Monday, November 1, 2021

#305 / Losing The Thread


Peggy Noonan, former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan and currently an opinion columnist for The Wall Street Journal, says that "America Has Lost the Thread." That is the title on her column in the Saturday/Sunday, September 18-19, 2021, edition of The Journal
Reflecting on 9/11, twenty years later, Noonan says this: 

I want to stay with 9/11 to say something that struck me hard after the ceremonies last Saturday. The grief felt and expressed had to do with more than the memories of that day 20 years ago. It also had to do with right now.

It had to do with a sense that we are losing the thread, that America is losing the thread. We compared—we couldn’t help it, it is in the nature of memory—the America of now with the America of 20 years ago, and we see a deterioration. We feel disturbance at this because we don’t know if we can get our way back. The losing of the thread feels bigger than ideology, bigger certainly than parties. It feels like some more fundamental confusion, an inability to play the role of who we are, and to be comfortable in who we are.

"Losing the thread," as a metaphor for a kind of confusion that leads to heartbreak and sorrow - not to mention even worse outcomes - comes from the mythology associated with Ariadne, who fell in love with Theseus, the son of King Aegeus. Theseus volunteered to kill the Minotaur, hidden in a labyrinth, and Ariadne provided him with a sword and ball of thread so that Theseus could retrace his way out of the labyrinth of the Minotaur. In the end, they were separated and various stories seek to explain why and how.

Let us not lose connection with the "thread" that has connected us, today, to our national purpose, to our love of country, to where we began our decision to enter into the labyrinth of history, to make our way through confusion to be able to kill the monsters that are found at the heart of it. 
Let us not agree with Noonan that we have "lost" that thread, as though we might not ever be able to put our hands on it again. Surely that is not really the case; however much we may feel "lost" and without any certain direction, surely we can reclaim that "thread" that was available to us in the past, so we can find our way out of the labyrinth of our current confusion. 

For me, that thread is clear. We need but to grasp it again to find our way to a better place, beyond confusion:
  • The "thread" that provides us our guidance as a nation is solidly anchored to The Declaration of Independence and to its statement that every person has an unalienable right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Anchored always there, the thread that guides this nation is secured to a place outside the labyrinth in which he have so often found ourselves.
The thread leads on to:
  • Our Constitution and The Bill of Rights, the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution.
And from there to:

  • The Gettysburg Address, reaffirming that we remain committed to a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people." 
  • The Thirteenth and Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, abolishing slavery and guaranteeing due process and equal protection to all persons, and securing for all citizens the right to vote.
  • The  Nineteenth Amendment, guaranteeing that the right to vote shall never be denied or abridged on account of sex.
I don't think we have, truly, "lost" that thread, but if we are feeling "lost," which is a different thing, we need to clear our minds of our confusion by grasping firmly to the long thread that has woven its way, always, through our history, still anchored to the Declaration that will always allow us to find our way out.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the quotes from Noonan's article. The WSJ is paywalled so those who can't afford it do not have access to it.

    The thread that we followed in the past did not start with the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson himself claimed that credit must go to Locke, Montesquieu, the Scottish Enlightenment, and the long struggle for English civil liberties. (

    The Declaration was followed first by the Articles of Confederation, passed by the US Continental Congress on November 15, 1777, and enacted on March 1, 1781 as the founding constitution of the United States of America. The "Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union" established the United States of America as a sovereign nation governed by the United States in Congress Assembled (USCA).

    The First President of the United States in Congress Assembled was Samuel Huntington from March 1, 1781 to July 6, 1781. George Washington was not President of the United States of America until 1789, after the passage of the "Frame of Government," which became known as the Constitution of the United States of America.

    There was no single thread leading to the formation of the United States. There were many threads forming a tapestry of dreams, ideals and interests of those with sufficient power and authority to bring it about.

    We have not lost a thread, we have unraveled the tapestry, as our population and land base has expanded over the past 400 years of history of this Constitutional presidential federal republic. The "thread," if there is one, no longer functions as a meaningful story in this modern world of excessive population and crass, meaningless material consumption.

    The representative republic envisioned by the members of Congress Assembled in 1787 and set into law in 1789 no longer competently governs the vast disparity of peoples across this enormous expanse of highly varied states.

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity." W.B. Yeats


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