In the aftermath of the nation’s favorite fall pastimes -- overeating and over shopping -- comes a tumultuous week of new news about old topics: Barney Frank, Billy Crystal and the Occupy movement.
Domestically, Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) announced his long overdue retirement from Congress and the subprime loan business; Herman Cain, another paragon of virtue, battles yet another allegation of an extramarital dalliance; Mitt Romney struggles to explain his shifting positions; and President Obama continues to raise money from the 1% so he can spend another four years spending another few trillion we don’t have stimulating/bribing public sector unions, making loan guarantees to failing/green industries, and exempting Blue state companies from the strictures of his healthcare bill, which (if not struck down) kicks in around A.D. 2014.
Internationally, nations are withdrawing their diplomatic staff from Iran like it’s 1979; Islamic terrorists fired more rockets into Israel; the Euro is poised to fail while Germany (again) dominates the Continent; public sector workers (in England) strike over (proposed) cuts to unaffordable pension benefits; and Coptic Christians in Egypt, increasingly persecuted in the new and (un)improved Islamist Egypt, flee their homeland while Egyptians taste military flavored democracy.
In Hollywood, old is new again: the Muppets are back, as are the Marvel Comic superheroes, Sherlock Holmes, the Mission Impossible crew, and Billy Crystal at the Oscars. A Beach Boys reunion may be in the offing for the Grammy Awards and the next James Bond movie, the twenty-third installment in fifty years, is in production.
In better news, the NBA announced that its players will play basketball (in America) for half a season; Apple continues to sell millions of iPhones; Facebook may be worth $100 billion next year; and fresh evidence has emerged that God answers sports prayers: the Broncos, under Tim Tebow, keep winning; and the San Francisco 49ers have the second best record in the NFL.
What connects these discordant events is that they all matter in America. Everything matters in America because, for better and worse, everyone matters in America. America, rightly (and sometimes wrongly), celebrates individuals and their famous (and infamous) achievements. Even in an age of media-driven self-indulgence, which enables shameless and tactless self-promotion, progress is being made and hope persists.
Some, like Kim Kardashian, matter too little but much too often and incline America toward inane distraction. Others, like Mike Alvidrez, Executive Director of the Skid Row Housing Trust in Los Angeles, matter more than we know, and incline America toward critical urban renewal. But we’ll never see Mr. Alvidrez on Talk Soup or on the cover of People Magazine.
What makes America great – its capacity for inventiveness, re-creation and cultural multi-tasking – is also what makes America distracted, unfocused, and occasionally insouciant. America is at its zenith when its best efforts are put towards its most admirable and pressing goals: reforming education at home, combating disease and poverty at home and abroad, protecting the neediest and most vulnerable among us, encouraging democracy in regions resistant to its spread. For our attention do these ends compete with more pedestrian cultural pursuits: becoming the Next Top Model/Idol/Survivor/X Factor or Factorette/Voice, etc.
Which brings us to the Occupy movement—the most self-indulgent cultural phenomenon in recent memory. The Occupy movement is dying because it skipped Thanksgiving, which is to say, it is ungrateful and un-American. Its congregants are ungrateful for the cherished freedom they abuse, ignorant of America’s traditional values and norms (especially the rule of law), and obsessively focused on self. Those who love America and respect her don’t inflict violence on her public guardians, disrupt her commerce, and trash her environs.
The Occupy movement is dying (if not already dead) because it resembles the entitled, petulant mobs seen in Athens, Rome and England, who choose complaint over initiative, entitlement over effort, and a short work week over a strong work ethic. Contrast them with the Puritans, those occupiers of Plymouth Rock, who expected no handouts and believed that only those who worked should eat. The Puritans are likely rolling in their graves at what has become of the nation they bequeathed. But they need not roll long.
Thankfully, another marker of American greatness and national clarity looms near on the horizon: December 7. A day of sorrow and infamy became a day of resolve and is worthy of remembrance. Not only for the way in which a great nation summoned itself to safeguard freedom in the farthest reaches of the globe, but also for the way in which that day enables us to recall and reclaim the resolve, energy and selfless devotion to duty of those years, attributes in perilously short supply today. Reclaiming these fundamental hallmarks of American exceptionalism will affirm and reinforce our national fiber, even in a time of great economic uncertainty and challenge. And it sure beats listening to Barney Frank.