Courtesy Reuters

Middle England

AN ENGLISHMAN who has had the good fortune to spend five to six months in the United States would be foolish if he did not learn a great deal and even more foolish if he assumed that he had learned enough to make large and dogmatic generalizations about American opinion. Indeed, he will find that his impressions are too vivid and in many respects too contradictory to allow hard and fast conclusions. Above all, he will hesitate to commit himself to any political judgments. Nevertheless even here one fact stands out clearly. In spite of the widespread interest in British affairs and in spite also of the high ability and keen eyes of American correspondents in London, the interpretation of Great Britain in most American books and papers is slightly out of focus. This is inevitably the case. The distortion would be greater if the journalists were less good at their job; but journalists have to report news, and on the old theory that "man bites dog" is news, whereas the reverse is not, most of what happens in England fails at least to reach American headlines.

Past history, from the point of view of the press, belongs mainly to the "dog bites man" category, and yet this lack of focus, which is even more noticeable in the British view of America, is due in part to an underestimate of the significance of historical forces. The influence of the past upon the present is more difficult to analyze in the United States than in Great Britain, but it is not less potent. Without a considerable knowledge of American history, an Englishman must fail to understand why the extraordinary coalition of opposites known as the Democratic Party and the other extraordinary coalition of opposites known as the Republican Party can maintain themselves as units. If they were stars, and not parties, they would certainly explode and out of their fragments new political worlds would be formed. In other words, logic would suggest

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