Tag Archives: national character

What is causing “Deaths of Despair”?

“Deaths of despair on the rise across state, country” read the headline of a recent story in this paper. Massachusetts is only 34th in the nation in deaths from suicide, alcohol, and drugs, as such deaths are being defined. But the Cape’s suicide rate is twice that of the state, the story noted. Given that […]


“Bridge of Spies,” the popular and critically well-received movie that’s been playing locally, is an entertaining true story, comforting in a way we have come to expect of Spielberg. Tom Hanks is always enough to restore your faith in the species. Decency, honor, stubbornness in the service of virtue seem built into his very physiognomy. […]

Michael Moore’s story of capitalism: the only one?

Speaking, as I was in a recent column, about stories of our nations’ meaning, stories we can—or cannot–imagine being taught in the schools, or without embarrassment telling our children. In 2009 I did a column about Michael Moore’s movie with the ironic title, “Capitalism: a Love story.” This movie is the most powerful and inspirational […]

Reminding ourselves of the story of progress

You hear the word “story” a lot these years. One way of thinking about the current national mood of discontent is that we—our feckless Congress but the rest of us, too– have lost track of the story. What the story is or was and where we were in it. It’s as if the bookmark had […]

Pete Seeger and the contradictions of American heroism

Pete Seeger, as you are probably aware, died recently at 94. If you haven’t already, you should see the movie about his life, “The Power of song.” It’s good to be reminded of a time–mid-20th century, the most active years of Seeger’s life—when there w as real hope in music, in that music called “folk […]

Giving up the gun [op-ed CCT 5 Februar 2013]

We need to deepen our thinking about guns. About our relationship to guns. In this agonizing renewal of the ancient controversy over gun control we are, as with abortion, polarized into two rigid camps, both to some extent in denial of nuances of actual experience, actual feeling. We all learn from early schooling that, as […]

What’s Wrong with us? Some theories [September 2010 / CCT]

You hear it a lot these days: What’s wrong with us? with our country, with us as a people? There’s this sense that we ain’t the country we used to be. We’ve lost our mojo. Maureen Dowd in a recent column: “The country is having some weird mass nervous breakdown.” This malaise has been exacerbated […]

The view is clearer from a glass house [March 2010 / CCT]

A Harvard PhD with great promise guns down academic colleagues. A widely admired advocate against hate crimes gets a sexual charge from images of children being abused. One of the great athletes of our time with an exemplary public image turns out to have had numerous extra-maritial sexual affairs. The level of seriousness of differs […]

Over-throwing a debilitating self-image [April 2009 / CCT]

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” The famous beginning of the Dickens novel about the French revolution applies well enough to our own times. What’s “best” about the current economic mess? For one thing, the refreshing outrage over obscene salaries and bonuses, being reminded that greed is not a […]