The April Fools 2019
The Insular American
This phrase is not mine. I found it in a diatribe posing as a book review on the rain-forest selling platform that posts just about any review, except mine. My reviews don’t meet Community Standards. And judging from most of the reviews that I read on that site, the standards are so low that I most likely exceed them, thereby disqualifying my voice. I guess I don’t live in that Community! It’s a literary No-Go-Zone.
This book was about the Hollywood director Howard Hawks. I was interested in finding out more about the man who seemed to me like a curmudgeon, a misanthropic misogynist with a gift for directing a certain type of film that marked the world of men during a by-gone era in America. This book revealed that Howard Hawks met all of those personality traits.
I did not, however, expect to read about how his lack of travel to Europe — except for professional and business reasons — late in his life, showed how he was an insular American.
This faux-reviewer went on to name in this same category of INSULAR AMERICAN a former American president, who was obviously not of his political stripe; and an American entertainer who was just too hum-dinger American but who was, in fact, an American icon, one whose death in 1977 is still disputed!
The Insular American is a stereotype that reveals more about the American who does just about anything to prove that he, or she, is not “insular” — but is cultured, sophisticated and sooooo Western European and — uh hum, Asian. The reality is quite otherwise.
Those Americans are obsessed with proving to Europeans, as well as to Americans, that they are not those bigoted, rigidly-minded Americans who stay home and raise their children, or who go to yard sales, or who attend church, or pop open a brewskie and watch a game of hockey. These touristas and tourists are not country bumpkins.
They are rather the pathetic representatives of a nation they denigrate and despise. They traipse all over Europe, the Pacific Rim, and into Central and South American countries, all for the purpose of checking off destinations on their Bucket Lists.
Now, admittedly, I did not know of the existence of a Bucket List until a couple of years ago. I read about it on a makeup blog that displayed the latest travelogue pix and What’s In My Suitcase and how busy my Passport is getting. And when my Next Trip is planned and to What-Shi-Shi-Destination. The ironed-out sheet on the wall with the projector slide-show of yore (from which there was no escape) has become the Blog-Travelogue that works its way into any subject matter.
It all looked rather bizarre to me, who was taking a break from translating her World War II novel, that takes place in France and in England, from English into French.
The majority of those Bucket-List-Americans do not know the language of the nation they invade for the purpose of looking worldly and knowledgeable and utterly unlike the rubes who don’t have a passport. I don’t have one either.
There was a time when a library card served as a passport to international worlds. And there was a time when an American viewed foreign nations as foreign nations, not holes punched on an itinerary. Those were the good ole days when Americans had saved Europe from the ignoramuses who believed Hitler was a gifted politician and could be appeased. Those Americans knew better than to idolize Western European socialist countries as the nirvana that the hum-drum, cloddily inferior America would never be.
I now know how the commercial airplane became a Greyhound, or even Trailways, bus with wings. These non-insular Americans gallivant all over the global aviation landscape, filled with stereotypical information about their destinations, and determined to prove to everyone that they are Citizens of the World.
These citizens are challenged by proper American English, so why would they even attempt French or Spanish or Italian, or any Latin subset of a Romance Language. Forget Chinese or Japanese! The foreigners must learn English to deal with invading hordes of American tourists. That necessity, to me, is insult #1. The other insults occur in countless ways as the tacky American tourists spread their almighty dollars in foreign lands to prove how tasteful they are!
And so on they go, down the over-stuffed Champs-Elysées, into the perfume boutiques, where they ask for Lair Bloo-ee. Which is really L’Heure Bleue. No matter that the Eiffel Tower is now enveloped in Plexi-glass. Why, it’s culture!
French restaurants must serve Americanized meals that are far cries, and tragic ones, from Nouvelle Cuisine. The predominance of fast-food restaurants in Europe and elsewhere “abroad” can be blamed, yes, blamed, on these non-insular Americans — and their emotional baggage.
Whenever I read reviews online for clothes, the criteria are largely whether or not the garment rolls up wrinkle-less into the single carry-on travel bag in flight to Europe. The American post-college back-packers of the 1970s, who journeyed all the way to Amsterdam for a new kind of drug experience, have been replaced by the roll-up packers of the New Millennium who dare not go to Amsterdam lest these tourists meet the refugees and migrants who now litter the EU landscape.
I recently spotted a very telling bumper sticker on a Subaru. The Japanese word possesses a very different pronunciation from the one so commonly spoken in the United States. I highly doubt the non-insular, globe-trotting Americans have mastered it.
The bumper sticker stated:
I’D RATHER HAVE A PASSPORT FULL OF STAMPS THAN A HOUSE FULL OF STUFF
The intention and result are basically the same thing:
LOOK AT ME!! I AM SPENDING A LOT OF MONEY THAT YOU CAN’T SPEND TO PROVE THAT I AM NOT AN INSULAR AMERICAN.
A person does not collect stamps anymore. The fine hobby of philately has been stamped out by the garish hoarding of stamps in a passport.
I must now close this essay and start the review of Chapter 24 of L’AUBE, my French translation of THE DAWN. I might very well be just an insular American without a passport, but I reckon that I know a lot more about France and England and even Scotland and Ireland than the Teva-shod tourists that trudge all over the Old Country, reviving thoughts of the old chant:
YANKEE GO HOME!
American fools and their money are soon parted. As for me, this American has a part to play at home, where she feels at home, in the home country. Put that one in your bucket.