Herbert Lottman, describing the last days of Paris before it fell to Germans in 1940 describes the strange mixture of urgency and lassitude, of obsession with long term schemes counterpointed by an indifference to the immediate in a nation that had just weeks to live. It was the perfect portrait of a country which did not know it was at war. Not really. The French Communists continued to call for "Peace Government" to mollify a Germany wronged by defeat in the First War. Parisian authorities forbade the private purchase of firearms by citizens anxious to protect themselves. Bread was rationed to 30 grams per meal at de luxe restaurants though 100 grams could be obtained at a bistro meal. The French cabinet pinned its hopes on more aircraft from neutral America as if they had any prospect of receiving any future shipments. Nero fiddled. Rome burned. When the Nazi columns finally marched into Paris, there was a widespread feeling of betrayal and a search for a scapegoat. But they had betrayed themselves.9/11 was the wakeup call, we know we should probably get up and go to work, but it's so, so tempting to hit that snooze button. Yaawwwn! John Kerry is the snooze button. Oh, can't we just go back to sleep for four more years or so. Until the alarm goes off again - then we'll get up. We'll still make it to work on time, won't we?
I really like most of the Belmont Club's posts, but I think this one is a little too pessimistic. I think we're more lazy than divided. I think much of the intense mudslinging between republicans and democrats during the last ten years is more of a function of the democrats realizing they're soon to lose power forever and the republicans smell blood - they're so close to having a filibuster proof majority. You got more bipartisanship in the past when a party (in this case the republicans) were stuck as the minority party. Since they weren't going to win power and everybody knew it, they might as well be mostly cooperative. Once the democrats are the permanent minority party, cooperation will increase once again.