Last week Ed Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, scolded the NFL for postponing a football game because of a snowstorm. “We’ve become a nation of wusses,” Mr Rendell said, and the Wall Street Journal picked up the comment to investigate the question of whether the United States has, in fact, become wussier over time:

The United States defined itself by its pioneer spirit. “We were the brash Paul Bunyan nation with a don’t-tread-on-us culture,” says John Strausbaugh, author of the 2008 book “Sissy Nation.”Mr. Strausbaugh argues that World War II traumatized a generation of American men. Looking to shake off all that they had witnessed—horrific battles, Nazi atrocities—many of these former soldiers retreated into the U.S. suburbs, building lives of conformity. They became less adventurous, raising coddled children whose offspring would be even more indulged.

The print edition illustrated the decline in macho-ness with a photo of John Wayne (“Fort Apache”) next to one of Jeff Bridges (“The Big Lebowski”), although the photo of Mr Bridges was taken from his role in True Grit (a wonderful film, and not a wimpy one).

Objecting to Mr Rendell’s characterisation was one Lisa DeNoia of Virginia Beach, who wrote a stern letter to the governor saying, “We’re not a nation of wusses. We’re a nation of fearless, bumbling morons in pickup trucks who like to drink beer, go shirtless in the freezing cold for football, and drive in blizzards.” I rather warmed to Ms DeNoia’s description, which strikes me as funny, unpretentious, and not untrue.

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