Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Friday, 11 February 2011

Painful change

Duchess Omnium says put up or shut up. Fearfully, I’m putting up.

John Gunther’s Inside USA, a thick book published in 1947, gave a flavour (political, financial, geographic, cultural) of the country, state by state, and left me fascinated. In late 1965 I contrived to get work as a journalist in Pittsburgh.

Living in the suburbs, in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia then Pittsburgh again, I noticed how life differed from the impressions created by Inside USA, the movies, TV series and reporting in British newspapers. Beneficially in most instances. My family and I enjoyed life. When I returned to Britain in 1972 I found myself defending “real” America against the leftwing views of many journalists I worked with.

Time passed, my suburban experience faded and my view of America was now provided and conditioned by the media. It seemed the country was changing. Evangelical Christianity was becoming intrusive, internal politics (combined alarmingly with religion) less caring, the country’s international stance parochial and that of a bully, the rule of law sullied and the office of president from time to time farcical. I returned four times and merely passing through immigration appeared to confirm these impressions.

I am now less attracted to long-distance holidays. This disinclination, plus my admittedly second-hand views of the USA, has brought me to the point where I doubt I would ever willingly go back.

And yet, and yet… I am aware of the gap between my expectations in 1965 and the eventual, comforting reality. Friends live there and I have made American friends of great value through blogging. I feel I am betraying something or someone. Or simply putting myself out to grass.


The Crow said...

Now, see, that wasn't so bad, was it?

Oddly enough, there are a great many of us Americans who hold views very similar to yours. We watch the goings on with sadness and dismay, sort of like watching a dear relative going through a nervous breakdown, and not knowing what will help or what might make things worse.

The political pendulum swings back and forth, so others' perceptions of us will, as well. I'm just worried the pendulum will someday stop swinging.

Plutarch said...

I can't help sharing your views and those which The Crow reflects, but there remains a vestige of the American dream in all of us. I once quoted Whitman to you when you pulled me up for contradicting myself. Writing of America Whitman said:
"Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself.
I am large. I contain multitudes".
There seems to me to be hope in that very multitudinous.

Rouchswalwe said...

Similar feelings about Japan are lodged in my heart. The people I met on the island of Kyushu were open and friendly and caring, so unlike the Japanese businessman and the cold fashion-conscious shopper-ladies one is exposed to in the media. During the time I lived there, I heard honest talk about the government and the educational system there. But that was almost two decades ago, and I must admit that I too would be hard-pressed to step aboard a Tokyo-bound aeroplane.

Hattie said...

I love living in Hawaii. Some people even regard Hawaii as part of the U.S. Except the birthers, that is.

Barrett Bonden said...

The Crow: The point is if I were to return it would be as a tourist, not as someone who could wriggle down into the comfort zone of the suburbs. Thus I would still be remote, as I am now.

Plutarch: I agree. The USA is large enough and diverse enough to contain a completely different part of the social/political spectrum. But that isn't the bit that gets reported over here and, after a while, one finds oneself going with the flow.

RW (zS): I'm aware how you've written about Japan in the past so I know this is a big, sad thing for you.

Hattie: Too enigmatic for me, I fear.

Avus said...

As the Crow says, the pendulum swings - always will and never stops ("Cities, thrones and powers" and all that)
But on an individual basis people remain the same down the ages - same hopes and fears, loves and hates, getting and spending.
Wang Shih Chi expressed it well some 1,700 years ago. See:

The Crow said...

I followed Avus' link, and was richly rewarded.

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: No problem with individuals. What I'm concerned about is the way my view of the USA as a whole has changed. And there's a further problem: were I to visit today I would be doing so as an outsider not, as then, as an insider. The mental conflict is subtle but insidious and it is why I held back from this particular confession until, in effect, challenged by Duchess Omnium who is American but long resident in Britain.

Hattie said...

Birthers are people who believe Obama was not born in the U.S.