A reader writes:
I too have a noticed more of a capacity for emotional detachment at English dining tables than American ones. I am not English, but I was born outside of the United States, and I must say that I like that about you fellows. I had previously ascribed this tendency to your educational system: you spent your undergraduate years jousting with a don while American undergraduates were snoozing at lectures.
That well may be, but I suspect there's more to it than that. It's more of a freewheeling attitude you have over there to the business of politics. Look at the vocal, even rowdy culture of British Parliament as opposed to the relatively more sedate American Congress. We don't even have to limit ourselves to the English. Look at the righteous fury of the Pakistani body politic as their constitution is mauled. It's true, here in the U.S. we have not suffered damage of that extent, but our constitution has suffered an evisceration too. All the time the general population has been perfectly anesthetized -- perfectly polite.
It's somewhat of a paradox though, isn't it? I think Americans are correctly pegged as being more extroverted and demonstrative than other cultures, certainly more than the reserved British. But when it comes to politics they're shyer than mice.