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Satirical Semite: American Exceptionalism

A lover of England is an Anglophile. A lover of France is a Francophile. A lover of America is an Americanophile, which sounds like it has one too many syllables, although America does most things big and better, even when it comes to linguistics.
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August 16, 2021
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A lover of England is an Anglophile. A lover of France is a Francophile. A lover of America is an Americanophile, which sounds like it has one too many syllables, although America does most things big and better, even when it comes to linguistics.

I love America. As a self-proclaimed U.S.ophile (nope, still doesnt sound right), friends would occasionally ask butwhy did you want to live in Los Angeles?” It was hard to answer, apart from the sun, sea, beautiful beaches, creative community, innovative Jewish life, 80-degree days in December, Malibu, summer concerts, pop-up restaurants, spirit of excitement and a near ubiquitous drive for self-development and spiritual growth. My standard answer eventually became I moved because America is better.” It is purely coincidental that I am writing this two weeks before my next visa interview at the American Embassy in London.

It is purely coincidental that I am writing this two weeks before my next visa interview at the American Embassy in London.

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee recently ignited controversy when he said that students in state school districts will be taught unapologetic American exceptionalism.” In other words, there is no apology for teaching that the U.S. is exceptional and that rules and expectations applied to other nations arent always relevant. America is dedicated to equality, representative democracy, and the way it plays a distinct role on the world stage aiming to improve the world and set an example for what a successful country can become.” Never mind that the phrase American exceptionalism” was allegedly invented by Joseph Stalin in 1929 and made popular by the American Communism Party.

Is America exceptional when it comes to manners? For many years I believed a story that the nation is uncouth, and that it is the British who are the most polite, full of formalities and endless pleases” and thank yous.” My culturally-sensitive skin bristles at U.S. dinner tables when being told to pass the salt” rather than please pass the salt” and getting a murmur of aha” or mm-hmm”  instead of youre welcome.” It is the greeting, however, that wins. One thing done oh-so-well in the U.S. is the act of saying hello” when passing someone on the street. It is the custom in England, on the other hand, to ignore one another when passing on the street. My counter-culture move is to give them a nice loud Good morning,” which teases out a forced smile, although they look at me as if I am American. Ill take it as a compliment.

Jewish life in England can be exceptionally exciting. Synagogues are thrilling places and every week I play a game counting the number of people in shul who dont have white or greying hair. The game is easy to play since, unlike Los Angeles, there are almost no men who dye their hair. Last week I was shocked to see that the number of non-grey heads had increased by a stunning 200 percent! There were now two people under the age of 70. The community members are excited at this exponential growth. They watch with bated breath, or at least would do if they could stay awake.

Traditional Jewish practice in the UK tends to be fairly homogenous in contrast to the diversity of the United States. This creates a problem in my hat drawer. I must now buy a brand new set of baseball caps that are three sizes smaller, because in order to blend in with local communities I have had to narrow my mind.

America has a stronger grasp on decision-making. Almost none of my British friends have a therapist, and one actually said Why do I need to go to someone when I actually make my own decisions?” I dont know how I feel about this, but will process and discuss it every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at 5 p.m. with my therapist.

It gets worse. Almost none of my English friends have even heard of cold-pressed green juice, or would consider drinking something that has 50% apple juice content, which is basically sacrilege in Santa Monica. Only one of my friends has ever been on a meditation retreat and only two people have a daily yoga practice. The place feels unexceptional.

My local rabbi in England expressed a desire for me to offer some creative programming for the synagogue. This was the first time I had ever been approached with a request to bring an infusion of creativity into a traditional Jewish setting, and I was thrilled. It took me by complete surprise, to be invited to introduce some innovative approaches into an otherwise limited environment that is often scared of change. It takes a bold leader to take this kind of chance. Then again, he is American.


Marcus J Freed is an actor, writer and business consultant. www.marcusjfreed.com

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