Mirage in the West: A History of the French Image of American Society to 1815

Mirage in the West: A History of the French Image of American Society to 1815

Mirage in the West: A History of the French Image of American Society to 1815

Mirage in the West: A History of the French Image of American Society to 1815

Excerpt

One of the most difficult of the many problems facing modern man is the fact that as the various peoples of the world have been drawn closer together by technological progress they have failed to grow in sympathy and tolerance. They have found no way to share more fully one another's fears and aspirations or to tolerate unfamiliar values and beliefs. Each nation is shocked and dismayed by the distorted image of itself it sees reflected in other eyes, and is outraged to hear its idols mocked and its fears derided. How, each people asks, can we work and live with these strange brothers? What can be done, if not to understand one another (for perhaps that is hopeless), at least to discover some areas of sympathy, to learn to tolerate ways and values not our own, and to instill like sympathy and tolerance in others?

Americans perhaps more than any other people suffer from a feeling of frustration and resentment from the world's incomprehension, and we have been searching in our pragmatic way for a solution. But if we are to find a solution we must first know more than we now do about the nature of our predicament. Obviously something more is needed than just an analysis of a current crisis, for international misunderstanding is a historical, continuing phenomenon. Prejudices are as durable as stone and mortar; antipathies grow from seeds planted centuries before. Only by going back to the moment of first contact, by catching the first glimpse of that other self which others have fashioned of us, by following its growth and evolution through the years, by seeing the unsuspected events and ideas which have disguised that strange image of ourselves in undeserved virtues and vices, by watching the image grow until it arrives at the moment of today -- only in this way can we hope to comprehend our own incomprehensibility.

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