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"There is a deep hunger in America post-Sept. 11 in many people who feel this is their war in their backyard and they would like to be summoned by the president to do something more than go shopping.
December 9, 2001 1:34 PM   Subscribe

"There is a deep hunger in America post-Sept. 11 in many people who feel this is their war in their backyard and they would like to be summoned by the president to do something more than go shopping. If you just look at the amount of money spontaneously donated to victims' families, it's clear that there is a deep reservoir of energy out there that could be channeled to become a real force for American renewal and transformation — and it's not being done." Excellent editorial in today's NY Times (free registration required) by Tom Friedman exhorting Bush to use his currently formidable political capital by calling on Americans to step up and "be the best country, and the best global citizens, we can be."
posted by verdezza (61 comments total)

 
Excellent editorial, indeed. I'd love nothing more than to see us be able to meet our energy needs from within, and it's a multi-year (or longer) process.

One quick suggestion I've had for people is to go get certified in CPR and first aid. With terrorism on our own shores, you literally never know when you could be called upon and make a life or death difference to a colleague at work, a family member, or just a fellow citizen on the street.
posted by ebarker at 2:36 PM on December 9, 2001


CPR and First Aid?

" `This is our turn to be a greatest generation.' "

Speaking as a member of the 13th generation, I am ashamed. Those who survived the Great Depression and World War Two should be offended. Comparatively, what we're going through right now is nothing. I understand where Brokaw was coming from in his book. The Baby Boomers and the Gen Xers have learned little to nothing from our predecessors. We're making some of the same mistakes that were made in the roaring 20s which helped lead to the Depression. We're repeating history. We're not learning from it and striving to be something more.

Sure. Watch our generation. Watch us fall flat on our faces. It'll make a good book someday.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:01 PM on December 9, 2001


65 degrees? Hell, I've got my thermostat set at 62! I'm SUPER-patriotic.

On a more serious note, ebarker makes a lot of sense, now or any other time. A former employer offered free CPR and first-aid classes that I never suspected I would use, until the day a Jeep didn't make the sharp turn at the bottom of the hill that led away from our parking lot, rolled, and ended up on top of the driver. I took the classes because it got me out of a few hours of work, but I used the skills I learned to help save a life that day.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:07 PM on December 9, 2001


(Apologies for the consecutive posts, but you know how it is.)

Zachsmind:

Instead of pooh-poohing (I always wanted to use that term) our generation, what do you suggest we do? Sign up for the Armed Forces? Recycle more? Volunteer to serve meals at soup kitchens?

A teacher I admired used to say (tritely, but honestly) "A complaint without a solution is just whining".

I believe my (our?) generation has every bit as much capacity for greatness as Brokaw's "greatest generation". We just need a concrete goal.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:15 PM on December 9, 2001


Once again: Login: metafi, Password: metafi.
This should always be posted with any link to the New York Times.

Zachsmind--this greatest generation stuff sticks in my craw. They went through the depression and World War II, that's true. And baby boomers were the cannon fodder for the civil rights struggle and Viet Nam, never forget that. As a member of the latter, I'd like to point out that a great deal of us are not rich or complacent sellouts, and, too, that our parents had no problem with living in a country with de jure, not just de facto segregation, lynchings, McCarthyism and so on. That generation went through World War II, it's true, but until September 11th, apart from Pearl Harbor and three or four deaths from Japanese fire balloons, all the death and sacrifice happened overseas.

As an unwealthy nonyuppie, I got so tired of Gen X bashing of the boomers. But I got my licks in, when young, on the 'greatest generation' for their complacency, hypocrisy, racism, blah blah, woof woof, etc.

It's so easy to point the hypocrisy and flaws of those who went before--like Oscar Wilde said: In America the young are always ready to give to those who are older than themselves the full benefits of their inexperience.

As for making a contribution, my best advice for everyone is Stay Awake. Otherwise, Zachsmind, I agree with you on some points. Picture the future as being that scene in the Simpsons where Sideshow Bob keeps stepping on rakes and whacking himself in the face with the handles over and over. And yet we'll all rise to the occasion. I hope.
posted by y2karl at 3:51 PM on December 9, 2001


I believe my (our?) generation has every bit as much capacity for greatness as Brokaw's "greatest generation".

I guess once you buy into the whole "greatest generation" bs marketing to sell a lousy book you're blinded into coming up with some non-sensical competition. Please count me out, and when the next book on genX'ers comes out again I'll ignore it too.

summoned by the president to do something more than go shopping.

The president isn't going to summon you, you're really going to have to think for yourself. Even if he did there are two ways this can go and the most likely one would be more asinine "vigilance" like reporting suspicious colored people on planes and posters in dorm rooms. Nothing is stoping anyone from going out to learn CPR on their own. If you need a congressional medal of honor to get off your ass that's your own problem, not society's.

. Imagine if the president called on every corporate chieftain to take a 10 percent pay cut, starting with himself, so fewer employees would have to be laid off?

Hehe, how naive. CEOs would rather get together and lobby for smaller government and thus less taxes than follow advice Bush wouldn't give with his dying breath.

Lastly, can the calls for shopping please stop? Its only the gift-buying season and the employment rate isn't so hot. Maybe the message should be to the coke-heads in the market not to freak out at every little fluctution and bail out en masse.
posted by skallas at 4:04 PM on December 9, 2001


Imagine if the president called on every corporate chieftain to take a 10 percent pay cut, starting with himself, so fewer employees would have to be laid off? Plenty would do it.

If I could stop laughing for a moment, I would point out how utterly ludicrous this is. Just ask the boys at Polaroid and Enron how willing they are to give up their multimillion dollar bonuses.
posted by briank at 4:06 PM on December 9, 2001


(aargh, skallas beat me to the post)
posted by briank at 4:06 PM on December 9, 2001


"I guess once you buy into the whole "greatest generation" bs marketing to sell a lousy book you're blinded into coming up with some non-sensical competition. Please count me out, and when the next book on genX'ers comes out again I'll ignore it too."

Tell me why you don't believe that the WWII generation deserves the title. I feel an incredible amount of gratitude to my grandfathers (both of whom served time in POW camps, on both WWII fronts) for their sacrifice so that I could enjoy the lifestyle I have. You can leave the book out of it, since I haven't purchased it and don't intend to.

Unless you can provide some evidence to the contrary, I will continue to believe Brokaw's label is correct.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:13 PM on December 9, 2001


mr_crash_davis, other than its a manufactured title with no real criteria to actually do something as hilarious as compare generations vs generations, Brokaw himself has been pressed to answer that question and can only come up with the standard reply of [paraphrasing here], "Our generation wasn't special any generation would have stepped up like we did."
posted by skallas at 4:28 PM on December 9, 2001


mr_crash_davis, it that's true, then the 'greatest generations' in England and the Soviet Union deserve the title far more than anyone on this side of the coean. Greatest generation is an empty slogan--we'll all have to step up to the plate in turn. I'm not denigrating what my parents and their generation went through, but the sacrifices Americans in World War II made pale next to what happened overseas, especially on the Eastern Front. A whole lot more people suffered and died per capita over there than did anyone from here. Give them their due but don't mythologize. No generation is more heroic than the next.
posted by y2karl at 4:30 PM on December 9, 2001


Ahem.
No-one of my generation (or yours) is as great and heroic as me.
(Deflection post, or something.)
posted by Catch at 5:08 PM on December 9, 2001


Thank you, skallas, and y2karl, for backing up my earlier post. Especially you, y2karl, for your insightful "Greatest generation is an empty slogan--we'll all have to step up to the plate in turn."

It's my contention (even though I somewhat disingenuously disowned it above) that every generation is as "great" as its predecessor. We all have our own unique circumstances to deal with, and we do deal with them as best we can.

Our children and grandchildren may look back and say "What a great generation those GenXer's were, to put up with what they did." Only time will tell.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:21 PM on December 9, 2001


I want to be great, but I neeeeeeeeed the president to tell me to first! Otherwise, how I can I know what to do? God forbid I should have to define great for myself!

"The greatest generation" responded, heroically, to a unique historical situation. I can't believe they had some special magical hero bone, they just rose to a crisis. They deserve our gratitude, but so does everyone that does good in a difficult spot. What skallas and karl said.
posted by rodii at 5:25 PM on December 9, 2001


Lastly, can the calls for shopping please stop?

Skallas, isn't that kind of what the point of the editorial is? I'll agree with you that the writer is pretty idealistic about what our president might say and what we would be willing to do but you have to agree that calls of that nature would strike a deeper chord than the whole spend, spend, spend mantra, right? So, what's with the vitriol? No optimism left?
posted by amanda at 5:27 PM on December 9, 2001


I bet if everyone knew CPR in the U.S., more lives would be saved than if Al Queda magically disappeared tomorrow.
posted by Doug at 5:32 PM on December 9, 2001


Why not? In fact they ought to have an Olympic event for them.
posted by Postroad at 6:01 PM on December 9, 2001


Once again: Login: metafi, Password: metafi.
This should always be posted with any link to the New York Times.


Is it really possible that anyone remotely interested in world affairs has not already made the necessary arrangements to be able to read the New York Times on the web?

Just asking.
posted by Zurishaddai at 6:19 PM on December 9, 2001


mr_crash_davis, if all of your age cohort is as able as you to selectively pat yourself on the back, you'll all do just fine...at selectively patting yourselves on the back.
posted by y2karl at 6:24 PM on December 9, 2001


ps.
Zurishaddai: one would hope... but this is America.
It never hurts to be user friendly and cookie collector unfriendly.
Just answering.
posted by y2karl at 6:38 PM on December 9, 2001


On Dec. 7, for the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, there was an interview on MSNBC with a gentleman who ran a WW2 museum, and fought in the war himself. He said at the time, the older generation said the kids "were soft and lazy" and would never rise to the ocassion.

He said the people of his generation were thinking the same about "kids today" and they were wrong. I tend to agree with him. While I'm the first to deride GenX as a bunch of whiny, self-centered noodniks (including myself). I was heartened by the way folks responded to 9.11.

Things like the 9.11 infoshare that many of us ran on our blogs, the numerous "are you okay" databases that sprang into action, the insane amount of blood and money donated. A lot of people have derided a "war fervor" but if you look at the book sales and some of the documentaries and news stories produced since 9.11, Americans have been informing themselves on Islam and the Muslim world at a good pace. Not perfect, of course, but certainly better than pre-9.11.

Are we going to repeat some of our predecessor's mistakes? Certainly. And we'll make whole new ones as well (paging Herr Ashcroft). But I no longer doubt our ability to rise to the challenge.
posted by owillis at 6:56 PM on December 9, 2001


If all.... is..
ouch
posted by y2karl at 7:07 PM on December 9, 2001


Okay, frisky, don't you think that's just a little out of line?
posted by EngineBeak at 7:13 PM on December 9, 2001


My god is there a lot of pessimism here today. I think Friedman is entirely right: If the President were to say something like "Help us become energy independent" or "Help the other nations of the world more" or start a massive Apollo-style project (energy-related? I dunno), it would be done right now.

Just for history's sake, I can think of one other president who, in a very difficult time for America foreign-policy wise, used the mass patriotism to get Americans to do more service locally and globally, and also started the single largest project in the history of mankind. And I don't think many people think that JFK was a bad president.
posted by Kevs at 7:31 PM on December 9, 2001


The greatest generation will be the one that emerges from fable and stops wondering which was "The Greatest Generation". (They will probably also revert the meaning of the word "hero".)
posted by Opus Dark at 7:43 PM on December 9, 2001


And I don't think many people think that JFK was a bad president.

Really? I think you overestimate both him and his appeal. My impression was that informed opinion holds that he was just another cold warrior, albeit a handsome and personally popular one. And I also think you overstate the idealism of his project, and the magnitude of the space program, if that's what you mean by "the single largest project in the history of mankind."

I think Bush's support is a mile wide and an inch deep, and he knows it, which is why he isn't asking for anything more controversial than "stimulate the economy," something most Americans love to do anyway. If he asked for something difficult and that he couldn't tie directly to the war effort, his political capital would be gone in a day.

Also, what Opus said. The degree of sentimentality we* have about our history is embarrassing.


*people
posted by rodii at 8:00 PM on December 9, 2001


....who need *people,
are the luckiest *people ihn the world!


And if it was going to the moon, well...

Been there. Haven't been back.
posted by y2karl at 8:20 PM on December 9, 2001


Breaking the Kennedy Can Do No Wrong Maxim: Two immediate things come to mind. How he handled the steel crisis and how he handled the Soviets.
posted by ed at 8:48 PM on December 9, 2001


mr_crash_davis: "Instead of pooh-poohing (I always wanted to use that term) our generation, what do you suggest we do? Sign up for the Armed Forces? Recycle more? Volunteer to serve meals at soup kitchens?"

No. The answer I have is not something you're willing to hear.

"...how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer my friend, is blowin' in the wind."


I will be proud of my generation, the day I see us cease to make the same mistakes that have been made for thousands of years. Mankind isn't ready yet. We either will become ready, or we will cause our own extinction. It's as simple as that.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:01 PM on December 9, 2001


Once again: Login: metafi, Password: metafi.
This should always be posted with any link to the New York Times.


So noted, y2karl; thank you for the pointer.

It could very well be that "Bush's support is a mile wide and an inch deep," as rodii asserts; certainly that will be proven true if he uses his political capital only to try to push through a narrowly conservative agenda. But I do think the fates have handed him, almost literally on a silver platter, the opportunity to really Do Some Good® -- and the rarity of that is only surpassed by how seldom those given such an opportunity step up to the plate and run with it.

Of course we're fully capable of working for the common good on our own, and don't *need* the president to tell us what to do... but wouldn't you agree that we truly *want* to be led?

I think that we want to be rallied to, as John McCain frequently describes it, "a cause larger than our own self-interest" -- and Bush has the power of the bully pulpit right now such as I have not seen in recent memory (not because of his personal gifts or lack thereof so much as the position history has thrust him into). And I want him to truly *lead*, just as I'd want Al Gore to do the same if he, alternatively, were the U.S. President now instead.
posted by verdezza at 10:31 PM on December 9, 2001


but wouldn't you agree that we truly *want* to be led?
Not me. I am willing to go for the "get out of the way" option tho.
posted by thirteen at 10:58 PM on December 9, 2001


I don't understand, thirteen. Could you elaborate? Or were you joking?
posted by verdezza at 11:21 PM on December 9, 2001


If we truly "want to be led," then we cannot be led to greatness. We deserve the world we sit back and get.
posted by webmutant at 11:46 PM on December 9, 2001


but wouldn't you agree that we truly *want* to be led?

That's what Mussolini would have said. My answer is no, I don't.
posted by rodii at 4:49 AM on December 10, 2001


The Shrub is playing it smart politically by NOT calling on Americans to do any more than shop and travel. Virtually any other call for action would send his approval rating back down to the 50% to which he clung on September 10.

Relatively speaking, the deaths of September 11 were insignificant when one considers that since that date, almost 3000 people have died in car accidents, or died of cancer, or died of heart disease. Where is the American response to end these equally devastating tragedies? Ongoing tragedies at that, not single isolated incidents.
posted by mischief at 5:16 AM on December 10, 2001


Sorry for the terse comment, I had to go to work. Now I'm here.

I don't mean to disparage the possibilities for leadership. But leadership takes many forms, and the kind I think is most valuable is leadership "from below." If we truly have the potential to be "great," if that can be defined in a universal way, which I doubt, it has to come from within each of us, not be imposed as some sort of crusade from above. The idea of a nation united behind a strong leader should, after the last century, be mistrusted as never before, I think (thus my Mussolini reference--I wasn't implying Bush, or verdezza, is a fascist).

I'm bemused by the fact that people think high standing in opinion polls equates to a mandate for some sort of national crusade. The difficulty of interpreting these polls has been noted here before" are they blanket support for Bush (I doubt it), or just support for the military effort, or just support for the idea of justice for Sept. 11? Do they come from the sense that we must support our president or our military in a difficult time, a "my country right or wrong," kind of thing, or positive support for Bush's agenda, whatever it should turn out to be (again, I doubt it)?

My personal position: I don't like Bush, I don't like what he's trying to do, I didn't like him before September and that hasn't changed. I won't be "led" by him. I mistrust anything he would label "idealism,", I don't believe he is an idealist in any sense, and I am wary of any "idealistic" impulses on a national scale, since, as history shows, they're usually a cover for the advancement of our national interest. Nothing wrong with advancing our national interests, but I'd prefer we were more honest about that so that effective criticism (and self-criticism) is possible.

So, no, I don't want to be led, not in this way, not at this time. I think Friedman's column is a lot of high-sounding nonsense. Though I agree with the goal of "being the best global citizens we can be," I think that has to come from below, through a change in the awareness of American citizens--and I'm pessimistic about that happening soon--rather than from above, especially at the hands of such a morally compromised administration.

As for thirteen's comment, I presume you're heard the expression "lead, follow, or get out of the way"?
posted by rodii at 5:26 AM on December 10, 2001


are they blanket support for Bush (I doubt it)

I doubt it as well. The faux patriotism that swept over the US during September is nothing more than the rah-rah "team spirit" brainwashing endemic to American childrearing and socialization.

Let's see how patriotic America remains once the Shrub gets the US into a war against a country that has a bit more of a fighting chance and the home team starts taking some significant losses. America can turn on losing coaches in the blink of an eye, and the Shrub is really little more than a glorified coach (with a domestic economy that is in the toilet).
posted by mischief at 5:46 AM on December 10, 2001


Let's see how patriotic America remains once the Shrub gets the US into a war against a country that has a bit more of a fighting chance and the home team starts taking some significant losses.

You mean like in World War II?
posted by rcade at 6:57 AM on December 10, 2001


You mean like in World War II? Not at all. Since WWII we have suffered through Korea and Vietnam and hopefully learned some lessons about pissing around with no-account countries that do not threaten world domination. Afghanistan is a textbook example of a "police action", nothing more.
posted by mischief at 7:11 AM on December 10, 2001


Verdazza, absolutely. I can't believe how down everyone here is on the possibility and potential of leadership and inspiration. Well, OK, looking at the courage and the moral tone of our current political class, I guess I can believe it.

Almost four thousand people died in September. Shame on us if we can't take our grief and horror and create something worthwhile out of it. The President's small-minded exhortations to "go shopping" will haunt him in 2004 and will create an opening for John McCain you could drive a truck through.

And the idea that leadership should come from below is ridiculous, it's a denial that such a thing as leadership is even possible or desirable. The posts here of rodii, skallas, etc. are proof that many very smart people capable of huge contributions have been traumatized/paralyzed by the cynicism of their "leaders" -- which BTW is the real damage of Watergate, Iran-contra, Lewinsky, etc., for those on both sides who have waved off their import.
posted by luser at 7:21 AM on December 10, 2001


Shame on us if we can't take our grief and horror and create something worthwhile out of it.

Are you saying that bringing the perpetrators to justice is insufficient?
posted by mischief at 7:23 AM on December 10, 2001


Wow. I'm overwhelmed by the negativity I'm hearing. So much outright contempt not only for elected officials, but for, it seems, what Lincoln called "the better angels of our nature." (I wrote this right before reading your just-posted entry, luser; thanks for your thoughts.)

I don't consider myself an idealist. I think of myself as, first and foremost, a pragmatist. A pragmatist who tries to think positively about things, yes, but not someone who wears rose-colored glasses. My take on Friedman, from what I've read of him, is that he's of a similar mindset. And I don't think the rank cynicism being directed toward his admittedly hopeful proposal is deserved.

My understanding of meaningful "leadership" is very much in alignment with rodii's -- the idea that it has to come from within each of us. But I don't think that's at all incompatible with looking to a leader who can help establish common goals and, taking his lead from an already-in-motion grass roots movement, help people to invest their energies in a certain direction. I think it's a symbiotic relationship.

That's what I meant when I initially asked, "wouldn't you agree that we truly *want* to be led?" The idea that we're already leaning in a certain direction, and that we want to have goals set for us and be nudged along toward reaching them.

I disagree with those of you who think that change isn't happening "from below" -- in and among everyday people. And I think asking why we aren't just as worked up about all the deaths that occur from heart disease and cancer, etc., as we are about the 9/11 deaths is missing the point. (What, we should negate the positive thing that's happening -- Americans' increased awareness of their place in the world, and the responsibilities of superpowerdom -- because it wasn't inspired by the larger, longer-term problems of endemic illnesses?) The truth is, there *is* an upswelling of national unity right now -- however imperfect in substance or cause or seemingly aimless it may be -- and it can be capitalized on in a positive way. (Just as it can also be abused.)

And I also don't think it's about Bush; I interpret Friedman's proposal to apply to The American President, whomever that may be at the time (which is why I mentioned that I'd be hoping for the same kind of leadership from Gore, were he our president right now). I think it's unnecessarily pessimistic, if not the height (depth?) of cynicism, to say "I don't want Bush to lead, because I've never liked/trusted him." He's the president; we're stuck with him for another three years. Why not make the most of the situation we're in? Is there another, better, way we can do so? (I ask that sincerely, to further discussion, not to incite incendiary rhetoric.)
posted by verdezza at 7:27 AM on December 10, 2001


And the idea that leadership should come from below is ridiculous, it's a denial that such a thing as leadership is even possible or desirable.

Could you expand on this, luser? I don't agree, but I'd like to hear your reasoning.

I don't feel traumatized, or cynical. I think this about different visions of democracy.
posted by rodii at 7:28 AM on December 10, 2001


>>Shame on us if we can't take our grief and horror and create something worthwhile out of it.

>Are you saying that bringing the perpetrators to justice is insufficient?


I'd venture to say that the point of the editorial, in response to your totally valid question, mischief, is that we have an opportunity to do more than merely bring the perpetrators to justice. So why shouldn't we? (And no, I'm not thinking about bombing Iraq, etc., when I say we can do "more.")
posted by verdezza at 7:32 AM on December 10, 2001


"visions of democracy." could you be more specific, i really want to understand you.
posted by clavdivs at 7:39 AM on December 10, 2001


Why not make the most of the situation we're in?

So what do you want the Shrub to suggest? Speaking in the abstract is fine and dandy, but it doesn't change fuck. Pick a cause already.

Friedman suggests lowering thermostats to 65 F. Yeah, right, that will last for about a week. Friedman suggests improving energy efficiency. OK, the R&D guys will give that lip service but once the "pride and glory" fades, business will return to the status quo. Friedman suggests enlistment. OK, fine, that may tempt some young adults, but does nothing for those of us entrenched in careers. Friedman even suggests execs taking a 10% cut. Yeah, right, like that's gonna happen and even if it did, it's only a drop in the bucket.

How about promoting my pet cause, America's orphans? A billion or two spent on them would be a worthy investment. Also, don't pooh-pooh on accidents, cancer or heart disease, since lowering any of these death rates would significantly increase American productivity.

See, that's the rub to all this. Someone's cause will be promoted at the expense of someone else's, and THAT, my friend, is political suicide. The Shrub's best hope for reelection is maintaining this high, and his best tactic for achieving that is continuing the public relations blitz that blinds Americans to the bland reality of the situation.
posted by mischief at 7:50 AM on December 10, 2001


clav, I will--later today, OK?
posted by rodii at 8:17 AM on December 10, 2001


Rodii correctly explained what I took for granted, and I thank him publicly.
posted by thirteen at 8:17 AM on December 10, 2001


I do think sheep want to be led.
posted by thirteen at 8:19 AM on December 10, 2001


Don't look for Duhbya to be calling for conservation of energy resources any time soon. Especially the fossil fuel kind.
Just wouldn't be prudent.
Gotta know who "they" are, just like we used to, back in the good old Cold War days, right before the new Hot War that provides such excellent cover for the Bush Inc. consolidation of seized power.
posted by nofundy at 8:19 AM on December 10, 2001


rodii, you don't feel traumatized or cynical but how else to explain how you and others here came to your conception of what leadership is/can be? Leadership from below just isn't leadership by my definition (the process of inspiring action in others). It's individual action, inspired only from within. Maybe collectively that adds up to the common good that people are suggesting that the President should instigate. But it's not leadership, which can be a breathtaking power for good (MLK) or evil (Hitler).

The interesting thing is whether you really reject the possibility or potential or desireability of one person inspiring another, or inspiring a group of people. It sounds like you do, and I'm suggesting that you and others might not feel that way if we had seen a higher class of leadership in our own political culture. Instead we see our representatives' endless polling, their inability to take responsibility, their obsession with their own political future, their mistrust of the political process...I think over time, exposure to all this is traumatic to democracy, both at the individual and national level, and we wind up looking almost exclusively inside ourselves for solutions, when in fact we have an opportunity and a right to expect that our President and representatives use their position to point us collectively in a direction that we might not otherwise go. Leadership doesn't have to be dictatorial -- no one has to follow. But it can awaken a latent good (as above, "the better angels of our natures") that pushes us all to a Better Place.

And I will never understand those in this thread who, for every good idea, have a reason it will fail, and would prefer we not act collectively at all, because to do one thing implies you don't do another. That's just sad.
posted by luser at 10:27 AM on December 10, 2001


to do one thing implies you don't do another

You are correct. The Shrub should use his new-found popularity to thrust a complete ban on abortion down America's collective throat.

In fact, while he is at it, he could suspend the Constitution and give the FBI wider powers to eavesdrop electronically. Oops, he is already doing that. Well, I guess Friedman got his xmas wish after all. ;-P
posted by mischief at 10:40 AM on December 10, 2001


Forget generations. Individual PEOPLE have the potential for greatness, fuckedup-ness, or something in the middle.

The people of my father's generation had ample opportunity (Depression and WW2) to demonstrate greatness, and many did; some did not. Heroes emerged from 9/11, as they do from any disaster - hurricanes, earthquakes etc. etc. The scope of events of the '30's & '40's presented much adversity, and many opportunities. If that's what it takes to produce a "More Greatest" generation, I think we'll all settle for mediocrity.

Best book I've read on WW2: "The Good War" by Studs Terkel.
posted by groundhog at 11:08 AM on December 10, 2001


luser, I want to respond but I'm tied up til tomorrow. Wait for me! :)
posted by rodii at 12:14 PM on December 10, 2001


America can turn on losing coaches in the blink of an eye, and the Shrub is really little more than a glorified coach (with a domestic economy that is in the toilet).

Wow, I thought it was the republicans that were the masters of the old sports cliche/analogy. Way to execute!
posted by groundhog at 1:50 PM on December 10, 2001


You put it more succinctly and powerfully than I could, luser. I agree wholeheartedly with your take on the Friedman piece and on the feedback it's generated within this thread.

There's so much to discuss here, it's hard to pin it down to just one or two things. But I do have to say, I simply don't buy it when people assert a lack of desire for following a true leader (I'm speaking more abstractly now, not having anything to do with a particular personality, i.e., Prez Bush, but with the *idea* of a definitive authority figure) -- or when they say that being led is tantamount to sheep-like submission. I think following a leader is something that's practically imprinted on our genes; it's a healthy impulse.

It's also a two-way relationship: I'll cede you my critical loyalty (not my blind faith), in exchange for which you'll empower me in a way that I'd be hard pressed to make happen left to my own devices. And, of course, it metastasizes as others choose to follow, and out of the ad hoc community that is formed comes a force to be reckoned with.

Hell, MeFi's an example of exactly that: without Matt's initiative in creating this forum, we wouldn't be here beating around these ideas and, hopefully, living richer lives because of it. (I suppose that's as good an argument as I can think of to dispute those of you who say that being led is anathema to you: if you really believe that, what are you doing here, if not following those who have come before and shown us the way?)
posted by verdezza at 2:44 PM on December 10, 2001


All that generational oneupsmanship is horseshit. All these are convenient labels for marketeers. I know - I'm a marketeer. Forget all that crap! YOU as an individual know what to do: Be the best person you can. Yeah, it's fucking corny - so what? It's right. Be the best person you can. Make kids laugh. Support your family. Give lots of presents at Christmas. Smile around your neighbors. Do your best at work. Avoid being a jagoff. Help when you can. Do more than your share of the shitwork. Buy a round. Give a couple bucks to charity. Eschew crap. Don't get mad about little stuff. Don't hit people. Protect the weak and defenseless. Give out candy and gift certificates. Serve good booze. Say please and thanks. Indulge your elders. Remember your anniversary. And a thousand other little things that taken singly cost you zip, but together make the world infinitesimally better.

Yeah, you've got a "random acts of kindness" bumper sticker - so what? Quit bragging and actually do it, you little horn-tooter. Leaders are for times of crisis - but those times pass quickly. Follower, lead thyself!
posted by UncleFes at 3:15 PM on December 10, 2001


I think following a leader is something that's practically imprinted on our genes
I will give you some of that, but I don't think it is across the board. We have different color eyes, some of us will follow others will not. So many of peoples political disagreements are based on core beliefs that are just at odds with each other. I think very little of those would believe themselves worth following, and feel that anyone who wants to be president is already too full of themselves to be worth of my affection. Lead, follow, I don't care. Just try not to be a mob while you are at it.

Hell, MeFi's an example of exactly that:
Not exactly, unless you consider every guy who opens a McDonalds to be leading us to food. I love Matt like everybody else, but I don't think he is leading anyone. If you want me to believe different you will have to come up with a much better example. If you tell me I am just following all the other people who don't want to be led, I will smile earnestly.
posted by thirteen at 3:19 PM on December 10, 2001


It's funny, but we've never had this golden generation type stuff in the UK, despite being lectured on the sacrifice of the few etc etc every now and again and also despite the whole country living in horrible poverty, uncertainty and hardship for six years. I don't know why. I blame the sixties, which basically rebelled against that generation and turned the blitz spirit into a cliche.

But security and a sound economy always increases decadence and complacency while war and turmoil leads to self sacrifice and courage. It's human nature. The US is very far from living in a real state of war, so it would be hard to generate a real and deep sense of national purpose. A newspaper editorial certainly isn't going to do it.

But what would you rather have, a country pulling together in spirit while many of its population suffer and die, or a nation of feckless whingers living in peace and prosperity?
posted by Summer at 3:33 PM on December 10, 2001


Peace and prosperity everytime.
posted by thirteen at 3:48 PM on December 10, 2001


Hey!



Where's Rodii?
posted by y2karl at 1:10 AM on December 12, 2001


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