Barnes: Our country, right or wrong
I am increasingly concerned about what this nation has become — and is becoming. You know, “One nation under God, Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
If you don’t share this kind of anxiety, then you may as well turn your attention to the rest of today’s paper.
The primary question I have struggled with has been: How in the world did we let ourselves become mired in this quagmire of conflicting national, international and moral issues?
Well, recently I got lucky. Walking through our library I came upon a book with a teasingly catchy title: “FANTASYLAND: How America Went Haywire.” It is an extraordinary, eye-opening history of the past few years that is full of insights and observations about America’s destiny, disarray and decline.
Here is a description of the book from the publisher: “Over the course of five centuries — from the Salem witch trials to Scientology to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, from P.T. Barnum to Hollywood and the anything goes, wild-and-crazy sixties, from conspiracy theories to our fetish for guns and obsession with extraterrestrials — our peculiar love of the fantastic has made America exceptional in a way that we never fully acknowledged. With the gleeful erudition and tell-it-like-it-is ferocity of a Christopher Hitchins, (Kurt) Anderson explores whether the great American experiment in liberty has gone off the rails.”
Over the past two years especially, I have spent considerable time reading newspapers and books, as well as listening to political “experts” explaining to me what is happening in our country. I acknowledge consternation and confusion. I keep returning to Dickens’ statement: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way — in short, the period was ... like the present period.”
I cling to the belief that most of us prefer reality to illusion. The challenge I have been coping with is determining which I am dealing with. Clarity from Washington is foggy and blurred.
One further explanation from the author I commend to you: “If we’re splitting into two different cultures, we in reality-based America must try to keep our zone as large and robust and attractive as possible for ourselves and the next generations. We need to adopt a guiding principle, based on those aphorisms of Daniel Moynihan and Thomas Jefferson: You’re entitled to your own opinions and your own fantasies, but not your own facts — especially if your fantastical facts hurt people.”
You see I’m pretty sure during the past several years that I have never heard so many opinions presented as facts by elected individuals. Distinguishing what is factually true from what is dubious and clearly false is increasingly challenging and arduous.
The author uses the phrase, “post-factual world.” I find that phrase frightening.
If you are also concerned about what is happening in our country, I commend this book to you. I don’t believe you will be disappointed.