"Do you think this is the right color ribbon?" asked a petite brunette, her hair pulled back in a haphazard ponytail, her college sweatshirt engulfing her tiny frame. "And do you think these are the right length of sections I'm cutting? I don't want it to be all funky when we pin them on."
"Mmm ... I'm not sure," said the guy next to her, sucking on a lollipop, his football-player physique totally evident in his tight band T-shirt.
"Looks good to me," his roommate said without even glancing over at the ribbon or the girl.
The Atlanticcelebrated its 150th anniversary this month by asking intellectuals and artists to write 300 words or create an image on "the future of the idea of America." The print edition featured, to my count, 47 such short essays and images, with just eight of them written by women. Most contributors, too boot, are hovering around AARP membership age. Ah, America, land of equality and equal representation.
Though I wasn't asked, and James Bennett probably doesn't give a you-know-what about my thoughts, I've decided to tell him (and you) anyway. Tom Wolfe didn't stick to 300 words (shocker), so I'm not either. Defying the rules is certainly one kind of American idea, after all.
At my housewarming party last weekend there was vodka and tonic and indie rock, there were a few, inexpensive cheeses, and there were some 20-somethings with loose tongues and misunderstood hearts.
My friend Molly, an assistant in a big New York publishing house and a fascinating world-wanderer, had sent me the link to Thomas Friedman's New York Timesop-ed, "Generation Q," earlier in the day. "So what did you think?" she asked. Molly and I met while studying abroad in South Africa together.
A scan of today's headlines is like viewing a potpourri of economic dissolution. We've got a broken mortgage system, unaffordable health care, skyrocketing consumer and student debt, and inflexible, stressful workplaces.
Charles Steele Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, speaks in Jena, La. The streets of this tiny town began filling with protesters yesterday, a day ahead of a planned march. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Once upon a time there was a tree, beautiful and broad, the kind of tree perfect for sitting under when shade is scarce in the deep South. A group of boys -- strapping, white, proud -- called this tree their own; they defended against the intrusion of "others" by hanging three nooses from the tree's arching branches. Violence ensued. Injustice reigned.
In the time of Obama fanaticism and everything "melting pot," this story sounds like an ancient proverb, or at the very least, a shameful Jim Crow–era memory. Students might look for it alongside Emmett Till in their American history books. Teachers giving their lesson on that most vague and unhelpful of politically correct notions -- "tolerance" -- might ask students to reflect on how very far we've come.