America is losing the thread. Compare the America of now with the America of 20 years ago, and we see a deterioration. We feel disturbance at this because we don’t know if we can get our way back. The losing of the thread feels bigger than ideology, bigger certainly than parties. It feels like some more fundamental confusion, an inability to play the role of who we are, and to be comfortable in who we are.
Certainly, most obviously and geopolitically we lost the thread in Afghanistan. We went there 20 years ago to make quick work of mass murderers who’d attacked us, and those who’d harbored and helped them. But we didn’t get the man who gave us 9/11, he escaped, and attention turned elsewhere, to Iraq, and we just stayed and walked in circles and came up with new words to rationalize the mission and it all turned into a muddle of confused intentions. Ten years in it was like the drunken song, “We’re here because we’re here.”
Evidence of a lost thread: 9/11 was a deeply communal event. We were all in it together, wounded together and mourning together. We dug deep, found our best selves, and actually saw the best selves in others. The spontaneous community of those who showed up at the hospital to give blood, of those on the top floors of the towers who gathered to try to lead people out, of those on the plane who banded together to storm the pilot’s door—“Let’s roll.” It wasn’t just you, you were part of something.
Just about every large business in America is now run by its human resources department because everyone appears to be harassing and assaulting each other, or accusing each other. Is this the sign of a healthy country?
Twenty years in our history is treated as all sin, sin, sin. We’re like mad monks flagellating ourselves. We are going through a nonstop condemnation of our past and our people and their limits and ignorance. It isn’t healthy. Reflection and honest questioning are, but not this. And so much of it comes from our most successful and secure, our elites and establishments. Regular people look and think, “But if our professors and media leaders and tech CEOs hate us, who is going to help us think our way out of this mess?” And they know someone has to, because they know in a way elites can never understand, because they have grown so used to security.
No nation can proceed in the world safely and fruitfully when at bottom it hates itself.