Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium

It's a commonplace that something is "out of kilter" in America, as Senator John Kerry put it in the aftermath of the Oklahoma bombing; that "everything that's tied down is coming loose," as Bill Moyers has observed; that "the world has gone crazy," as the Unabomber declared, in his official capacity as op-ed essayist and mad bomber.

Are we on the eve of a new Age of Unrest and Unreason? Or are the visions of excess and premonitions of doom haunting millennial America mere numerology—the same mass manias that have bedeviled the Western world every thousand years? Is there "some sinister hysteria in the air out here tonight, some hint of the monstrous perversion to which any human idea can come," as Joan Didion wondered, in Slouching Towards Bethlehem? Or is it just the smell of Chaos, the new scent from Donna Karan?
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