There’s some­thing about the word “dis­em­bowel.” Or “de­prav­ity,” or “dis­fig­ure­ment” — about so many words that be­gin with the let­ter “d.” Di­vorce, des­ti­tu­tion, doubt, drugs, dirt, dwin­dle. So many of them are on our lips just now — though not “dis­em­bowel,”

The Washington Post - - Style - By Henry Allen

As in: de­ba­cle, de­pres­sion, debt and de­bauch­ery. Which is to say: mis­sion un­ac­com­plished in Iraq, world stock mar­kets on tum­ble-dry, subprime mort­gages im­plod­ing, Brit­ney Spears.

Peo­ple watch their houses plum­met in value and say: “We’ll just have to make do.”

Do. D. Do as in doom, which is mood spelled back­ward, as in the na­tional mood that dotes on ris­ing global tem­per­a­tures, fall­ing test scores, and death from dis­eases such as mu­tant tu­ber­cu­lo­sis strewn across the con­ti­nent by de­fi­ant air­plane pas­sen­gers.

Dyslexia. De­men­tia. Dys­func­tion.

Our lead­ers have a new motto: De­feat is not an op­tion. If it isn’t, why do they keep say­ing it all the time? Dis­traught Democrats dread dem­a­goguery and de­cline.

If the ’70s were the Me Decade, this one, the Ze­ros, has been the D Decade ever since the 9/11 ter­ror­ists de­mol­ished the World Trade Cen­ter.

Dearth. Dis­grace. Dirt.

This keeps hap­pen­ing. As a na­tion, we veer like bad drunks from tri­umphal­ism to de­spair. Maybe it’s an Amer­i­can thing. In the 1830s, Alexis de Toc­queville spot­ted Sec­tor D but didn’t know what to call it when he said of even our up­per classes that “a cloud ha­bit­u­ally hung on their brow, and they seemed se­ri­ous and al­most sad even in their plea­sures.” Henry David Thoreau was the ge­nius who dis­cov­ered Sec­tor D when he said: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet des­per­a­tion.”

When Franklin Roo­sevelt said we had “noth­ing to fear but fear it­self” and Jimmy Carter de­cried a na­tional “malaise,” they were talk­ing about Sec­tor D.

De­pressed, dole­ful, daunted.

Sec­tor D is a neigh­bor­hood in the Amer­i­can mind, the psy­chic equiv­a­lent of the neigh­bor­hood you find your­self lost in af­ter get­ting off at the wrong exit on the New Jer­sey Turn­pike, a win­ter neigh­bor­hood strewn with bro­ken glass, and packs of dogs cir­cling your car as you strug­gle to fix a flat tire on a dead-end street while dere­licts glare at you over a bar­rel fire and dark­ness de­scends.

Sec­tor D can also be found in the very best neigh­bor­hoods. You know that house with that per­fect fam­ily with all the dogs and ski racks and those golden chil­dren who have per­fect scores on their SATs and then the par­ents di­vorce and the kids end up kick­ing drug habits in re­hab and writ­ing mem­oirs about in­cest? Re­leased from their envy, their neigh­bors in­dulge in an­other of the Seven Deadly Sins, pride, by de­scrib­ing the fam­ily as “dys­func­tional.”

The hymn “Abide With Me” was writ­ten for those who find them­selves in such neigh­bor­hoods, metaphor­i­cal or real. Come on, sing along, you know the words: “Life’s lit­tle day . . . Earth’s joys grow dim . . . change and de­cay in all around I see . . .”

Sec­tor D in our schools: pass­ing, but just barely. The next grade down is F. We will not dis­cuss Sec­tor F.

Day of Judg­ment, dead­lock, drunk driv­ing, de­fault. But thank­fully, not dis­em­bow­el­ment.

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