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America could fail. I have never felt this way before

America at the Crossroads: US exceptionalism is a myth, but unfortunately authoritarianism is very real

america at the crossroads: US exceptionalism is a myth, but unfortunately authoritarianism is very real

As a novelist, I doubt I see the world very differently from any other reasonably engaged, even halfway well-informed citizen. I certainly don’t know more than anybody else. If there were a distinction of views between me and a plumber or an insurance salesman or a first-grade teacher – and I may be wrong here, too – it’s that as a writer of made-up stories, I’m dedicated to believing that anything’s possible; that the range of plausible experience is much wider than history or logic or convention ever tell us it is.

I spend most of my days not trying to imagine what logically should or could happen, but what I can make happen and have that be interesting and useful. In writing novels and short stories – and even essays like this one – nothing necessarily ever follows anything, and anything can follow anything. Fortunately (or sometimes unfortunately) this is also true of life – which includes politics.

In the US, as you may know, we will soon be voting to determine who will be our next president. And we will also be voting to find out what kind of country America is now and will be, and what kind of people we are. If this sounds like an uneasy, precarious, possibly momentous and actually quite pathetic state of affairs, that’s because it is. That a great nation should have so much riding on a single, well-scheduled, legally prescribed civic exercise is alarming.

Normally, in an election where one side advances a vision of the country while another side advances a somewhat different vision, the country is served by either side’s victory. This relative lack of drama is boring to some people but not to me. Typically, if my side loses, I think “so be it”, since to vote at all corroborates the country. Both visions, after all, issue from largely undisputed assumptions about the nation, assumptions that originate in the nation’s many foundational beliefs – its…

Richard Ford

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