A few weeks back, on New York’s Pier 52, awaiting Macy’s fireworks spectacular, I got talking with one of my fellow guests, Anne, about what I had seen on Ellis Island. I told her that, without wishing to sound pompous or pretentious, I had got a number of profound insights into the American psyche from my visit. One of these insights came during an excellent thirty-minute film that visitors can watch in the old processing station. The film has a Shoah-like atmosphere. The trip to the States was, for many European immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s, a deeply traumatic experience. Just to get there was, in itself, proof that you were a survivor. But there was no guarantee you could stay. About two per cent of would-be immigrants were sent back to Europe. If you had trachoma – a highly contagious eye disease – you were immediately returned. Now, just imagine if you had sold your farm or small holding and all of your worldly goods in order to buy a one-way passage for your wife and your two children to a new life in America, and then at Ellis Island they discover that your daughter has trachoma. What do you do? Go back? Send her back alone? Split up the family, with no guarantee that you would ever be re-united? Anyway, the insight was through an interview with an immigrant from those far-flung times. Many Central and Eastern European immigrants were fleeing repression of one sort or another. ‘The word ‘government’ frightened me,’ said the immigrant in the interview. ”Government’ meant tyranny.’  I told this to Anne and then described the ticket office, with signs in so many languages, where immigrants, once admitted, could buy railroad tickets to anywhere. ‘Ah,’ said Anne. ‘That reminds me of an article I read a few years back in The New Yorker magazine. It was about railroads and immigrants and anti-government resentment…’