All politics may be local, but it’s not all personal. We have to balance our care for local institutions with a new willingness to adopt protocols and conventions, some theoretical and some seemingly silly, to shore up our freedom and, as [Richard] Sennett puts it, to “learn to act impersonally” (The Fall of Public Man 340).
Public life is impersonal, and that impersonality can be either bad or good. Self-righteousness is impersonal because it treats the other as less than a person. But self-government is impersonal because it transcends personality. Self-government is based on a sacred truth, as the Declaration’s first draft puts it, that all men are created equal. Our essential equality, deeper than personality, is the basis for celebrating our diverse personalities and cultures – even for celebrating, ultimately, our common failings.
Bill and I were kind of chuckling via email about the current covers of Newsweek and Time, the former reflecting my fixation with comparing Obama and Lincoln, and the latter picking up on Bill’s suggestion that our times may eventually cause a president to consider policies as drastic as some of Franklin Roosevelt’s. (Bill was […]
This sadness feels Medieval, locked in ice and dusk – Lisa Russ Sparr, “Penance I” Rounding the century and having bested the last eighty years’ most malignant forms of government – fascism and communism – Western liberalism had only to fear problems stemming from the economic success its political success had fostered: pollution, global warming, […]
And that’s the logical flaw in American exceptionalism. We can’t be both an example and an exception. How can we say, with Hamilton and Lincoln, “You can be like us,” while we also say, “We are exceptional – we are an exception”? Do we believe with Stephen Douglas that certain nations or certain regions of the world need our political oversight and even the exercise of our military power to establish liberal institutions and republican government? Do we see some other nations as, in Hamilton’s words, “forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force” – destined to depend, perhaps, on our own force?