Page 8, 28th October 1938

28th October 1938
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Page 8, 28th October 1938 — New Things
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New Things

And —7 And —7 Old,

Bernard Wail

About The

United States And Europe

IONLY realised when I visited America last year how misleading are our popular conceptions of the United States, or some of them. Few Europeans realise, for instance, how different various American cities and states are in spirit from one another. Thus, for instance, the differences between the South and the North were sufficiently great to cause a civil war less than a hundred years ago. And though the heroes of Hollywood give an impression of the ideals of many Americans (and Europeans, too, for that matter), we are wrong in thinking that all Americans have adopted Hollywood culture.

Moreover, I doubt if I would have learnt about the more magnificent side of American life had I not visited the United States —especially that feeling of having great open spaces before you which is like no experience you can have in our densely populated Europe, or the generosity which is as wide as the West.

Only Walt Whitman to my knowledge has reflected the thousand miles of American grassland, with the sparse cities and rare farms; or the peculiar kind of freedom which comes from never having to count change. European countries feel so narrow in space compared with America. This has made a difference between the American mentality and the European.

High-Speed Observation

So I can understand the reaction of Americans to those Europeans who visit America for a month and then write criticisms of American life: especially when—as is no uncommon case amongst the Europeans once in the United States— they have been anything but indifferent to the American dollar, Americans reading these books and articles by foreigners about their country arc sensitive that the writers can't tell the difference between the accent of Texas and the accent of Chicago-1 am faintly proud that I can just manage to do this—or who include Baltimore, Denver and Los Angeles in a few sweeping generalisations.

Far From The Truth

In the same way, however, I must confess to feeling that the greater number of Americans don't really understand Europe; and just as Europeans often write false and misleading books about America, so Americans are often misled about Europe.

This, I think, can frequently be seen in the American newspapers.

England has been the country where certain truths about the Spanish war have percolated most slowly in Europe; but in America, as yet, they have scarcely per colated at all. Supposing they travel at five hundred miles a year, they reach England in two years, but America in about six—if they aren't shipwrecked or torpedoed in the channel or the Atlantic Ocean.

Fascistaphobia

Hence many moderate newspapers and magazines in America have views similar to those of the extreme uninformed Left in England about the Spanish war, or the Sudeten question, or Fascist Italy, and perhaps this has also reflected on some Catholics in America.

I mention this because 1 have just been reading a terrific and righteous fulmination against the Italian Government in an American Catholic magazine, in which the writer asks: " What do Mussolini's Catholic friends think about that?"

Now 1 think the author of this article has failed to understand Italy just in the same way as Englishmen who generalise from Hollywood fail to understand America. And also, he seems to think that those Catholics who are friendly to Italy commit themselves to every jot and tittle of some Fascist newspaper of the Italian provinces whose contents are given a sensational prominence in the American press.

Mr. Chamberlain's Religion

I am on the whole sympathetic with modern Italy because in practice I know it to be a country of unusual beauty and reason and a deep civilisation in which large numbers of people live joyously awaiting the consummation of time.

And it is a real menace if English or American Catholics are going to spend their time on an inquisition censuring Mussolini's paganism—for it may set Italian Catholics scrupling as to whether they can support a pact with Mr. Chamberlain, who is said to be a unitarian, or asking whether the American constitution is compatible with Christianity and the Roman tradition.

I don't really know how much fascismo is compatible with Christianity according to principles, but then I don't know how much democracy is either, not to speak of plutocracy, babbitry and Manchester liber alism. Certainly I should think Catholicism and the traditional ways flourish better in Italy than in most places I know, save perhaps Poland, Ireland, Portugal and Nationalist Spain.




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