It has been a quarter of a century since I moved to the United States but now it comes back to me how I used to resent the way in which Americans made up their minds. In the first election I was able to follow — the Nixon-Kennedy race in 1960 — there were American nuclear bases in Britain, and great American decisions to be taken about free trade and other matters that affected us all directly. Yet from the American press I learnt that the whole thing hinged on Nixon’s unshaven jowls as exposed in the first televised debate.
These days I spend a good deal of my time defending my adopted country from what I have to call anti-American attitudes, many of them based on what seem to me a mixture of envy and ignorance. But, yes, I tell the BBC man when he finally calls back, there is quite a lot of argument this fall about whether or not American schoolchildren should be exposed to the ideas first promulgated by Charles Darwin in the mid-Victorian epoch. Indeed, the subject has begun to open a split in the Republican Party, as well as between it and its critics. There is a brief silence on the line.