Thanks to the triple blessing of the lost cause in Vietnam, the loss of control in the Energy Crisis, and the loss of innocence with Watergate, general prospects for America are now better than they've been in years. Three public humiliations in two years has put the country in Learning Mode.
The lesson of Watergate is Never Trust a Government Already we are seeing improvement in the quality of representative that a burned, skeptical, informed electorate can select. Unfortunately this process has also made us obsessed with government and the media. There's a problem box and a solution box. Ken Kesey maintains. No matter how earnestly you look, you won't find your solutions in the problem box.
The lesson of the Energy Crisis is If You Spend Capital (oil) As if it were income, You live a short flashy life. America is ihird-generation rich, famously wastrel, the Arabs are first-generation rich, with riches we had considered ours. In the resulting delicious come-uppance we have been forced to re-assess where "ours" begins and ends. With the limits to material growth in sight, a central madness — cornucopia — begins to get well.
The lesson of Vietnam has to do with money versus turf, or even with money versus virtue. We had grown used to buying our victories. In the U.S. Civil War the North sent more shoes and cannon to the South than the Confederate horsemen could keep up with — and a disastrous victory resulted. Later in the Atlantic the amazing German U-boats were simply flooded with klutzy Liberty Ship targets — and we victors went crazy in a world of our own (apparent) making. The world was purchasable, and we had the cash. Vietnam proved otherwise.
So it's back to basics. The quality of land — sustained rather than spent. Homeland. The quality of people — their education, responsibility, humor. The blend of dependence and independence among citizens and among nations that keeps open the choices between cooperation, competition, and count-me-out.
China has made national count-me-out look very affective indeed.
An old joke says that the lake with the longest name in the world is called — in a single native American word — "You-fish-on-your-side-we'll-fish-on-our-side-nobody-fish-in-the-middle."
"Nobody fish in the middle," is a formula for a perpetually livable planet.
29 May 1975