Sunday, November 27, 2005

The Emerging American Majority?

The crimes and confusion of American history appear tolerable in retrospect because of the great nation that emerged from all the blood and nonsense. When the expansion ends, we’ll find it harder to forgive our continuing moral and political errors. What’s cute or at least tolerable in a rambunctious teenager is merely pathetic in an aging biker. We need to grow up and develop—or restore—a civilization on these shores.

William Blake wrote “Bring out number, weight, and measure in a year of dearth.” From which I make the unromantic application that it’s getting to be time to bring out number, weight, and measure. Our ethic, which cherishes the brag and bluff and values effectiveness above efficiency, made excellent sense in the middle of a land rush. The question is whether we’ll be able to adapt to different circumstances where it behooves us to step gingerly without losing our respect for human rights. The temptation will be to lurch from anarchistic individualism to an authoritarian system that crushes independence and dissent through an endless series of emergency measures. What the economic and political situation calls for is a substitution of intelligence for force, but that prospect isn’t going to inspire very many tailgate parties.