On vacation this week and finally relaxed, I was suddenly awakened by my wife telling me that London had been attacked.
She knew why this news would be particularly noteworthy to me. Years ago, I lived in England while earning a graduate degree in international relations. Readers of this column may be surprised to learn this -- they know I am hardly the diplomat my fellow Cambridge graduates became.
Instead, I chose the rough-and-tumble path of American politics and then the business of interpreting American public opinion.
But all day Thursday on a beautiful island just north of Jacksonville, Fla., my mind was focused on the British nation, where 20 years ago I had encountered some of the warmest, most genuine people I've ever known.
Kind though they are, however, I know them well enough to venture a guess as to how British public opinion will turn out in reaction to the events of this week.
England -- as opposed to the whole island of Great Britain, and the even larger United Kingdom -- is a relatively small territory packed with densely populated cities and an increasingly diminished countryside. Because of the nation's limited geographical extent, most in England have at some time arrived at or departed from one or more of the subway "tube" stations where lives were lost Thursday. So, for most of the people there, the bombings quite literally struck close to home.
Prior public opinion surveys have shown that the younger generation of English often has less regard for the nation's sometimes deluded devotion to royal and other longstanding traditions, including the commitment to global militarism that has found the British military in Iraq. This encroaching modern liberalism aside, there remain millions in that country who will see the train bombings as a turning point for England in the war on terror.
The truth is that the terrorists proved in London that they aren't the savvy manipulators of world opinion they have been characterized to be.
Throughout the United Kingdom just a day before these attacks, there was great pride when it was announced that London would host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. To the north in Scotland, there was additional chest-puffing over the meeting of top world leaders at this year's G-8 conference.