Most of humanity lead lives of quiet desperation. Yes, I think I’ve heard that somewhere… We awake, we go to work, we fight with a colleague or eat too much for lunch and then back home fighting traffic – feed the baby; bath; bed. Sure, we strive to be noticed. Maybe employee-of-the-week; a banquet in our honor, realtor of the year for having offloaded the most sub-prime mortgages on an unsuspecting public. We try and get by on our fading looks; our better-than-average car; our nicer-than-most vacation which we Instapost on Facegram in the not-at-all-desperate search for more hate-likes than others with whom we compare ourselves (I may not have a castle like Brad Joley – but I can afford a sea-view at Sandals, and I want you to know it!!) We like to hold our lives as a prism against those of our peers; it’s part of the natural order of things – and Angelina Pitt does it too – wondering what Amal had for dinner, and if the castle grits were somehow more sumptuous on the other side of the pond. Powerlessness, it is the true human condition in a world of seven-billion-plus souls. There are simply too many of us; and the prizes too mean – too fleeting – too few-and-far-between to stroke our emaciated egos. We are all measured and found wanting, it is for us only to choose the rod.
Yet occasionally, very occasionally in fact, we humans do something extraordinary. Think Jesse Owens winning the Gold Medal in Berlin with old Adolf glaring on. What would have happened if Owens had gotten a cold that day? Maybe he would have run the race four years later – and won, but with his victory not juxtaposed against the dower gaze of a racist tyrant, would it have been remembered? Futile inquiry, because that isn’t what happened – and Owens, a poor lad from Phoenix, defied history’s most evil man; if only for a moment (though a very public one). It is a comedy of errors which leads some people to a flash of fame; after which they fade away, always remembering – pointing back to the moment when they did something remarkable, when they were noticed, when they – for a flash – were important; and then they are gone, never to be heard from again.
It is easy to live in those moments. You wake up thinking “I did this!” and go to bed with your last breath one of gratitude at being selected for meaning, if only for an instant.
So I just finished “After The Flight 93 Election” by Michael Anton (no longer Publius Decius Mus). This book includes a new essay, an old(ish) essay responding to his critics (a way to stoke the controversy I suppose in the hopes that another ember will yet again ignite some dried timber of outrage still lying around), and is built around a reprint of Anton’s famous article “The Flight 93 Election”, published in September of 2016 for the Clairmont Review of Books (I’d never even heard of that journal before Anton’s article) which crystallized the impressions of many of us regarding the erstwhile candidacy (and potential presidency) of Hillary Clinton, as Anton efficiently summarized, “One of the Journal of American Greatness’s deeper arguments was that only in a corrupt republic, in corrupt times, could a Trump rise. It is therefore puzzling that those most horrified by Trump are the least willing to consider the possibility that the republic is dying.” BOOM!
This article marches into history, taking its author with it and joining the likes of Robert Kaplan with “The Coming Anarchy”; Francis Fukuyama and the “End of History”, Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations”, Lina Sergie Attar’s “The Land of Topless Minarets and Headless Little Girls” (and my own “Suicide of Venezuela”, of course) in crystalizing the narrative surrounding something epic happening at a particular moment in time. “The Flight 93 Election” may in fact have paved the way for a Trump presidency – or not, its hard to prove a counterfactual. But it was Anton’s courage and clarity of thought which brought the piece into existence at the right time to help us consider the dangers which might have befallen our benighted republic with another eight years of Obama/Hillary madness.
Michael Anton himself has continued writing and reading and studying; pleased with the role he played in a pivotal moment in our nation’s history and content (one would assume) to have had the privilege to be heard. And that itself is a remarkable thing.
Maybe we are not so powerless after all…