Thursday, December 27, 2012


A famous and successful American optimist, Ronal Reagan, put his finger closer to the problem when he suggested there was little limit to what people could accomplish if government would get out of the way.
    [From Daniel Henninger’s column in today’s Wall Street Journal]

The doctor must have hit Mr. Henninger just below the knee with a little hammer because those words, above, are a kind of reflex. The reflex might be called the American Reflex; it produces contradictory statements by members of government. That famous and successful optimist, after all, was a President of the United States, a Governor of California, a labor union leader, and a secret informer employed by the FBI to pinpoint communist sympathizers. Three of these activities of his could be described as “government”; he certainly didn’t “get out of the way.” People who suffer from the American Reflex hunger and thirst for political power when they are out of office, and when in the office pretend to do away with the jobs that they are holding.

Days ago we were once more throwing up our hands over some other, earlier instance of the American Reflex. “Odd, when you think of it,” I said. “America is the only country where this virulent hatred of any kind of collective activity, especially government, is taken for granted.” “Individualism,” Brigitte said.

Got to thinking about that. Individuality is a defining characteristic of humans. Humans only? No. It’s a feature of all living entities. Are the Japanese, Indians, Germans, Tibetans any less individual that we are? Isn’t it peculiar to single out this universal trait, common to all people all over the world as a distinguishing trait, a marker of American Exceptionalism? We all breathe. Then came the title of this post. Wouldn’t it be amusing if we worshipped breathing, instead of individuality? Then inhalationism would not have the ridiculous sound that it has.

1 comment:

  1. If I were a user of emoticons, I'd be lining up a bunch of smiley faces here. Nice.


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