a mystical möbius — curating facts, ideas, text, and media to create a contemplative space.
So, these past four weeks we’ve been in conversation with Last Best Hope, George Packer’s recent book, and we’ll conclude that today. We do recall that in part 1, we considered free America; in part 2 we looked at smart America; in part 3, we peeked at real America; and in part 4 we briefly examined just America.
George Packer offers what amounts to an executive summary of his four visions of America. Packer writes [pgs. 138-9; note: the author reads his own text]:
You’ve probably realized that the four visions easily sort into our polarized context, i.e.,
Each of the two countries that the election of 2020 exposed is split by two narratives — Smart and Just on one side, Free and Real on the other. The tension within each country will persist even as the cold civil war between them rages on. But the election, forcing a binary choice, temporarily consolidated the narratives on either side of the divide. [pg. 141]
Obviously, something is missing; because, as Packer says, “I don’t much want to live in the republic of any of them.” [pg. 139] And, just as I wrote last week in pt.4:
The truth is, we need the best of all four, and, as we’ll see next week, Packer argues, one more, too — “one ring to rule them all.”
So, to finish up my attempts to entice you (through this mini-series) to read Packer’s book, let’s lift up a few of the characteristics of Packer’s fifth, democracy saving/sustaining vision: equal America.
A fifth vision
Packer then offers a section in his book entitled: Equal America [pgs. 141-163]. I’ll leave it to Packer to make his equal America argument; but I’d like to offer you an extended collection (closely edited excerpts) of mostly random (i.e., not contextualized), yet interesting, passages from this section of his book. Perhaps there will be something here to pique your curiosity.
Packer’s case for equal America turns on his observation that the American belief in equality forms the basis of our democratic self-governance. Packer writes: “Tocqueville described equality as the ‘ardent, insatiable, eternal, and invincible’ desire of democratic peoples.” [pg. 157] Thus, inequality fatally disables democracy and self-governance:
But when equality disappears, there’s no longer any basis for shared citizenship, the art of self-government is lost, and everything falls apart. This is our condition today. [pg. 161]
Who are we? More like a fair than a family. . .
Packer creatively describes America with the analogy of a ‘fair’ [pgs. 161-2]:
In August, 2021, George Packer gave a speech springing from his then recently-published, book, Last Best Hope: America In Crisis and Renewal; (I do encourage you to watch the entire video) Below, I have the video cued to the spot [35:45 to 37:25] where Packer begins his description of a fifth vision, i.e., equal America..
Of course, Packer’s book expands on his equal America vision. OK, for the last time, I strongly recommend that you read the book. —Also, please engage with the “bonus material” below.
Next week: Putin’s criminal aggression. Come and see.
[this post ~575 words (3 minute read) + media / audio: 14:15 and video: 1:40]
Bonus (adjacent) material:
Getting beyond ‘escape-parachute’ theology, i.e., moving past pie-in-the-sky soteriology.
In this story the idea that “Jesus saves” becomes incarnational and existentially relevant. This challenging documentary is available to stream/view (for free) until Thursday, March 3, 2022. Please find time (it’s 38 minutes) to watch the documentary as a prayerful reflection and then find an action step through which you may participate in the hope. . . . Link: