by Jonathan Franzen
Visions of America Quotes in Freedom
How we cite our quotes: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
He spoke of the "new blood libel" that was circulating in the Arab world, the lie about there having been no Jews in the twin towers on 9/11, and of the need, in times of national emergency, to country evil lies with benevolent half-truths. [...] He referred to members of the president's cabinet by their first names, explaining how "we" had been "leaning on" the president to exploit this unique historical moment to resolve an intractable geopolitical deadlock and radically expand the sphere of freedom. In normal times, he said, the great mass of American public opinion was isolationist and know-nothing, but the terrorist attacks had given "us" a golden opportunity, the first since the end of the Cold War, for "the philosopher" (which philosopher, exactly, Joey wasn't clear on or had missed an earlier reference to) to step in and unite the country behind the mission that his philosophy had revealed as right and necessary. "We have to learn to be comfortable with stretching some facts," he said, with his smile, to an uncle who had
Mildly challenged him about Iraq's nuclear capabilities. (3.2.374)
Hmm, does that sound right? But what proof does the philosopher have that his philosophy is correct? Or, more to the point, if his philosophy were indeed right, then why would he still need to stretch the truth? Lastly, if the public keeps its eyes covered for decades at a time, how in the world can it expect to see straight once it removes its hands?
"And what are your other plans? Are you interested in a business career the way everybody else seems to be these days?"
"Yes, definitely. I'm thinking of majoring in econ."
"That's right. There's nothing wrong with wanting to make money." (3.2.403-405)
What does Jonathan's father mean by "these days"? How would he describe things as being different in the past? And then he describes Joey's decision as "fine," suggesting there's a much better option. What would he consider a more constructive career path? Political science? Philosophy? Public policy?
Sitting with Blake in the great-room, the dimensions of which were more modest than he remembered, he watched Fox News's coverage of the assault on Baghdad and felt his long-standing resentment of 9/11 beginning to dissolve. The country was finally moving on, finally taking history in its hands again, and this was somehow of a piece with the deference and gratitude Blake and Connie showed him. (3.5.95)
Joey identifies the obstacles in his personal life with a display of overwhelming American military force. Does this seem strange or unusual? Or common and understandable? What does it say that an American boy would find satisfaction in such an event? How do we understand these parallel events in terms of national and personal freedoms?