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The Country We Deserve
It's not the past that should worry us this Fourth. It's the future.
1. The Country We Deserve
Everyone should read Tim Miller’s stirring “Be the Signal” message. It’s the essay America needs right now, even if it’s not the message we deserve.
What do we deserve? That message would not be so stirring.
Here is a public statement from a sitting member of Congress—that august body which our Founders fought and died to create—on July 3:
This gentleman and his two dozen co-sponsors seem to be ignorant of some basic facts, including:
The military already mandates many, many vaccines.
A soldier cannot “quit” the military.
So: Either these duly elected representatives of The People do not understand the military they are charged with helping to oversee. Or they do understand, and are posturing on a subject that is still killing 200 Americans a day.
Yes, 200 deaths seems like a small number compared with the worst of this pandemic, when 4,000 people were dying every day. But for scale, imagine two of the Surfside condo buildings collapsing, every day. Because that is still what COVID is doing.
And yet, not only will Rep. Massie pay no political price for this act—he will be rewarded for it by the constituents who have provided him with an average margin of +34 points in his five elections.
There are people in this country—scores of millions of them—who want this sort of leadership.
2. A Capitol Fourth
The PBS cavalcade of stars is my go-to Fourth of July program, a midsummer’s version of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.
Last night’s show was . . . odd. A halfway house to normal.
People had returned to the Mall for the fireworks, but in smaller numbers. The production had live elements, but also many pre-taped segments.
I couldn’t help but wonder what Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping would think had watched it.
Here you had an America clearly in transition out of the pandemic after losing more than 600,000 souls. The event was taking place literally on the same ground which had been—six months prior—the site of an attempted coup.
And yet the show went on with only elliptical references to the former and not a word about the latter.
All the while, Americans danced on the Mall, grinning and preening for the cameras and a chance to be on TV. Decked out in novelty red-white-and-blue sunglasses and cardboard hats.
If you wanted to, you could say that this is evidence of America’s irrepressible optimism. That it is the forward-looking nature of our culture. That we are the birthplace of Ted Lasso.
And maybe that’s true. I’d like it to be true.
Another interpretation is that it’s all whistling past the graveyard. Putting on a brave face because that’s the only thing to be done.
That wouldn’t be so bad.
But the other possibility is that we are, as a body politic, too dim to understand what is happening, right now. And that even if the country did understand, we’re too decadent to do anything about it.
So enjoy this last bit of post-Fourth leisure, I guess.
But come back tomorrow, with your eyes wide open, and ready to work to save this thing of ours.
This Caitlin Flanagan piece on getting off of Twitter is really good:
I know I’m an addict because Twitter hacked itself so deep into my circuitry that it interrupted the very formation of my thoughts. Twenty years of journalism taught me to hit a word count almost without checking the numbers at the bottom of the screen. But now a corporation that operates against my best interests has me thinking in 280 characters. . . .
God knows my heroes wouldn’t have gone down this road. George Orwell on Twitter? I doubt it.
6 a.m.: An Elephant is rampaging through the bazaar. I’m asked to help. What the Hell can I do about it? I will go take a look.
Noon: Lunch was a tin of kippers sent by @Mimsy207. Thanks, Mimsy! Felt like we were at the same table. Come to Burma? Please?
10 p.m.: Can’t get that damn elephant out of my mind.
Surely Joan Didion has confronted her share of aggravations (cucumber slices not adhering to tea sandwiches; Lynn Nesbit calling during NewsHour; latest Celine sunnies too big for tiny, exquisite face). But would she ever take to Twitter to inscribe these frustrations onto the ticker tape of the infinite? Of course not. She would either shape them into imperishable personal essays or allow them to float past her and return to the place from which they came.