I have mentioned earlier the similarity of the rise and prospective fall of the US to the model of tragedy given to us by Aristotle. It began with the rise and glory of a worthy
hero, who would be brought down by hubris, the unforgiveable sin of being too big for
his breeches. The history of the US seems almost to fall into the Aristotelian pattern. It is almost divided into five acts, each about 50 years long. In Act 1, the nation is born as the
political embodiment of the Enlightenment, to the plaudits of learned and sensitive people in EU and grows in strength and glory as EU descends into a century of war. In Act 2, as EU fights its imperial wars, US takes on the challenge of secession and defeats it, and then grows to the Pacific Ocean. Act 3, the climax of the play in Aristotle’s model, sees US emerge as a major power, arising from the Great War as prime among the empires of the world and in Act 4, as the Arsenal of Democracy, seems to lead the world into a period of peace and prosperity, although the Cold War, a challenge to its supremacy, seems containable. In Act 5, the small clouds that have accumulated since the Civil War finally coalesce in a debacle of imperial failure, leaving both the armed might and the economic strength of a formerly admired system lurching into military and financial disaster, the condition named by Aristotle as catastrophe. In all this, the sin of hubris clouds the eyes of the Hero to the limits of its power and leads it into excesses of imagined invulnerability. When nearly half of the nation yielded the White House to a man of no worth whatever, save only the virtue of seeming more human and less wooden than Gore, who himself exhibited only the virtue of being less ignorant and irresponsible than W, secure in the belief that it didn’t matter who was President, it set the stage for that catastrophe, whose middle we now see. It could be the beginning of the end.