“the greatest country in the world”


Last night, I watched a recently released film about the editor Max Perkins and the writer Tom Wolfe, who had a close professional and personal relationship.

The film, The Genius (2016), has gotten mixed reviews. I liked it.

Anyway, there is a scene in the film where Wolfe (played by Jude Law) is returning from a trip to Paris. He is greeted as he disembarks from the ocean liner by Perkins (played by Colin Firth).

Perkins offers to pay for a taxi. “No,” says Wolfe, rambunctiously. [I am paraphrasing.] I want to walk the streets of New York again! The greatest city in the greatest country in the world!”

This reminded me of something.



I had a long time relationship with an outstanding therapist: Ralph Colp, Jr., MD. (In my parents’ generation, one would have been ashamed to admit that one even saw a therapist.) He was a cultured and scholarly man with admirable personal qualities. Among other things that made him stand out, he himself had been analyzed by Freud’s personal physician.

Credentials notwithstanding, he was somewhat taciturn, chose his words carefully, didn’t say things just to hold forth, indoctrinate, or impress. I guess that’s partly why I seem to remember almost word for word practically everything he ever said.

He once said to me — apropos what topic I can’t recall — “Let’s face it. America is the greatest country by far. No question.” It wasn’t jingoism on his part. What he meant was that America was the greatest country in the world to LIVE in.

Sometimes someone will say something to you that’s obvious, as plain as the nose on one’s face, and yet you’ve never quite thought of it, at least in not quite that way. I had often entertained unpatriotic thoughts in my teens and young adulthood, because of resentment over things such as the Vietnam War and hatred of politicians such as Presidents Nixon and Johnson, But Dr. Colp’s remark struck me then as true and has stayed with me.

Jingoism aside, we do live in the greatest country on earth, by Jove. We are so lucky to. It’s a blessing that is often taken for granted.


— Roger W. Smith

   January 26, 2017



See also:

“Tribute to Ralph Colp, Jr., MD”

Roger W. Smith, ‘tribute to Ralph Colp, Jr., MD”

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