By Greer, Bonnie
New Statesman (1996) , Vol. 133, No. 4711
Being an American expat has never been harder. The minute you open your mouth you become, by default, a convenient dumping ground for all those opposed to your native land's stance in the world. Americans are lumped together. No matter that you have lived away from the United States for decades, have sworn allegiance to a foreign power, and have stated over and over again that you oppose much of the way the US operates on the planet--you're a Yank and always will be.
Which, frankly, suits me just fine.
What people who have never lived in the United States or had a close relationship with an American fail to appreciate is the simple fact that no one, and I mean no one, can criticise America quite like an American. It's in our DNA. I have seen bumper stickers in Illinois, in the heart of the heartland, where I was born and raised, bearing the slogan "US Out of North America". There are Americans who pray every day that the heavens will open up and blow the US away. In practically every American household, there is at least one critic of some facet of life in the US.
America is, for every American, a personal, visceral thing, ours to make and shape as we see fit. We speak our minds and like to think that we allow others to do so, too. And so, in that spirit, but in no particular order, here are those people who, despite everything, make me still treasure that passport with the eagle on the cover.
The first is that very personification of the term "prophet without honour", Noam Chomsky. He is barely published in the US, but nothing stops his relentless critique, his condemnation of the powers that be who fail to live up to the promise of our great country.
Toni Morrison is another. She has given voice to an entire generation of writers, male and female, who refract the story of our common humanity through the lens of their particular ethnicity. This is an authentically American act. Morrison has even caused to come into being a countertendency: those who rail against "political correctness", the "feminisation" of literature--in short, everything that leaves "the old dispensation" out of the loop of power and influence.
Michael Stipe, Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Bruce Springsteen, all of their showbiz ilk make me proud, too. And that includes the "governator". Where else could an immigrant with a thick accent rise to become the leader of a province whose economy rivals that of many nations? Like him or loathe him, Arnold Schwarzenegger personifies that elusive state of grace: the American dream.
If you think that the word "subtlety" and the creator of Farenheit 9/11 don't go together, think again. Michael Moore talks "guy culture" fluently. Those who criticise his latest film don't understand that he does not make his appeal to the academy. …