People spend a great deal of time studying their mirror. Gazing and hoping, squinting and despairing. There’s not a dermatologist or a paparazzi who will tell you they know anyone who likes themselves just as they are in that mirror. From Cleopatra to Angeline, from Achilles to Brad, everyone has something they’d like to change.
Right now I should think the United States would like to change what it and the world sees in our reflection.
Oscar Wilde famously said: “By middle age everyone deserves the face they have.” During our nation’s youth our national face giddily ranged from Yankee bumpkin to yeoman farmer to western trailblazer to gun-packing cowboy to enterprising businessman. Each image in its own way projected a sense of vigor and vision, whether it was true or not. However, nations like people change as they age. After we became the most powerful military victor in history at the end of WWII, power did what it always does. Corrupts.
It’s not long before the gutsy young inventor becomes the crusty old CEO whose sole purpose now is to keep what he’s created, to make sure no one takes it away. So with a nation. We can see it all there these days in the 24/7 imagery of steely-eyed feds, CSI units, SWAT Teams, and goggled GIs prowling the hot spots of a world we intend to keep right in its place where we want it.
Emerson’s and Twain’s and Faulkner’s America was without troops or guns; without gated communities and aircraft carrier flotillas. Hardly perfect, but smaller and less weaponized. Less to defend and to protect, therefore more to reach out and trust. We were still Jimmy Stewart rather then Banker Potter in ‘It’s A Wonderful Life.’
Where have you gone, Jimmy…..?
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