Being an American is much more than being “cool”

Unsurprisingly, fresh off the Obama victory, an AP reporter who covers “European Affairs” has published a piece about how being an American is now “cool” again. Apparently, all of Europe loves us, all because we were willing to elect who they wanted us to. (Message: Do what we want you to, regardless of how it will affect your well-being, and trendy, hip Europeans will like you. Disobey us, even if it is to your benefit and safety, and trendy, hip Europeans will shun you. HA.)

She was a stranger, and she kissed me. Just for being an American.

It happened on the bus on my way to work Wednesday morning, a few hours after compatriots clamoring for change swept Barack Obama to his historic victory. I was on the phone, and the 20-something Austrian woman seated in front of me overheard me speaking English.

Without a word, she turned, pecked me on the cheek and stepped off at the next stop.

Nothing was said, but the message was clear: Today, we are all Americans.

For longtime U.S. expatriates like me — someone far more accustomed to being targeted over unpopular policies, for having my very Americanness publicly assailed — it feels like an extraordinary turnabout.

Like a long journey over a very bumpy road has abruptly come to an end.

And it’s not just me.

An American colleague in Egypt says several people came up to her on the streets of Cairo and said: “America, hooray!” Others, including strangers, expressed congratulations with a smile and a hand over their hearts.

Another colleague, in Amman, says Jordanians stopped her on the street and that several women described how they wept with joy.

… And it wasn’t the first time I fudged where I was from. I speak three foreign languages, so I have a bit of flexibility when it comes to faking. At various times, I’ve been a German in Serbia, a Frenchman in Turkey, a Dutchman in Austria.

I’m not proud of it. But when you’re far from home, and you’re feeling cornered, you develop what you come to believe are survival skills.

… My children came of age in Europe, and in a hostile post-9/11 world we had to teach them to avoid being too conspicuously American. Don’t speak English loudly on the subway. Don’t wear baseball caps and tennis shoes. Don’t single yourselves out, guys, and even worldly wise Americans can unwittingly become targets.

We didn’t overdo it, but there’s always been that tension. That difficult-to-describe sense of vulnerability. That nagging instinct that maybe we’d better watch it, because our government is intensely unpopular and we’re not entirely welcome.

… I’m a marathon runner, and I have a red, white and blue singlet that I’ve seldom dared to wear on the Continent. Marathons are difficult enough without enduring catcalls and jeers from spectators.

But my best friend and training partner — who is French — just gave me his stamp of approval.

“Will you wear your Stars and Stripes shirt now? You’re allowed!” he told me.
Well hey, that’s great news. Of all the things that America stands for — freedom, generosity, strength, resilience — being “cool” is what’s most important. Of course, isn’t this what liberalism is all about? I don’t know many situations where liberals have ever wanted to do something based on principle or integrity. Liberalism is purely emotion-based, and therefore something as inane as popularity will mean the world to them. Whereas I could care less what the rest of the world thinks of us, say, invading Iraq when it’s the right thing to do, liberals are begging for approval from the UN and Europe. It’s like that pimply kid in middle school who is tolerated by the trendy kids in the cafeteria because he’ll do ridiculous things for their amusement, thinking that one of these days he’ll finally win their respect. American liberals are the pimply kid, and Europeans are the trendy kids.

It doesn’t seem to me in reading that piece that the writer was ever proud of being an American, especially considering he’s an expatriate. But now, now that it’s “cool” to be American, he’s all about owning his American identity. Very principled, huh?

Being an American is much more than being “cool”. It means much more. It’s why immigrants want so desperately to be here — because we are the greatest, freest country on the planet, because we are the last best hope, because we are that shining city on a hill. If Europeans find that to be uncool, then that’s fine. I’d rather love my country and be the rejected loser in the corner than disowning America for the sake of inclusion of the trendy Europeans, something this writer — and Yahoo, who gave this story a top headline in the World News column — clearly can’t understand.

Hat Tip: Newsbusters

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