Simon Schama, both a European and a man of the left, has an interesting essay in The New Yorker about how Europeans have viewed America for the past two hundred years. Schamas intention, clearly, is not to flatter us. But thats OK, I understand something about European sensibilities. Still, it is worth reading for some of the history and because of some of the quotes he incorporates. For example, here is Rudyard Kipling on American girls: "They are clever; they can talk. . . . They are original and look you between the brows with unabashed eyes." Thats true and good. Much can be said about this paragraph, but not now (its Vickis birthday, got to find some delphiniums!):
"Other characteristics of American life alienated the Romantics: the distaste for tragedy (a moral corrective to illusions of invincibility); the strong preference for practicality; the severance from history; and, above all, what the Germans called bodenlosigkeit, a willed rootlessness, embodied in the flimsy frame construction of American houses. Europeans watched, pop-eyed, while whole houses were moved down the street. This confirmed their view that Americans had no real loyalty to the local, and explained why they preferred utilitarian yards to flower gardens. No delphiniums, no civility."