the Italians from the embarrassment ofrnending up hke everyone else, anotherrnpowerful characteristic that humanizesrntheir middle class is a kind of seriousness,rna seriousness which at times resemblesrncheerfulness and at times cheerful resignation.rnI have already alluded to the imagernof life which the Americanist set allrnover the world holds up as a banner ofrnprogress, and I allude to it again in thisrnconnection. The familiar strangeness ofrnseeing, on the No. 22 bus in central London,rna young woman wearing a track suitrnor a Walkman is explained by the conjecturernthat she does not enjoy being on thernNo. 22, indeed that riding it is only a transitoryrnphase of her existence, and that shernwould gladly swap this for a run in thernpark or an evening at the local discotheque.rnLooking around, one mayrnnote that just about everyone else on thernbus, including the driver and the conductor,rnshares her anxiety and her sensernof displacement.rnWhat is it with people? From the exodusrnof the Jews from Egypt to a Sotheby’srndrinks party, everybody wants to be somewhere,rnif not something, else. You arerntalking to an old stupid woman with arnglass of champagne in her tremblingrnhand, you think you are being polite as arnboy scout, you suppose the woman isrngrateful for the attention, but no! Yourncatch her eyeing the door through whichrna famous used-car salesman is entering,rnand before you can murmur somethingrnsuitable (“Madam, is it not time, nowrnthat you are in the frosty autumn of yourrnlife, to be thinking of higher things?”) shernis off like a shot. And for the stupid oldrnwoman of the parable, read “everyman,”rnread baker and banker, newspaper editorrnand lover, bootblack and writer.rnA scene of this kind, which is routinernin New York, Rockford, or Paris, is almostrnunobservable in Rome and hilariously inconceivablernin a provincial town of Italy.rnOf course I would not say under oath thatrnthere are no waitresses here who are actuallyrncritically acclaimed actresses, and norntaxi drivers who have had series pilotsrnproduced. But what one observes emanatingrnfrom each individual soul is extreme,rnalmost sacramental seriousnessrnwith respect to its predicament at this orrnthat given moment in time. Until it becamernthe mark of the bourgeois, thisrnsolemn self-satisfaction used to belong tornno particular social group and markedrnequally the upper and the lower classesrnthroughout Europe. A German grainrnmerchant (see Thomas Mann), a Russianrnnobleman (see Tolstoy), and an Englishrnorphan (see Dickens) all saw theirrnposition in the world as reasonably convincing,rnreasonably convenient, and reasonablyrnpermanent. The main exceptionsrnwere poets, men with bad gamblingrndebts, and Hans Christian Andersen’s littlernmermaid —all tragic and romanticrnand worthy, yes, but not 99.9 percent ofrnthe population, either.rnWhat I am trying to say is that the seriousnessrnof the Italian way of life, itsrnsolemn ritualism and its cheerful acceptance,rnnow accounts for the incrediblernfact that only in Italy will one see a motherrnnursing her child or a beggar beggingrnalms or a butcher slicing meat “as if theyrnhad nothing better to do.” They don’t,rnand in the world as it is today, this is arnmiracle well worth watching.rnAndrei Navrozov is Chronicles’ Europeanrncorrespondent. This article first appearedrnin the May 1998 issue.rnLetter From thernLower Rightrnby John Shelton ReedrnStill Fighting the Civil WarrnThe influx of Northern migrants to thesernparts continues to produce misunderstanding.rnSome time ago, the good peoplernof Hillsborough, North Carolina,rngave up their right to shoot maraudingrnvermin in their own backyards to an officialrnmunicipal squirrel-shooter. Citizensrnwhose nut trees were being sacked, gardensrndespoiled, or houses chewed up (itrnhappens) could call police officerrnWilliam King, who would come overrnwith his .22 and take care of the problem.rnNow, according to the Chapel HillrnObserver, a pushy newcomer has objectedrnto this arrangement. “This is just pagan,rnto be out there shooting squirrels,”rnsays Karen McKinnon. Last November,rnshe took her case to the town council,rnwhich responded by hedging the practicernabout with bureaucratic restrictions.rnOwners of all adjoining propert}’ mustrnnow be notified before a squirrel is shot,rnand the person requesting the shootingrnmust be given a leaflet describing nonlethalrnmethods of squirrel-removal. Am Irnthe only one who finds it weird that it’srnharder to kill a squirrel than to get anrnabortion?rnMcKinnon believes that the long-termrnsolution may lie in importing owls torncontrol the squirrel population, but it’srnnot clear why that’s preferable. I think ifrnI were a squirrel I’d prefer a .22 slug inrnthe eye to being torn limb from limb byrnan owl. In fact, I’d prefer it even thoughrnI’m not a squirrel. Moreover, I don’t understandrnwhy an owl is seen as a naturalrnpredator and Officer King is not. Butrnthen, like most natives, I don’t share Ms.rnMcKinnon’s Disneyesque view of rodents.rnHillsborough resident Cecil Sanford,rnbrother of our lesser-known U.S.rnsenator, quoted a farmer friend on thernsubject of squirrels: “They ain’t nothingrnbut a rat with a bushy tail.”rnMy solution would be to kill two birdsrnwith one stone (as the pagan expressionrnhas it): I’d arm welfare recipients and encouragernthem to forage. I’hey could eatrnwhat they shoot, or sell it. Squirrel-basedrnBrunswick stew is $7.00 a bowl at onernfancy Chapel Hill restaurant.rnThat story illustrates a problem I have,rnliving where I do. I don’t want to leavernthe South, and don’t plan to, but I’mrnafraid it’s leaving me. Let me explain.rnThere’s a letter from Robert Frost inrnwhich he tells a friend of his plans tornmove back to New England and getrn”Yankier and Yankier.” That’s just aboutrnwhat he did, too, and most of us are gladrnof it. America’s a better place because herndid that.rnTwenty-odd years ago, living in NewrnYork City, my wife and I came to a similarrnresolve about the South. Unlike poor,rntormented Tom Wolfe (the Elder), wernknew we could go home again. We did itrna couple of times a year, and we wanted torndo it for good. New York’s a great cit)-,rnbut—well, I just had a letter from one ofrnmy former students who says she’s hadrnenough, too: “It’s definitely not a goodrnplace for decent, polite Southerners, notrneven high-strung ones like myself”rnBut living in the North had changedrnmy idea of where “home” was. I’d comernto realize that I could find balm for myrnYankee-jangled sensibilities not just inrnmy particular East Tennessee hometown,rnbut ‘most anywhere in the South.rnDriving home, my chronic heartburn alwaysrnlet up somewhere around Hagerstown,rnMaryland, on old U.S. 11 —aboutrn36/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn