Some eternal verities have outlived their usefulness. Okay that's a contradiction, which I cheerfully acknowledge. To be more accurate, some things that seem eternally true never were, and that becomes clear over time. One such truth is that, whatever one thinks about the wisdom of either starting or entering a war, once that decision is made the patriot's duty is to "support the troops," which is translated by the hawks to mean, of course, to support the mission. We must support what the troops are doing. Or, if we can't do that, we certainly have the duty to exercise the one provision of the Bill of Rights — other than the right to keep and bear arms — that Bill "of Wrongs" O'Reilly of Fox News fame reveres and insists on: your right to remain silent. Otherwise you are undermining the war effort, giving aid and comfort to the enemy and thereby committing sedition and possibly treason.
Imagine you pull into your drive after work to find the beagle from next door dying on your lawn, victim of a hit-and-run. You climb out of your car only to have the neighbor jump you and jam a gun in your ear. “Admit you killed Snoopy,” he screams, “or I’ll shoot!”Who can resist persuasion like that? You prudently “confess,” but any rational person dismisses what you say under such duress.
In just the way some voters believed that Obama’s 2008 ascendancy heralded a new era of hope-and-change leftist hegemony, it’s easy to view the November 2 elections as the beginning of an unstoppable tidal wave of Tea Party triumph. But while I can get caught up in moments just like anyone else — I awoke bug-eyed after staying up freakishly late watching election returns — I always bear in mind that politics is but a series of moments and that, in reality, it’s only in places such as England that tea time is a permanent fixture.
Free-Range Kids: Giving Our Children the Freedom We Had Without Going Nuts With Worry, by Lenore Skenazy, Jossey-Bass Publishers (a Wiley Imprint): San Francisco, Calif., 2009, 256 pages, hardcover, $24.99.
The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30), by Mark Bauerlein, Penguin Publishers: New York, 2009, 270 pages, paperback, $15.95.
Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter, by Rick Shenkman, Basic Books (Perseus Book Group): New York, 2009, 242 pages, paperback, $14.95.