If the "surge" is really working in Iraq, all my fellow Democrats should rejoice, because it's one more step toward getting U.S. troops the hell out of there. Let Bush have his face-saving claims of victory -- who cares? Just bring this stupid, wasteful war to an end. Our brave soldiers and their families have suffered enough. And the toll in death, mutilation and trauma among hundreds of thousands of ordinary Iraqis is obscenely high and will never be fully documented. I remain skeptical about long-term political prospects in Iraq, whose nationhood was a convenient British fiction after World War I and whose border territory may eventually be devoured by its neighbors, including Turkey and Iran.
But primary and secondary education, which should provide an entree to great art and thought, has declined into trivialities and narcissistic exercises in self-esteem. Popular culture, once emotionally vibrant and collective in impact (from Hollywood movies to rock music), has waned into flashy, transient niche entertainment. The young, who are masters of ever-evolving personal technology, are besieged by the siren call of materialism. In this climate, it is selfish and shortsighted for liberals to automatically define religion as a social problem that needs suppression or eradication. Without spirituality in some form, people will anesthetize themselves with drink or drugs -- including the tranquilizers that seem near universal among the status-addled professional class of the Northeastern elite.