In America there is more space where nobody is than where anybody is –that is what makes America what it is. –Gertrude Stein
Though popular historiography has stressed the ‘Age of the Robber Barons’ and deplored the gross materialism of the epoch (i.e., the closing decades of the 19th Century), this hostile view is not borne out by the facts, which display a panorama of general progress in which all classes shared and in which all intellectual and cultural interests were abudently displayed — a panorama, indeed, highlighted by the emergence of quintessentially American geniuses.
-Paul Johnson, A History of the American People
Gertrude Stein, probably viewing her homeland from Paris, Brit Paul Johnson viewing it from a nearly equal distance in England. Views of our homeland, over a century or more later keep tumbling and rearranging kaleidoscopically as our social and cultural realities advance or, perhaps, retrogress. Less open space, for sure, more or less materialistic, as ever. People pouring across the border; geniuses, variously engaged in the culture, still seemingly in good supply,quirky Gertrude Stein among them, now a memory. But again, an ex-patriate. We lost people, we gained millions more. We shift about, restless, angry, anxious. America, the Beautifully Open and Complex and Troubled.
Our future uncertain, as ever. God help us.