1) Americans are as obsessed with physical beauty as ever.
2) Americans have begun thinking of the British as authorities again.
When I was growing up, it was stuff like this that gripped my (ahem) "imagination":
Later, as I overcame (or sublimated) my attraction to that relatively pedestrian kind of beauty, I experimented with art-appreciation, an interest in unconventional beauty, and even wondered whether literature could be "beautiful." But I never for a minute effectively stopped longing for beauty.
--Until now!--. Just kidding; I still think Beauty's like the best thing going. Let me get to my point: Americans often think of their own "obsession" with Beauty as a kind of embarrassment. We tell ourselves that we know that it's inside what matters even as we watch Miss America pageants or look at persiankitty.com (what?!). But I'm developing a counterpoint. See I can admit that we Americans are more obsessed with Beauty than almost all the other nations combined. Yes, we photoshop, primp, curl, botox--whatever it takes for Beauty. They don't do that in Bhutan.
But isn't this evidence that American exceptionalism* has never been stronger? To be attracted to Beauty is to know about idealism--is to be an idealist. Of course, the argument could be made that even if what I say is true, a focus on exterior Beauty is a relatively dysfunctional kind of idealism. But still, though we may argue about whether Giselle's body is more beautiful than Beyonce's (that is, though we argue about what the ideal is), we almost never admit, by our actions, that the argument doesn't matter.
Oh, and, Gordon Ramsay, Simon Cowell, and the British guy who dances on So you think you can dance?--what's going on there? I suspect that we've stopped trusting our instincts. We've collectively started wondering whether we know what Beauty (and Tr-th!) looks like. Same thing happening here (in the "Orthodox Movement"), I suspect. But I hope Americans wake up to their special mission again; I hope we recognize that judgment deferred is a loss of not only power, but also of vigor. Trust thyself, America.
*Some contemporary academics would have us feel bad about our exceptionalist attitudes. I disagree with some contemporary academics.