Thursday, July 06, 2006

Independence Day

Tuesday was my very first Fourth of July. Some of my girlfriend's work colleagues decided to make it worth remembering by bringing a portable grill, weiners, buns, potato salad, corn on the cob, all manner of condiments, tiny flags, poppers and a highly appropriate movie, "Team America: World Police".

The movie did make me laugh a lot. What can I say, I have a sick sense of humor, and I'm something of a South Park fan. Despite the horrible foreign stereotypes and jokes, the humor at the expense of the so-called rescue team is what really stuck with me. Their enthusiasm and belief that it was their responsibility to police the world leads them to annoy and frustrate everyone, despite their oblivious attempts to protect world peace.

Since arriving here, I have noticed that people have a tendency to take themselves very seriously in this country, compared to the attitudes I was used to back home. Living in California means things are somewhat more laidback than other parts of the country, but there is still that confident, slightly brash arrogance that many Americans exhude. As a born Londoner, I am used to city life, but it has taken a while to understand that people are not rude for asking me how I am when I'm buying my lunch, or for stopping me in the street to tell me they like my shirt. I am used to a city where everyone ignores everyone else, where people can take the same train to work for five years and never make direct eye contact.

The confidence and friendliness is refreshing, if a little annoying at times. One thing that always bothered me a little about the English was the lack of patriotism. I was guilty of the same attitude, the need to leap to my birth country's defense at even the smallest hint of criticism from an outsider, and yet I couldn't tell you when St. George's Day was. Here, people wave flags, celebrate their independence and will gladly tell you that they love their country. Some of them may not love their current government or have problems with some people on the other end of the political or religious spectrum, but by god they love the soil they stand on.

One of the movie's most amusing and cringe-worthy aspects was the way the team continually managed to blow up historical artifacts like the Louvre and the Pyramids of Giza. Along with this dedication to Do The Right Thing and Save The World, they managed to destroy everything else in the progress. The theme song's lyrics, "America, f*** yeah! / Coming again to save the mother f***ing day, yeah" pretty much summed it up for me. That misplaced gung-ho attitude, at the same time admirably patriotic and also utterly reckless. It's a matter of national pride and yet continually gets government administrations in trouble for going just a little too far in trying to Save The World. Of course, "Team America: World Police" is a gross caricature of all stereotypes, which is part of what made it so memorable. Not all that great, but certainly something that made me think.

At times, I long for the insivibility of being a Londoner, of being able to go through an entire day without speaking a word to anyone. And yet there is something very comforting about having a stranger compliment my outfit, or having a spontaneous conversation about dinner plans with someone in line at the grocery checkout. I'm extremely proud of my English roots, and it is a relief to know that I can continue to maintain dual citizenship when I naturalize in three years time.

Oh and after the movie? We watched the firework displays from Venice Beach. I feel like a true Californian already.

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