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07.2011 / My American Friends

Granted, these visiting Americans often seem to have loud voices, but on closer examination, it’s a little subtler than that. Americans have no fear of being overheard. Civic life in Britain is predicated on the idea that everyone just about conceals his loathing of everyone else. To open your mouth is to risk offending someone. So we mutter and mumble as if surrounded by informers or, more exactly, as if they are living in our heads. In America the right to free speech is exercised freely and cordially. The basic assumption is that nothing you say will offend anyone else because, deep down, everyone is agreed on the premise that America is better than anyplace else. No such belief animates British life. On the contrary. A couple of years ago a survey indicated that British Muslims were the most fed-up of any in Europe: a sign, paradoxically, of profound assimilation.

On point: why I love Americans (dearly). It’s their charming self-assurance and the way they like to express their naivety. Also the way they make me feel superior (I’m not stupid enough to see that this is a valid point, considering how we Europeans tend to overestimate ourselves).

via Letter From London – My American Friends – NYTimes.com.

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