Contributor Perspectives

America the Old-Fashioned: How Clinging to the Past Propelled the U.S. Forward

Ian Morris
Board of Contributors
Sep 13, 2018 | 09:00 GMT
The presentation of the American Declaration of Independence, as depicted in a painting by John Trumbull.

The presentation of the Declaration of Independence, as depicted in a painting by John Trumbull. Adherence to the ideals underpinning its founding helped propel the United States to the top of the world order, and like other great powers of history, it has stuck to its traditional values.

(Wikimedia Commons)

When I was a boy growing up in England 50 years ago, the United States stood for everything modern. Americans, we learned from comic books, movies and TV shows, lived in skyscrapers, watched something called cable television, and cooked their dinners in microwave ovens. They flew around in airplanes, effortlessly drove from sea to shining sea on interstate highways and were about to put a man on the moon. They ran their wars with computers, and, apart from when they were busy protesting against those wars, lived lives of freedom, ease and sex. I knew when I was eight that I wanted to go there. But when I actually did, in the 1980s, I found -- surprise, surprise -- that it was not exactly what I had expected. I settled in Chicago, one of the world's great cities; yet much of what I saw seemed distinctly old-fashioned to an immigrant from...

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