300 years old. Every day, in the midstnof what some people persist in calhng anrecession, states, cities, and countiesnthrow restraint to the winds and giventhemselves exuberant birthday parties.nWhy?nOne answer could be that such celebrationsnare good for us. State governments,nstrapped for money, can’t votenmuch into state centennial commissionncoffers, especially here in thenUpper Midwest where our tax base isnfalling. Somehow, though, the beatngoes on. Businesspeople who can tiensales and special products to the festivities,nand artists and arts organizationsnwho, for once, can rely on emotionalnimpetus to guarantee sales of centennialnbooks and paintings, are the onesnwho really profit from a huge centennialnblowout. During local celebrations,nreal people and businesses alwaysnseem to do better than amorphousngovernment “entities” (makesngovernment sound like either a god orna ghost). Community anticipation isneasily sustained for several years beforenthe event, and then there’s a whole 12nmonths of partying, where people buy,non impulse, things they ordinarilynwouldn’t touch.nBut this urge to acquire souvenirsnonly points to the real motive behind anbig local celebration: At home, in ournstates and towns, we’re all we havenleft—and proud of it.nThis feeling is stronger for adultsnthan for uninitiated teens, who loventhe glamour of national media blitzesnand attend corny local centennialnevents smirking self-consciously—butnalways attend. (The importance of initiationnbecomes clear when we thinknof fraternal lodge celebrations, wherenother townspeople, wives, and kidsn—i.e., those who know none of thensecrets—aren’t even invited, yet thenair is thick with brotherhood.) Forngrown-ups, the most touching advertising,nat least for community events,nis local, clumsy, and aimed not atnhammering community spirit intonpeople but at directing that spiritnwhich is assumed to be there.nA glitzy national celebration can’tncome close to moving us this way; thenStatue of Liberty gala was somethingnwe watched—if we happened to be atnhome. Even heartfelt patriotism is differentnfrom a love of community, atnleast in this country (in some parts ofnEurope they’re almost the same thing,nor used to be). We love America as wenlove anything vast and splendid: broadly,nwith broad disregard for its flaws.nBut cheap talk about “the importantngoverning role of the American people”nnotwithstanding, we also knownthat the American people don’t carrynmuch weight in Washington. We aren240 million individuals at the mercy ofna distant Congress and Supreme Courtnand President we don’t know, havennever been to coffee or a potiuck suppernwith. Let’s face it—our cards andncalls to Washington, and even ournvotes, really don’t make much differencenunless there are thousands ofnthem. Washington would like to benAmerica’s brains and conscience, andnit has High Principles on its mind, notnus here trying to lead commonplacenlives.nBy the nature of things, we arenallowed instead to define the characternof our locale, to watch our state orntown change — or be saved fromnLnTitlenchange—by our efforts. The new library?nI helped to vote it into reality.nBlue laws, pornography laws, Sundaynliquor, taxes, parks, the election ofnlegislators to our modest assembly: Mynvote counts in all these instances.nThose in my group are like me, family.nA local or state centennial or bicentennialnis just a family birthday party.nAcross America, states, towns, andncounties are throwing parties for themselves,nhappy in spite of those Washingtonnhooligans. The turn of thencentury casts its shadow back across us,nas soothsayers try to guess what life willnbe like on the other side of that greatnimaginary divide. All we know, here,nat home, with friends and family, isnthat we’re not getting older, we’re gettingnbetter, with each celebration. Perhapsnas states we can enlighten thenDistrict of Columbia—or force it tonsecede.n]ane Greer is writing a long elegy onnthe brief life of Dakota Beer.nGreat Topics, Great Issues!nCatch up on the CHRONICLESnyou’ve missed by orderingnfrom the following collectionnof recent back issues.nD Men Without Women Andrew Lytle on Adam’s curse; Forrest McDonaldnon Ben Franklin’s revenge; plus astronauts, athletes, Oliver North and othernreal men. $2.50nQ Attic Grace—Tlie Classical Mind in America E. Christian Kopff onnLatin invasions of English; Admiral James B. Stockdale on Epictetus innuniform; and Peter Laurie on Ezra Pound’s “Language of Eternity.” $2.50nD Midland America Russell Kirk reflects on the grandfather with the teargasnfountain pen; Jane Greer gives a iVlidwestern perspective; and IrvingnLouis Horowitz on media metaphysics and mid-term results. $2.50nD Idols of the Marketplace Thomas Fleming on the business of business;nWilliam R. Hawkins on economic ideology and the conservative dilemma;nand Vukan Kuic on political art and artful politics $2.50n• The Soul’s Dark Cottage Thomas IWolnar in search of the sacred; StephennR. L. Clark on “Olaf Stapledon: Philosopher and Fabuhst”; Thomas P.nMcDonnell on “David Jones: The Last Liturgical Poet.” $2.50nn Sexual Politicking Thomas Fleming on old Adam, new Eve; George Gildernon dames, defense, and democracy; Carol McMillan on mothers and others.n$2.50nn A House Divided Admiral James Stockdale on POW ethics; Russell Kirknon the perils of ideology. $2.50nn Singers of Tales: or How to Rescue Storytelling From Sex andnBureaucrats V. S. Naipaul on being a writer; Frederick Tlirner on rescuingnstory from history; and Thomas Fleming on thrice-told tales. $2.50n* Postage and handling included in issue price. Total amount duenName_ _ Address.nQty. Amt.nCity_ .State. _Zip_nChronicles • 934 North Main Street • Rockford, IL • 61103 CB1787nnnJnJULY 1987/45n