Truths In The Ruins

America is still too young to have convincing ruins. Instead of admiring the tumbled stones of their former civilizations, Americans can only return to their memorable fiascoes, where they can weep and think of Ozymandias, king of kings. They can revisit Watergate and Vietnam, for example, or penetrate to the remoter pageants of McCarthyism or the stock-market crash of 1929. Poking around in the remnants of disaster can tell you where you have been and what you have been capable of.

Americans in the future may enjoy replaying the fiasco of the Thomas confirmation hearings: primal, defining national theater. The drama...

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