Jack wrote this in September, 2005:
There’s probably a lot Americans can learn about themselves, about the government, about foreigners, and about victims from this event, provided they’ll allow themselves to do it. However, that seems unlikely.
That’s an unfortunate trait we humans share, not allowing ourselves to closely observe, digest, and learn things we’d rather not contemplate.
We’ve grown accustomed to the shrill cries of immediacy, the razor edge of opinion communicated as fact, of analysis while the water’s muddy and incomprehensible, then the unfortunate decisions left behind and forgotten after the scapegoating and recriminations are over. There’ll be another crisis or exciting sports event, important musical concert to demand our attention to help us avoid learning whatever’s to be learned from all this.
Time was when we could afford such things. The US once had a gross national product that involved manufactured goods, as opposed to raw materials, agricultural products and hamburgers. Today all we have is an enormous military, a lot of computer related activity, and an inflated view of ourselves because of what we once were, similar to the one the Brits had of themselves during the first generation following the dissolution of the Empire.
We’ve done a lot to get where we are, to maintain the self-image, but it’s going to go away. Deficit spending simply can’t happen on a sustained basis, even though ours has set a lot of records.
Fact is, there’s got to be a time coming when the remittance man knocks and wants to be paid. When the addict, the gambler, or just the poor guy who’s buying groceries and gasoline on his credit card tries one last time and the guys who’ve been making the loans shake their heads, no.
Hopefully that won’t happen during the immediate aftermath of this storm. But in view of petroleum prices there’s reason to suspect it will happen sooner than we’d like.
Americans are going to have to pull back the reins, begin to examine what things they’re willing to give up as a nation, or the issue will be decided for them. But, of course, the first half of that sentence is an absurdity, moot. The issue’s going to be decided at the bankruptcy auction, by the remittance man, by the grocer, the car dealer, the world when it finally shakes its head, no.
When Americans begin to come down off the emotional high of watching storm victims and marching goose-step in their legions of admiration-explosion for the heroes and their pity for the victims they could serve themselves well by turning off the television, cancelling the newspaper, and simply thinking about this disaster, about America, about foreigners, about the national deficit, and about what, precisely, the common dollar bill has to eat to keep it alive.