Today, as the sun is temporarily blotted out over the United States, Barbara Will wonders if her country is in a permanent state of eclipse:
Pick up any newspaper and the evidence is clear: most Americans feel pessimistic about the nation’s future. Since 2009, polls consistently show that over 70% of Americans worry that the country is on the wrong track. A full 65% believe the country is now “in a state of decline.” More than 40% fear an imminent terrorist attack.
Worries over race relations are at a record high. Bookstore shelves are lined with titles like The Plot to Hack America; White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide and Why We Hate Us: American Discontent in the New Millennium.
The Great Experiment managed to survive the carnage of most of the 20th century:
For a large part of the 20th century, America was on the rise, enjoying a sense of peace and growing prosperity denied the countries who had suffered through World War I and its terrible aftermath, World War II. Yet if empires rise, they also fall, often with what historian Alfred McCoy has referred to as “unholy speed.”
But the last fifty years have seen remarkable missteps:
It would take our own series of violent misadventures – in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as places like Guantanamo Bay – for a similar post-war dark mood to settle on our side of the Atlantic like a heavy shadow.
Today's solar eclipse is only temporary. The jury is still out on whether the American eclipse is temporary.