National Review's self-loathing Belgian writes [Mark Steyn]
Further to my recent observations on Britain, I have received a significant number of letters along the lines of the following:
Dear Mr Steyn,I'm not sure whether it's the "Belgium" or the "Jew" bit I'm hiding, or both. But oddly enough, as I had cause to mention in a q-&-a session in New York a couple of days ago, it was the state of England's obsession with a Portuguese Jew that embodied 19th century Britain at its most confident:
I can't help wondering why a Belgium Jew (yes i know you hide it) is so obsessed with the state of England. We don't need your opinions and would be grateful if you would sort out Canada or anywhere else and leave us alone.
In 1847, a man called Don Pacifico, a Portuguese Jew living in Greece, had his house burned in an anti-Semitic riot. He appealed to the Greek government for redress (the sons of some ministers had been involved) and got nowhere. But he chanced to have been born on Gibraltar and thus was, technically, a British subject. And so he turned to the British government. And, though to most Englishmen's eyes a century and a half ago no one could have seemed less English than this greasy dago Jew moneylender, Lord Palmerston began a naval blockade of Greece—on the grounds that Don Pacifico was a British subject like any other—until the government in Athens backed down. In Palmerston's words, "As the Roman in days of old held himself free from indignity when he could say Civis Romanus sum, so also a British subject, in whatever land he may be, shall feel confident that the watchful eye and the strong arm of England will protect him against injustice and wrong." Civis Britannicus sum: that was all Don Pacifico had to say.Small incidents , whether in Athens in 1847 or Tehran in 2007, capture the big picture. The e-mail above would not have struck Palmerston as the least bit "English".