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Commencing to doubt

Kind of an interesting op-ed piece in this morning’s Times. Joshua Foer, a new Bachelor at Yale, writes about the reaction of his classmates to 9/11, to the invasion of Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq, and the current mess. He points out that this crop of young people was likely to think of the government as on the whole good, if fallible. Remember, they were born in—what—1983; they have the dimmest memories of Reagan and his message that government is the problem.

They were nine when Bill Clinton brought Change to America, and eleven when the Congress changed hands; they didn’t grow up, as Your Humble Blogger did, with grim predictions that the Congress was forever Democratic and the White House forever Republican, with no chance of elections altering policy. They certainly don’t remember a president resigning in disgrace, nor one impotent in the face of national malaise. Not that the government they knew was spotless, but it isn’t awfully surprising that half of them, more or less, thought that government could be trusted to do the right thing.


The article wimps out, at the end, with a wait-and-see bit, but I would venture a prediction (Vardibidian Predictions: We’re Never Wrong, unless you count factual inaccuracy) that the defining moment for Mr. Foer's generation will not be the destruction of the World Trade Center, nor the handful of murders at Columbine which seemed to shake our worldview a few years ago, nor even the revelation of domestic terrorism in Oklahoma City, but the disgraceful and dishonest selling of the Iraq invasion and the way we were duped into supporting it, together with our disgraceful and dishonest behaviour after we deposed the Ba’athists, and the ultimate disgrace when we are run out of Iraq, having failed to democratize, stabilize, or rebuild.

I don’t know how people will interpret those events, or how we will move on from them. I am hoping, in my optimistic way, that we will find a way to grow morally, as a culture, and to turn our shame into a spur to goodness. Perhaps we will. But I, too, will wimp out at the end of this note with a wait-and-see, not because I’m afraid to emphasize my true belief, but because I really don’t know. We’re at one of those dark moments in history, where unlike the usual illusive light that allows me confidence in my mistakes, I simply can’t see a way forward. We’ll go forward, of course, as the clocks keep working and the sun goes up and down, but I have no idea how, and I, for one, will be very interested to see how it turns out.