Apr_1998_pic_1
Perspective

The Heart's Geography

I took out the atlas the other day to figure out the routes of the voyagers retraced by Jean Raspail on his first trip to the United States. In the event, it proved impossible to plot a French expedition on a modern map of the United States. Maps are political abstractions. They encourage us to take a god's eye view of where we are and who we are, a view that distorts the ungeographical realities of everyday life. My Anglophile wife, for example, drinks tea grown in India and imported from England. Ungeographically, she is more at home in London than in Chicago. Irish refugees from the potato famine settled in the United States, not in England, because to the Irishman's mind, "The shores of England are farther off in his heart's geography than those of Massachusetts or New York."

On a map, New York City is part of the United States (an absurd proposition), which are closer to Guatemala than they are to England and France. But England and France are part of me, not only of me as an individual but of me as American, whereas Guatemala is connected to us only by way of Spain, which is something of a detour. The American fondness for maps encourages us to devise such abstractions as "Western Hemisphere" and "Pacific Rim," and we are dazzled by these inventions of our own imagination. The reality is that we are part of Europe, and in cutting the ties that bind us to our mother, we are not growing...

Join now to access the full article and gain access to other exclusive features.

Get Started

Already a member? Sign in here

X