The Maddening Genius Of America


I make a case for defending my adopted country:

In America, the bigotry you face is real, unvarnished and in the open. In Britain, it can come masked or euphemized or deflected into humor. It hurts much more to punch a brick wall than to punch a deep velvet cushion. But if you punch hard enough, the wall will one day crumble, while the pillow will constantly absorb the blows.

There is plenty of religious bigotry and fundamentalist rigidity and crude sectarianism in America. But there is also a clear and invigorating religious energy that takes the question of God seriously and does not recoil from it in apathy or world-weariness. Give me a fundamentalist to argue with any day over someone who has lost the will to care that much at all.

On race, of course, this is especially true.

No civilized country sustained slavery as recently as America or defended segregation as tenaciously as the American South until just a generation ago. In my lifetime, mixed-race couples were legally barred from marrying in many states. But equally in my lifetime, a miscegenated man who grew up in Hawaii won a majority of the votes in the old slave state of Virginia to become the first minority president of any advanced western nation.

That is the paradox of America; and after a while you find it hard to appreciate anything more coherent.

The whole column is here.