The Eras of Good Feelings and Their Inevitable End
Chris Morgan asked… where do we go from here?
Living in the Cold War era, it was commonplace to set aside some time of the day to consider, even actively prepare for, the possibility of being nuked. “God may have willed the destruction of the planet in an atomic Gotterdämmerung,” Willmoore Kendall wrote, “but we are still obligated to use the means at our disposal in order to preserve justice in the situations in which we are involved.” Much of the 1990s was spent laughing at this mentality as sheer hyperventilation. The triumph of liberal democracy over totalitarianism was synonymous with the triumph of sanity over madness. The Cold War was seen less as historical procession and more as a collection of interconnected, morally affirming short stories. The atomic bomb became a mythic symbol, perplexing but coated in a protective shell of GI heroism. The nuclear defense program can be forgotten in a world bending toward competent stewardship.
The second Era of Good Feelings was only slightly longer than the first. Competence, it turns out, is very boring, and also not all that competent. The experimental regime under which we currently find ourselves being governed has upended or seems very eager to upend many of the comforts of that bygone time. Among the norms shattered seems to be the pervading security that peaked in the 1990s. This had been on the wane for some time, of course, only now in a way that is rather unavoidable. It is humbling and regrettable to face fears one had long thought behind them, or had only heard of secondhand, but such discomforts call just as much for revisiting how those fears can be better dealt with in the new Era of Precariousness. What better catalyst for change than mortifying discomfort?
I have no grand and comprehensible thoughts on this, but it jarred some boxes off the sheld in my head to pilfer through and I thought I would share.