Sunday, August 31, 2003


I’ve always been an unabashed Anglophile. My one trip to England was on my honeymoon, 18 years ago, but I started dreaming of that kingdom decades before. On my first visit to the ocean, when I was four, I looked across the blue-grey swells of the Atlantic and thought: England is on the other side.

The small countries of the British Isles—Scotland and England, Wales and Ireland and Cornwall—were the land where stories happened. I never made the mistake of thinking they were the Fortunate Isles, where nothing bad could befall, but they represented history, literature, continuity, a world where I might conceivably belong. British writers seemed to share my powerful sense of place, and both learning and nature were valued there.

These days I’m less of a rank sentimentalist, but I still have a weakness for things British, from scones to accents. I’d love to go back and spend more time there. And this makes all the more disturbing my instinctive reaction when I saw Pirates of the Caribbean. It didn’t matter that I’m a lifelong Anglophile. When I spotted the redcoats, all my insurgent Minuteman tendencies rose up and cried "Enemy!"

Does it matter? I’m not about to go out and beat up a wandering Brit for the sins of mad King George, who didn’t even have a British accent. (His native tongue was German.) But it does matter when I think about the ancient rivalries everywhere else. If a well-educated pacifist Anglophile can still respond that way, what hope do we have to heal any of the thousand feuds and conflicts in the world?

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