As I Saw the U.S.A
As I Saw the U.S.A
Not many citizens of the United States, perhaps, realize the existence of a Standard American. The eggheads have been talking for a decade or more of the dire uniformity that is overcoming their country, the growing sameness of it all, the drugstore civilization, the Kleenex age. But it is possibly only the foreigner who has, so to speak, crystallized all these awful warnings into a living symbol --different in every way from the Mr. Citizen accepted as representative by most American cartoonists. From Glasgow to Benares everyone knows the Standard American, and his figure is summoned instantly to the foreign mind whenever the American Way is mentioned. He is alien to almost all our ways, whatever our patrimony; but we feel we know him well.
Like many another observer, I am not much enamored of this new ambassador, successor in reputation to the dashing clipper captains or grandiloquent tycoons of other generations: but fortunately my book is the record of a journey, through all the forty- eight states of America, in which I discovered to my pleasure that he is not yet, by any manner of means, universally predominant in his homeland. The romance of America has always lain in its glorious profusion of elements, welded and transfused by a common environment, but each redolent in some small way of an older civilization, an inherited philosophy, or at least aspirations familiar to us all. In this old patchwork America, so free and expansive, we could all see ourselves reflected, and feel some small proprietary pride. "America, thou half-brother of the world," as Philip Bailey observed, "with something good and bad of every land."
One day, perhaps, some version of the new all-American society will have swamped that noble country, its old ideals will be warped or banished, and the Standard American, who admits no deviationists, will be supreme. But for the moment America is something of a patchwork still, and still related (if only distantly, or mor-