The Space Shuttle Enterprise took a spin around New York before becoming a museum piece this week. The end of the shuttle and rise of one pretentious tower that claims to replace two inspiring towers is a sure sign of the times.
So is the fanciful “tallest building in North America” title that is pending. The hollow bravado of those claims is pathetic when compared to the character and spirit that fought a World War, crossed the Last Frontier, and built the Twin Towers.
Records used to mean something. Citizens demanded more of themselves and their leaders than we do today. Maybe we as a people just don’t have what it takes to excel anymore — except at fooling ourselves.
Maybe the extraordinary America is headed for the museum of world history. Maybe the ordinary America is the best we can do. But if we hope for another wave of greatness in our future, we need to diagnose what ails us before it can no longer be cured.
That’s what makes the rationalizations about the World Trade Center so insidious. It is as if we have a national case of pernicious anemia. Its symptoms are not acute — they include fatigue, lightheadedness, loss of appetite, and problems concentrating. But failure to get treated with Vitamin B12 shots in time can cause irreversible nerve damage.
In individuals the permanent effects include confusion, depression, loss of balance, and numbness in the hands and feet. It is pernicious because ignoring the low-grade symptoms can mean not seeking out treatment until it is already too late.
By the same token, if we tolerate the symptoms of our national decline and pretend we’re as good as ever, instead of getting tested and diagnosed, we might not recover. It is probably not too late for the country. But if we don’t stop making excuses, stretching the truth, and looking away, one day soon it could be.