. The French of all people I’ve found to be positively disposed toward the Americans ( i.e., they like them) Much more than they do the brits or other English speakers. Americans are liked! I received a lot of positive “Ah vous êtes américain!” exclamations when I reveal my nationality in France…far more so than in Britain where there is a lot of blind prejudice against Americans. And don’t even get me started onthe Canadians, where I had to hide my identity or reveal it with the caveat, “But I hope we can still be friends…” So you’re missing an opportunity to be welcomed as an American in France and your shame is misplaced. I agree with you on the “he who shall not be named” note. But do your part and VOTE and get others to do the same. After all it is not yet un fait accompli, no?

    1. Hi AJ, I’ve already voted absentee. Registered last year. But I’m confused. I never said that my impulse to avoid revealing my nationality was because of the response of the French. They usually respond positively or with complete disinterest. It was just an internal feeling I noticed and was writing about.

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