The Enemy Within
by Jan Baughman

True, we Americans have a bad reputation among Europeans; after seeing us in action, I understand why. The shoes, the hair, the manners (or lack thereof), the ego, the assumption that every member of the human species is born speaking English... the way we hosted the Hollywood-style Olympics as if we were personally responsible for the talent of every athlete involved (anyway, watching the Olympics, one might think the U.S. was the only country participating).

We stand out like white sneakers on a dark night.

Being an American in one's own home can be a bit schizophrenic. One day I wake up and I am Jesse Helms; the next, Hillary Clinton. I chauffeured O.J. in the white Jeep Cherokee and broadcast it on every station (I taped it, made some popcorn and watched it four times). Often, I am a Father of the Constitution who inserted that adage about Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Where did I get off on that one??? And what was I thinking when I declared our right to bear arms? My intentions were good when it came to equal opportunity, but like everything else, I didn't follow through with it. I am the Lone Assassin and the Unabomber. I am the Root of all Evil.

My fashion faux-pas are an easy target and therefore not very interesting. One is born with style; it cannot be bought or learned, and certainly not here. My cooking is respectable, with an interpretation that is difficult to criticize (though one can certainly critique it). I've never been Ernest Hemingway (nor shall I ever be...), not once an O'Keefe nor a Gershwin. I have been Francis Scott Key with my sappy lyrics written to the tune of fireworks, and I've taken and posed for many of those oh-so-American Kodak moments. I did a good job on the Grand Canyon, but then I ruined it with the tourist centers and donkey rides. Still, I am the High and the Mighty.

I am naive; my history is short. I've been in battles, but rarely on my own soil. I've seen little hardship but created much. I am generous and good-intentioned. And I apologize to those I've interned along the way.

Published September 11, 1996
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