The Hundredth Meridian

Home and Abroad

The stock market is over 10,000, Michael Kinsley exhorted Pat Buchanan recently, and so America can do as it likes internationally in the exercise of the U.S. mega-military machine that Madeleine Albright has been slavering, throughout her Foggy Bottom years, to activate. America, according to journalistic convention, is fat, happy, and content, having arrived finally after half a millennium at El Dorado, the Seven Cities of Cibola, and the Fountain of Youth, gathered together in one immense, Disneyesque theme park. That leaves me and a few forlorn friends—so it seems, anyway—hunkered down away from the crowd, kicking against the pricks. Either they're crazy, or we are. From our point of view, the stream of bad news is unrelenting, from Koppel to Kosovo; but, as the works of Gibbon, Robert Conquest, and a few others suggest, times have been bad before. American exceptionalism, though, does seem to be shot: growing tyranny, European-style, at home masked by appeals to accustomed tyranny of the bureaucratic variety in the European countries, not to mention elsewhere. (We used to think of Europe as the Bad Old World, the American nemesis: Today our New World politicians prod us along the trail of a smothering progressivism blazed by European predecessors.)

With these and other melancholy thoughts in mind, I commenced my annual spring ramble across the American West, driving north from Las Cruces, New Mexico, toward a...

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