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Clio's Temple

Wish fulfillment?

I will confess: I didn't see it coming. Of course, I'm referring to the vote in favor of Brexit. To my American eyes, it seems like a raspberry toward the outside world, a world that had come to seem heedless of English wishes.

Therein lies the problem: The pro-Brexit vote was drawn heavily from England outside Greater London. Londoners voted to stay in the EU, as did residents of Scotland and Northern Ireland. There have already been rumbles in the latter two regions about a possible breakaway from the United Kingdom.

True to form, Donald Trump managed to start a visit to Scotland on the wrong foot. While it may seem scandalous, Americans putting their feet in their mouths abroad is nothing unusual. This is largely because those who come to the U.S. are much likelier to have learned something about the U.S., whereas many Americans don't feel the need to return the favor for their foreign travels. Since both my wife and I have resided abroad (at different times), we both wince the different ways in which Americans seem naturally to fall into the role of innocents abroad.

To many foreigners, though, we aren't innocents abroad. Rather,we give the impression of being overbearing in our attempts to deal with foreign ways. My wife and I remember the tempest caused on a river cruise in Russia a few years by some of our fellow Americans who expected to be served American cuisine aboard the vessel.

What does this have to do with the Brexit vote? I suspect that, over time, a fair number of pro-Brexit voters may come to believe that their votes were a wish that might have better gone unfulfilled. That's an optimistic reading of the situation. Still, those things that drive people and nations apart are generally not good things, particularly when it comes down to us standing on the sidelines and cheering one side or another in foreign disputes.

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