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Dear Mr. Keillor, I enjoyed

May 5, 2005 |

Dear Mr. Keillor,
I enjoyed your lecture at Old Dominion University, although I was a bit disquieted by your assertion that we are becoming irrevocably disconnected as a society and that never again will we have any sort of American psyche. I had never considered the issue before, and think you may be right. Do you believe this is inevitable or if maybe there's something we can do about reversing this schism?

April Phillips

April, thanks for your note and for coming to the so-called lecture at ODU. I'm glad you found that part of it disquieting — the assertion that we are becoming disconnected and fractured as a people — I am bothered by that, too, but I'm not sure I should be. I'm nostalgic for the national awareness that existed in the Fifties and Sixties, when everybody knew who Elvis was, and Frank Sinatra, and Hemingway, and Jonas Salk, and Rodgers and Hammerstein, and Jack Kerouac — I mean, everybody — and now there are no equivalent figures. But maybe that's not a problem. Freedom is freedom, after all, and if the mainstream disappears, maybe it's because nobody wants to be thought of as in the middle, or moderate, or mediocre. Freedom includes the freedom to be eccentric, reclusive, anti-social, and cranky. Perhaps what we're seeing is a full flowering of freedom that began after the Cold War ended and, with it, the need for national unity. Terrorism holds no terror equivalent to the Cold War — anyone who remembers the Cuban missile blockade of 1962 knows that — and in the absence of such a threat, people can afford to be fractious, no?

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