Each of us has arrived on Earth with a sacred rear-view mirror. This blessed feature of being human enables us to learn from our mistakes by watching instant replays of the past. Some of them are etched in our memories for decades. And some of these get viewed with a preface If only I had . . .
This ability to learn from our mistakes requires peering into that mirror, as much as it may discomfort us. Yes, some of us are quicker than others to catch on. But pain is a patient and persistent teacher.
George Packer understands this : We live in stories, and thousands of instructive stories dwell inside of us. Learning to squeeze juice out of them is key. Too often we glory in our own retelling, rather than extracting the lessons for application today.
Packer has paid close attention to the events of the past 50 years of American history. He’s a brilliant storyteller, using an unusual approach — close-up accounts of the lives of (mostly) regular citizens. Yes, there are a few “great men”/great women who people his historical tellings, but he’s inclusive, and uses a full-spectrum palette, His real life characters present a slow-motion train wreck of the country’s recent past, with hope for the future. As we approach our next presidential election, Lincoln Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians would likely find THE UNWINDING entertaining, edifying, and informative., refreshingly without polemics. (Published before Trump was nominated originally.) National Book Award, nonfiction, 2013. (A shout out to friend Jeff for lending me his copy!) There’s a forward-looking article by Packer about America’s dawning opportunity in the October issue of The Atlantic, online.