Today we read the Sinclair Lewis of “Main Street,” “Babbitt,” “Elmer Gantry” and “It Can’t Happen Here” not for literary value but the way Margaret Mead studied the Balinese character–for ethnographic insights. Lewis’s novels are a window into an America not nearly as dated as his reputation.
Edward Abbey’s “Desert Solitaire,” published in January 1968, worthy of any top-100 list of the best books of the last hundred years and an essential read–and re-read-today, is a meditation, a polemic, a manifesto, a provocation, a valentine and an elegy to the red desert and to American wilderness.
What historian Arthur Schlesinger had detected in 1992 in a few trends is now orthodoxy–from both sides, neither for the better. The “ethnic rage” of diversity-preaching liberals and the fundamentalist, doctrinaire “monoculturalism” of conservatives has the country in a state of paralysis. Schlesinger wanted a renewed melting pot. But that’s not the solution.
“Achieving Our Country” is an energizing manifesto, a reminder that we are not as good as we think we are, and, atrocious as we can be, not nearly as bad, either. We are merely unachieved. With a little less despair, a little more affection, even–heaven forbid–a bit of patriotism, however defined but equally respected we can achieve more.
Under the appealing but misguided credo of victims’ rights, prosecutors reach plea deals giving disproportionate weight to what the victim’s family wants. The defendant can end up either with a savior, as Joey Renn did this week in Flagler, or, more often, a gang of rage. A person’s fate should never depend on a dice throw between grace and vigilantism.
The Flagler school board doesn’t believe in equality anymore. The administration, out of fear and misplaced pragmatism, is abandoning the word “equity” and replacing it with a bromide of a euphemism–“student success”–in appeasement of a faction led by School Board members Jill Woolbright and Janet McDonald, the same board members targeting books and instructional materials with anti-racism and other minority-oriented themes.
Under Florida law, child abuse is legal as long as the violence doesn’t amount to intentional, malicious harm. There is no age cut off. There are no limits on what means are used to brutalize a child. The law is a leftover from barbaric days.
Palm Coast’s prohibition against small, van-size commercial vehicles in residential driveways is outdated and discriminatory, especially targeting blue-collar workers while refusing to recognize the vastly changing geography of work. This isn’t a majority vote issue. It’s a workers’ rights issue.
The military and political misuses of the 9/11 terrorist attacks were bound to have bewildering consequences for the nation’s budget and its sense of itself as a free and peaceful society, absent the prevailing of wise, more prudent choices. Those choices did not prevail.
President Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan is welcome news, in one sense. Our part of the war will finally be over. But it’s 20 years too late. And his claim that we achieved our goals is absurd. Al-Qaeda and the Taliban won. We lost another war where we did not belong.