It seems to me that in a country so fundamentally shaped by immigrants, a societal sentiment so suddenly unwelcoming to them can only be the product of an absurd narrowing of perspective — an unthinking self-expatriation from history, a willful blindness to the cultural legacy of the past, and an inability to take the telescopic perspective so vital to inhabiting the present with lucidity, integrity, and a deep sense of connection to the whole of humanity.
Well, regarding trying to understand “the other.” I initially agreed with her characterization and then I thought, “How much of it is spin?” and “How w/could I begin to unravel some of it?” Answer: By talking to people in the other camp.
Dyson adds a wonderfully generous and optimistic counterpoint: Not that I dislike the Americans on the whole; it is probably in the long run a good thing that they live so much in the present and the future and so little in the past. The fact that they are more alone in the world than average English people probably accounts for their great spontaneous friendliness. I had heard this friendliness attributed to the size of the country and to people’s loneliness in space, but I think the loneliness in time is more important.
This strikes me as amazing. (As in, “I am amazed,” not, “wow, this is awesome.”) “Friendly” is not a word I’d choose to describe Americans. Hell, I don’t think it would make my top 3 list of such words. If I was being kind when selecting my words, I’d say, “motivated,” “inspired,” and “principled.” If I was being unkind— well then I’d hew to the old, “If you’ve nothing nice to say, say nothing.”