Dream and Nightmare

Commonweal, September 10, 1954, pp. 551-554.


WHAT image does Europe have of America? Whatever it may be, it is a reflection of actual conditions in this country, it contains an evaluation of America’s role in international politics, and it expresses the attitude of the nation concerned with respect to both. The faithfulness of such images to the original is always open to question; they cannot, and are not meant to, conform to standards of photo¬≠ graphic objectivity or even journalistic reportage. The present image of America abroad is no exception to this rule, and it is neither less nor more distorted than the images nations used to form of each other in the course of their history and mutual relationships. If there were nothing more involved than misunderstandings, misinterpretations and occasionally violent outbursts of resentment or dislike, the matter would be hardly of more than historical, limited interest.

There are, however, several respects in which the image of America abroad does not conform to the general rule. The first, and perhaps most relevant, exception is the fact that the European image, in distinction from others, cannot be considered a mere reflection and interpretation of actual conditions, for it pre­dates not only the birth of the United States, but the colonization and to some extent even the discovery of the American continent.