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English Hours: Nothing Personal

It is the happy, often pompous delusion of the alien that he or she is a witness to an era of significant change. I understand this as a necessary conceit, a survival skill that helps to make the stranger watchful. I lived in England for eighteen years, as a pure spectator, from the end of 1971 until the beginning of 1990. I was just an onlooker, gaping at public events that did not involve me. I was a taxpayer but couldn’t vote; a house owner, but still needed an entry visa; and for quite a while I had to carry an Alien Identity Card.

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