who cannot endure the mediocrity of sociaHst hfe. As fornthe “wretched refuse of your teeming shore,” I’m not sure ifnthat can be read as anything but an insult. Besides,n”masses” is a dubiously Marxist term that usually refers tonthe urban proletariat—hardly an appropriate term fornland-hungry peasants from Sweden, Italy, and Ireland.nHow the Statue of Liberty got defaced with egalitarianngraffiti is another story, but bad verse and worse politicsncannot mar this tribute to the American spirit.nBefore “nativist” is added to the other epithets usuallynpinned to my name (sexist, rightist, social Darwinist,nreligious fanatic), let me say in my own defense that I havendevoted the better part of my adolescent and adult life tonstudying foreign cultures and made some effort to learn thenlanguages of Greece, Rome, India, Yugoslavia, France, andnGermany. In addition, let me point out my own typicallynAmerican credentials. One branch of my family werenHighland Scots who came to North Garolina in the 18thncentury; other branches—Scots, Norwegians, and Irish—ndrifted in 100 years later, while still another didn’t arrivenuntil after WWI. So, the sons of Garibaldi, Knights ofnColumbus, and the Vasa Society can spare me theirnrecriminations. Despite the contaminating presence of oldnWASP blood, I can still claim the aristocrat lineage of EllisnIsland.nLeopold Tyrmand used to say that we were two immigrantncountries—Plymouth Rock America and Ellis IslandnAmerica—and that the second could only exist if thenformer were secure. The peculiar virtues of the oldernsettlers—self-reliance, moral courage, and industry—havenmade it possible to incorporate vast numbers of newcomersninto a thriving economic and political system. Of course,nthat old America is not Plymouth Rock but Jamestown,nwhere Captain John Smith demonstrated once and for allnthe advantages of free enterprise over the welfare state. Innthe bold and restless Smith we can already see the Americanncharacter emerging. For 300 years it has been developingnand growing like a snowball rolling downhill.nEach immigrant group has, to one extent or another,nmade a contribution—but not equally or uniformly. Some,nlike the Dutch and Germans, were so compatible with thenolder stock that much of their culture was picked up andnassimilated. A great deal of what we think of as Americanncooking—hot dogs, potato salad, coleslaw—is reallynGerman. Other less-compatible ethnic groups seem to bensucked into the main currents of American life withoutnbringing much more with them than exotic restaurants:nThe point is, there is an American cultural history, richnin local and ethnic diversity but at the same time identifiablenin national terms. By the 1920’s we had found andistinctive voice in journalists like Henry Mencken andnAlbert Jay Nock; novelists like Booth Tarkington, GlenwaynWescott, and Ernest Hemingway; poets like Robert Frost,nEzra Pound, and Hart Crane; an architect like Frank LloydnWright; a composer like Gershwin. Some of the mostnimpressive artists and writers were first-generation: HenrynRoth, author of the still-admired Call It Sleep; and thensculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the son of poor Frenchnand Irish immigrants, who rose to the very pinnacle ofnAmerican cultural and social life—the true Americannstory. America has been, almost uniquely, a place where anSaint-Gaudens or a Podhoretz could “make it,” if he werensufficiently talented, and it ought to strike anyone—thennand now—as absurd to claim that Americans have been sonculturally malnourished that we are lying around starvingn(like the wastrels at Jamestown) for the food that onlynimmigrants can bring us. After testing Ethiopian cuisine,nI’ll stick to peanut butter sandwiches if I have to.nAs Wilfrid McClay pointed out in a recent number of thenAmerican Scholar (and Clyde Wilson in Chronicles), theninflux of talented fugitives from the Third Reich nipped thennative growth of our civilization perhaps not in the bud butnin flower. Up till then our civilization had been growing,nself-confident, a mixture of old stock like Henry Adams andnthe new, like Adams’ friend Saint-Gaudens. Some of ournproductions were hollow, pretentious, and provincial, butnJohn Philip Sousa and Scott Joplin were ours in a way thatnpractically no composers since have been. To some extent itnwas Bauhaus architects and Frankfurt School philosophersnwho taught us to despise our own civilization and worship atnthe feet of guess-which-talented immigrants.nWithout wishing to encourage any America Firsternsentiments, I do think it is long since time for us Americansnto quit groveling before the nations of the world. There isnmuch that could be better in this country, but nothing thatna few terrorist attacks on Broadway, Madison Avenue, andnHollywood couldn’t cure. Americans have become addictednto worrying about the neighbors. In the good old days, wenapplauded Our American Cousin for laying into Britishnpretensions, and in the 20’s our best novelist (Tarkington)ncelebrated the virtues oiThe Plutocrat against all critics—ndomestic and foreign.nBut after WWII, we seemed to assume responsibility fornthe entire world. It was not enough to defend Americanninterests, watch American movies, eat American food. Wenhad to become internationalists. What began as a noblendream exemplified by the United Nations and InternationalnPEN Conferences turned out to be more like General FoodsnInternational Coffees: desiccated, artificial, and sweet. Thenmore we attempted to ape French fiction, the more tenuousnbecame our grasp of American things—without, by thenway, arousing much interest among the nativist French whonhad been so happy to strike a deal with Hitler.nThe strangest symptom of the internationalist itch eruptednrecently in a rash of celebrity fund-raising events:nLiveAid, SportAid, Sun City; the Soviet Union even had itsnown NukeAid for the Chernobyl victims. What rocknmusicians have to tell us about foreign policy—much lessncharity—it is hard to imagine, but at the drop of a hat, BobnDylan or “Littie Steven” Van Zandt (or litfle StevienWonder, for that matter) will arrange an event for you,ncomplete with live satellite coverage, Woodstock rhetoric,nand monotonous theme song.nWe are the worldnWe are the children.nEven otherwise cynical musicians get roped in. Rumorsnhave it that Lou Reed is rehearsing with a group in Atlantanin preparation for another orgy of international remorse.nWhatever Mr. Reed’s other faults, he has always displayed an(continued on page 24)nnnSEPTEMBER 1986 / 11n