Two Items From Europe
I have met incredulous British tourists who have been shocked to the core by the peacefulness of the place
A British man I met in Colorado recently told me he used to live in Kent but he moved to the American state of New Jersey and will not go home because it is, as he put it, "a gentler environment for bringing the kids up."
This is New Jersey. Home of the Sopranos.
Brits arriving in New York, hoping to avoid being slaughtered on day one of their shopping mission to Manhattan are, by day two, beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about. By day three they have had had the scales lifted from their eyes.
I have met incredulous British tourists who have been shocked to the core by the peacefulness of the place, the lack of the violent undercurrent so ubiquitous in British cities, even British market towns.
"It seems so nice here," they quaver.
Well, it is!
Ten or 20 years ago, it was a different story, but things have changed.
And this is Manhattan.
Wait till you get to London Texas, or Glasgow Montana, or Oxford Mississippi or Virgin Utah, for that matter, where every household is required by local ordinance to possess a gun.
Folks will have guns in all of these places and if you break into their homes they will probably kill you.
They will occasionally kill each other in anger or by mistake, but you never feel as unsafe as you can feel in south London.
It is a paradox. Along with the guns there is a tranquillity and civility about American life of which most British people can only dream.
Peace and serenity
What surprises the British tourists is that, in areas of the US that look and feel like suburban Britain, there is simply less crime and much less violent crime.
Doors are left unlocked, public telephones unbroken.
One reason - perhaps the overriding reason - is that there is no public drunkenness in polite America, simply none.
I have never seen a group of drunk young people in the entire six years I have lived here. I travel a lot and not always to the better parts of town.
It is an odd fact that a nation we associate - quite properly - with violence is also so serene, so unscarred by petty crime, so innocent of brawling.
Virginia Tech had the headlines in the last few days and reminded us of the violence for which the US is well known.
But most American lives were as peaceful on this anniversary as they are every day.
Well, yes. Having lived in NYC as well as the Deep South, I can tell you I was much safer in Deep South which was bristling with (legal) guns. (I will qualify that by saying that I was living in NYC during the Dinkins years when things were really grim. Not so now.)
Europeans apparently got the memo that Global Warming ended in 1998 because they're moving full tilt boogie back to ugly polluting coal.
"Over the next five years, Italy will increase its reliance on coal to 33 percent from 14 percent. Power generated by Enel from coal will rise to 50 percent.
And Italy is not alone in its return to coal. Driven by rising demand, record high oil and natural gas prices, concerns over energy security and an aversion to nuclear energy, European countries are expected to put into operation about 50 coal-fired plants over the next five years, plants that will be in use for the next five decades."
I'll brook no more comments from Europeans or preening Americans about how much better/wiser/more environmentally responsible Europe is. That ship has sailed (and it's powered by coal).