Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Coming Home to America

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Coming Home to America

Article excerpt

I was in Italy this fall. Along with some friends, my wife and I toured the Chianti region - splendid hill town after splendid hill town. We ate, we drank, we took in the views and then, later, zoomed down to Rome for a bella time. A friend who lives part of the time in Italy tells me you can live better there than any other place on earth. I do not doubt him. Still, it is Thanksgiving weekend and I'd rather be here.

I know what my friend means. America is no longer unique in having a high standard of living. A person with some money can live better elsewhere. Italy, for one, dazzles the eye. It is a stylish country of stylish people who seem to feel a genuine obligation to dress in a manner that contributes to the overall aesthetic. As for the food, I have nothing original to say on the subject. Just let me eat.

For some people, the country of passion is France or Switzerland or Britain or . . . it doesn't matter. My point is that there are many places where a person can live well. The America of my childhood, unique and special, is gone. The bar charts of my school texts - the ones showing U.S. production in electricity or cars or steel - once swelled my chest. There was the American bar, a virtual skyscraper, and next to it was row of tenements - little countries with little to boast about. But if you know some history, there are few places you can go where the ghosts of yesterday don't make unexpected appearances. The prosperity of present-day Europe is layered over a vast killing field, places where in my lifetime one people has turned on another with a bestiality that is incomprehensible. To merely list what one group of Europeans did to another group of Europeans in this century alone would easily take the rest of this column. Bosnia alone could fill the page - and the story continues. America has no such history. That is a blanket statement, mostly true for most Americans, sorely off the mark for African-Americans and Native Americans. For the latter, we have had our own killing fields - not just battlefields where warriors fought, but places where women and children were massacred by men wearing the uniform of the United States Army. …

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