“When you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about. Yosemite?”
The entire video is excellent, but starting at 3:25 or so is the nostalgic part… speaking of which, Frank Rich has a an excellent piece up in which he discusses (at length) the country’s “declinist panic and hysterical nostalgia.” I’ve excerpted a little of it below.
Lately I’ve had my own personal “panic” and moments of nostalgia, partly because of the current state of smeary, smutty, dishonest, money-driven politics, partly because of exactly what Rich writes so eloquently about, and partly because of my father’s painfully slow physical and mental decline, the loss of too many friends (I hate the thought of how many times I’ve expressed condolences lately), and an extra helping of stress.
So yes, there have been better times, for me, for all of us. But when life gets you down, it’s time to take action to improve matters, not to wallow and certainly not to exploit.
Unfortunately, using moments like these to their advantage is what all too many in positions of power and influence do, just when people are feeling their most vulnerable. Sadly, that’s intentional. And even more sadly, it’s often effective.
The wave of nostalgia for Andy Griffith’s Mayberry and for the vanished halcyon America it supposedly enshrined says more about the frazzled state of America in 2012 and our congenital historical amnesia than it does about the reality of America in 1960. … If there’s one battle cry that unites our divided populace, it’s that the country has gone to hell and that almost any modern era, with the possible exception of the Great Depression, is superior in civic grace, selfless patriotism, and can-do capitalistic spunk to our present nadir. For nearly four years now—since the crash of ’08 and the accompanying ascent of Barack Obama—America has been in full decline panic. Books by public intellectuals, pundits, and politicians heralding our imminent collapse have been one of the few reliable growth industries in hard times. [...]
But given that the country has survived a civil war, two world wars, the Great Depression, 9/11, and the quagmires of Vietnam and Iraq, is our current crisis proportionate to the doomsday hysteria—or have we lost perspective?… Or is something else going on here? A more revealing question raised by our declinist panic is why it has been accompanied by a strange parallel infatuation with American exceptionalism. This once little-heard term, sometimes wrongly attributed to Tocqueville, was coined by Joseph Stalin in a 1929 anti-American sneer. Now it is flung about as the ubiquitous, defensive measure of America’s global standing. And it’s often used, Joe McCarthy style, as a cudgel to bash those who are judged to have hastened our decline by being insufficiently jingoistic—notably the president [...]
If Romney fails to capitalize on his opportunity to be the last hurrah of this demographically doomed old guard, it will not be just because he is a parody of elitist noblesse oblige but because his own Americanism has been compromised by the outsourcing of his money to the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, Switzerland, and who knows what other exotic places that most Americans have never been to. [...]
Lost in all our declinist panic is the fact that the election of an African-American president is in itself an instance of American exceptionalism—an unexpected triumph for a country that has struggled for its entire history with the stain of slavery… That his unlikely rise has somehow been twisted into a synonym for America’s supposed collapse over the past four years may be the most disturbing and intractable evidence of our decline of all.
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