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A cup of coffee

By Leah Berkenwald

Section: Arts

October 7, 2005

If there is anything more American than a large cup of coffee, then it could only be the Dunkin Donuts (in Massachusetts) or Starbucks (everywhere else) we buy it from. Not to get educational, but coffee is certainly a way our diversified social groups come together as Americans. You can see this in film, photos, literature and especially in your own mind. The hurried businesswoman dressed in a chic skirt suit and stilettos, the construction worker taking a five minute break, the English teacher correcting papers, the retired man reading a newspaper and the 17 year old high school student all have their coffee cups in common.

Of course, you have to give some credit to the addictive nature of the drink. Even those of us who despise American stereotypes are still vulnerable to those hot, strong, smooth, calming yet energizing beans. Heres an example.

My family took a trip to Buenos Aires a few years back. We were doing our best to fit in with the Euro-metropolitan elegance of the city. I believe there was only one occasion where we were not allowed into a restaurant because of our American blue jeans. We were doing quite well until a waiter served my mother yet another teensy cup of espresso. Yes, in Buenos Aires and many other European-style cities, coffee doesnt come in grande, only espresso.

My mother, a serious coffee drinker, couldnt take it any longer. She broke down and, to our embarrassment, she found a McDonalds to get that big, American-style coffee. I, along with those average American, media-consuming folks, have a nice association to the image of coffee. It is professional. It is mature.
Drinking it makes people happier. And as an American student, it is something an entire campus depends on. I like the idea of a hopelessly addicted coffee lover. There was just one little problem… I dont really like coffee.

Now, before you begin calling me an un-patriotic, communist French fry, let me explain. I love coffee ice cream! And coffee flavored candy! And mochas! I love mochas! I just havent been able to enjoy the bitter taste of plain coffee. And mochas are very expensive. And you just cant take a bowl of coffee ice cream to class in the mornings. I have been missing out, and it hurts. But I feel this is about to change. This morning I went to Java City and, what the hell, got a cup of coffee. I added milk and three sugar packets. Stir, sip… hey! This wasnt so bad! I could drink this! I wanted to jump for joy in the middle of the C-Store and yell, Look at me! Im a real American! I was proud, but that in itself was a little confusing.

As a liberal thinker, it is hard to admit that you actually wanted to fit into an American stereotype because not only is stereotyping wrong, but American stereotypes are horrible, nightmarish things that only perpetuate anti-American sentiments overseas, etc. But if I can separate myself from the liberal thinker stereotype for a minute here, whats wrong with wanting to be an American? Immigrants surely did, and as a third generation American, whats wrong with showing a little pride for the country that saved the lives of my grandparents and allowed me to grow up the liberal thinker I am today?

As someone who fell into American Studies somewhat by accident, I feel compelled to suggest that every once in a while we should all put aside our politics for a minute and remember the things we like about this country. They could be 18th century revolutionary ideals, our commitment to the first amendment, Hollywood, or simply the fact that this is the place we call home. Its okay to be a proud American, regardless of your politics. The fact that we all have our own politics is part of the reason why our country is special.

So next time you are hurrying off to class, dont forget to grab a cup of coffee. (After all, it is Fair Trade.) Take some time to enjoy the warm symbolism and the strong flavor of America.

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