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Wednesday, November 19, 2008


In the last eight years, America has lost sight of something.

America was never a nation. There's a nation named "The United States of America" but, of course, the nation itself is not America. America isn't a continent either. Sure, there's a continent named "North America" and a continent named "South America," but that isn't what America means when someone says it.

America is an idea.

When did we start fearing that America would go away, or be crushed by terrorism or oil addiction or any of these other petty problems. Sure, failure to coexist with our environment, failure to convert to alternative energy sources, failure to keep our government in line and our rights reserved... these things may one day destroy "The United States of America," but America is immune to them, much as the idea of Rome survived to this day, and the idea of Sparta still invokes images of Three Hundred.

Ideas are more important than actualities. Actualities are only the limited attempts by mankind to emulate ideas. Rome was only a free nation if you didn't happen to be a slave or a resident foreigner, and Sparta was one of the nastiest places to live in the history of the world, even for Spartans. People will live, fight and die for actualities only so far as they can be convinced that those actualities are the best existing representation of the idea they're looking to live, fight and die for.

The real crisis in America today is that people are starting to look at what we have become, and wonder if we're straying a little too far from the idea.

According to Gallup, about 10 days ago 84% of Americans thought the nation was headed in the wrong direction. The average on RCP for the time period leading up to 11/11 is 65.8%. That number is improved over previous averages.

The only way to get back on track is to start thinking about what America (the idea) really is. How do we get there? In what ways have we strayed?

Most importantly, the next time someone tries to take away our rights to provide us with more "safety" we need to ask ourselves if we'd rather live free, or live long enough to die in the pages of the book "1984."

Which brings us to the point, more or less: If Bush gets his way in his last few weeks of lame-duck-ness, that "next time" will be pretty soon. Please to be writing angry letters to your congressmen and women.

(Even if you're a firm believer that warrantless domestic surveillance is in the best interests of the Nation, you should probably consider that surveillance is costly, and that the warrant system is the method by which competent minds are allowed to determine which surveillance operations are worth spending money on. A friend of mine put it best last night over a board game: "If surveillance for terrorism is like searching for a needle in a haystack, Warrantless [surveillance] is like increasing the amount of hay.")

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