The August 29 issue of The New Yorker features an interesting article that makes Charles Dickens appear to have been prescient. In 1842, in the midst of a trip to America, Dickens recorded the following reactions:
This is not the Republic of my imagination. . . Look at the exhausted Treasury; the paralyzed government; the unworthy representatives of a free people; the desperate contests between the North and the South; the iron curb and brazen muzzle fastened upon every man who speaks his mind, even in that Republican Hall, to which Republican men are sent by a Republican people to speak Republican Truths—the stabbings, and shootings, and coarse and brutal threatenings exchanged between Senators and under the very Senate’s roof—the intrusion of the most pitiful, mean, malicious, creeping, crawling, sneaking party spirit into all transactions of life.
Except for the “desperate contests between the North and the South,” this could have been written about the American government today. Dickens truly found America to be “exceptional,” but not in the idealized sense that the Tea-Party-types and other neoconservatives are currently promoting.I can relate. An America in which honest disagreements are characterized as treason and demagoguery has replaced reasoned discourse is not the “Republic of my imagination” either. --EFP