New York as 'American Ideal'

In complimenting Mayor Bloomberg's wise statement of toleration for a proposed mosque in lower Manhattan, I noted that this moment made New York seem wholly "American." Tim Heffernan, proud New Yorker, writes to set me straight:

Just a point of order: We like to measure America by its relative New Yorkness. Yougottaproblemwitdat?

Joking aside, though, I have felt for awhile that New York under Bloomberg has approached some sort of American ideal. Culturally libertarian, fiscally prudent, entrepreneurial to the Nth, and, yes, genuinely tolerant in the adult "that's life" way rather than the treacly "we are all one" way lip-serviced by patriotic scoundrels left and right. The Cordoba House affair just encapsulates the difference between our America and much of the rest of it. We got hit on 9/11. And we did not let it change us. I can't say that for the rest of the country.

True enough. For the moment, I heart NY.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

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