. . . [T]he central issue in American politics at the end of the century is what might be described as “The National Question”—whether America is that interlacing of ethnicity and culture we call a nation and whether the American nation-state, the political expression of that nation, is going to survive. It’s a problem that’s difficult even to discuss because of a peculiar semantic accident. American editors are convinced that readers will confuse the word “state,” used in the rest of the English-speaking world to mean a sovereign political entity, as in the French état or the German staat, with the component parts of the United States, like California or Illinois. So they make writers here use “nation” instead. And this has undermined people’s defenses against a heresy that has recently raised its head: that America is in essence a purely political construct, with no specific ethnic or cultural content at all.

        —from Peter Brimelow, “The National Question,” June 1993

. . . [P]eople are adamant about globalism. They say the world is getting smaller, nobody stays in one place anymore or even one country, the times are changing and we have to change with them. Certainly the way technology and telecommunications have affected our personal and working lives is astonishing. But people who say these things want us to believe that we have little or no power to shape our lives, that we must bow to fate in the form of international trade agreements and transatlantic telecommunications. And really, that is globaloney. . . .

We do not live in the “world.” Mostly we live, eat, sleep, shop, go to school, go to church, hang out at the mall, all within a radius of a few square miles. There is no such thing as a global village; that is a phrase with no meaning. A village is a few hundred people living together, not a few billion. In a village you can know everybody. We could not take in all the names and faces and personalities and problems in the world even if we wanted to.

        —from Katherine Dalton, “Homegrown,” September 1997

If it’s wrong to wipe a house or a neighborhood from the map, imagine all the homes and neighborhoods that would be lost if an entire nation were erased. In 1975, the Kinks were invited to play a special “Fanfare for Europe” concert honoring the United Kingdom’s entry into the Common Market. And since Ray [Davies], as he put it in The Storyteller, “could give a toss for the Common Market,” the band performed a selection of songs from their 1968 album The Village Green Preservation Society and their then-forthcoming rock opera Preservation. . . .

By the 1980’s, the band was increasingly concerned that, in Dave Davies’ words, “there’s no England now.” With 1989 came the anti-Thatcher, anti-E.C. U.K. Jive, an angry album bearing a burning Union Jack on its cover. . . . (“. . . Down All the Days to 1992” was adopted by some irony-challenged E.G. bureaucrats as the European Commission’s unofficial theme song.) In 1992 itself, the Kinks performed at Fete d’Humanité, a communist-sponsored anti-European festival in Paris. By this time, Ray was also writing X-Ray, half memoir and half science fiction, a book that posits a totalitarian world in which all nations have merged into a single corporation, in which “a country called England” is only a fading memory. . . .

A man like Davies, able to discern beauty even in a dirty, crowded train station, need never search long for small signs of vitality. “They’re trying to build a computerized community,” he sang in “Muswell Hillbilly.” “But they’ll never make a zombie out of me.” So far, he’s right.

        —from Jesse Walker, “The Muswell Hillbilly,” March 1997


Many who leave Main Street, U.S.A., to do good in Washington, D.G, remain on to do well for themselves. Since the beginnings of the American Republic, thousands of former congressmen, staff assistants, and senior officials in the executive branch have trod that familiar career path. The bright and ambitious, as well as the foolish and indolent, discover gold along the banks of the Potomac River and succumb to “Potomac fever.” In the process, these incipient power-brokers and mercenaries shed local attachments and forget the common people who first selected them to serve. Over the last 20 years, however, this pattern has changed in one significant respect. Previously, officials departed government to extract gold from domestic employers—banks, oil companies, railroads, manufacturers, and even some labor unions. Now, former bigwigs pimp and pluck for alien interests.

        —from Alfred E. Eckes, “Selling Out—Past and Present,” May 1993

What is most tiresome about the lobbying culture of Washington are the self-serving contortions its practitioners go through in describing their daily activities. Most lobbyists, of course, maintain that they do not really lobby—saying the “1” word publicly is a subtle indiscretion. Euphemisms such as “advise” or “consult” or “suggest,” etc., are uttered instead. When making boastful proposals to prospective clients, lobbyists promise everything but the keys to the Oval Office. When criticism (an occupational hazard but a relatively infrequent inconvenience) occasionally arises in the press over the heavy-handed, strong-arm tactics used by lobbyists, the “Who, me?” modesty act is strutted out—”All we do is provide information.” Most facilitators seem by nature to be perpetually auditioning to star in The Invisible Man and to prefer that their handiwork go unnoticed and undetected.

        —from Charles Lewis, “Fixers for a Fee,” May 1993