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Full Circle

Day 235: San Francisco to Seattle

Michael Palin - Full CircleA death is announced in the paper today. 'American Liberalism, born 1933, died 1996.' It refers to President Clinton's signing yesterday of a Republican Bill committing him to the biggest cuts in welfare since the time of the New Deal.

The other big story is the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics. It is now rumoured to be the work of 'separatist militias'. Meanwhile the Californian flag flutters alongside the Stars and Stripes outside our hotel. America seems tight, uncomfortable, on edge. Of all the countries of the Pacific Rim, this is the one in which I have seen fear and mistrust most clearly. Of course people have been welcoming, but the welcome has been preceded by an almost subliminal moment of suspicion. The glad hand has been extended, but only after a split second check on who it is being extended towards. Could it be that the legendary warmth and spontaneity of the American people has been compromised? Has increasingly sophisticated technology delivered the prospect of an electronic wall of security and surveillance, behind which those who have can at last hide from those who have not? Could it be that this generous nation has finally lost patience with those who won't fit in?

This morning the city is cloaked by a funnel of cold sea fog drawn across San Francisco by the heat of the Central Valley. The bells of Grace Cathedral and the clanging tramcars on Powell sound muffled and mournful. Time to move north, to close the circle.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 235
  • Country/sea: USA
  • Place: San Francisco - California
  • Book page no: 307

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