MAYBE WE’RE JUST CELEBRATED OUT.
But to view the past as exemplary, to see its actors in the round as men and women subject to the codes of their day, is to invite a different kind of comparison. In the days before affluence and technology, was it perhaps more difficult to live those virtues that come so easily to us? Should we not partner gratitude with judgment when it comes to our common past and those who lived it?
In our celebrations there was one note that was missing or certainly underplayed. Gratitude for the moment we have inherited. That however far those who came before us fell from the present codes of virtue and its fashionable display, they did, nonetheless, through war and peace, in the main with admirable stoicism and daring, ultimately provide for what we now have the good fortune to enjoy.
Maybe that’s why this 150th didn’t have the right feel. It was so very much about now, so little reflecting on then. We didn’t reach this fine moment on our own, and we should temper our judgments about those who gave it to us with a little of that current sensitivity about difference with which we seem so abundantly endowed.