The Americans were Puritans or adolescents or naïve or God-fearing moralizers. The French were cynical, incorrigible, discreet and suave. Sex on the Seine and sex on the Potomac were distinct sensations, the former enriched by intrigue, the latter threatened by exposureThus writes Roger Cohen in the New York Times as he denotes changing customs.
Images such as these comforted the French and Americans in their different views of civilization. There was no point in each country having a universal messages if it was not dissimilar even at the very point of Yeats’ “shudder in the loins.”
But of late some of these images, stereotypes if you prefer, have begun to blur or even cross over.
Which president, after all, currently speaks of God as the “the rampart” against “the folly of men”? Which president is suffering heavily in the polls for the roller coaster of his amorous adventures? Which public seems more concerned with the personal sexual foibles of its political leaders?