Is it safe to be American again?

By Hadley Freeman, January 22, 2009

To paraphrase the famous tagline for Jaws (and paraphrase it in a context of which director Steven Spielberg would surely approve): just when I thought it was safe for me to go back to dinner parties...

For the past eight years such social occasions have been far too perilous for me, possessing, as I do, a remarkably tenacious American accent. Such vocal twanging was generally taken, by dinner party guests and taxi drivers alike, as a sign that what I’d really, really, really like to do was discuss American foreign policy, and by “discuss” I mean “be the vessel into which all and sundry can pour their hatred of George W Bush”.

Then came November and, suddenly, America wasn’t the incarnation of xenophobia, international antagonism and general evil anymore. Actually, it was kinda cool. Again. At last I could go back to those much-missed dinner parties (and even take a taxi to get there) and instead of being berated, I was damn near celebrated. Aren’t I excited about my new president? Yes I am. Don’t I feel like I have my old country back? Yes I do, and please pass the sea bass.

And then came December. Now’s not the time to discuss the rights and wrongs of the invasion of Gaza (I shall leave that to my far wiser colleagues elsewhere on the JC) but I will say that it was back to dining on my own at home. As often the only Jew at the table (man, that would make a good title for my future autobiography), I suddenly went from being the voice of America to the voice of Israel, a job title I would previously have thought it nigh on heretical to claim as my own. Yes, many have suffered far more than me in this battle (and all the history that has led to it) but, darn it, I’m eating M&S meals for one.

Like I said, let’s not get into a debate about it all here. Please. But I am beginning to weary a little of being made into the spokesperson of various countries simply by accident of birth.

Was it always thus? In the 1980s did I automatically start discussing the IRA with anyone who had a hint of a Celtic hum in their vowels? Um, probably.

This is what is called “genetic karma” or, more clearly, if less succinctly, “why it’s VERY ANNOYING to reduce people to ambassadors of their origins”.

Thankfully, with the beginnings of a tentative ceasefire in Gaza this week and ol’ wotsisface taking centre stage again in DC with his inauguration thingymabob, it’s my American qualities that seem to have taken centrestage again.

Aren’t I excited? Yes, I am, etc and so forth. But I know my reprieve can only be shortlived. No doubt someone of the name Hadley will do something evil soon and I shall be forced to defend my namesake.

Truly, I am keeping a very close eye on the doings of former singers of Spandau Ballet.

Last updated: 11:00am, January 22 2009