This I Believe — What Updike said about America. Do you agree?


J
ohn Updike, a great American man of letters, died this week.
    Let’s talk about his ideas.
    David Crumm, the Editor of ReadTheSpirit, tells me that some longtime readers of the Web site already have sent in tributes to Updike — and the discussion of his life and legacy will continue on Friday in the ReadTheSpirit pages.
    Updike was that kind of figure: Some barely noticed him. For others, he was an important voice.

    Today, right here, I want to encourage you to add your thoughts. I will confess that I was not a fan of his work, although I admire both his literary craftsmanship and his prolific output.
    Why would I bring him up on OurValues.org? It’s not because he won awards like the Pulitzer (two times). I am struck by the following excerpt from his 2005 “This I Believe” statement for NPR:
    “I … believe, instinctively, if not very cogently, in the American political experiment, which I take to be, at bottom, a matter of trusting the citizens to know their own minds and best interests. ‘To govern with the consent of the governed’: this spells the ideal. And though the implementation will inevitably be approximate and debatable, and though totalitarianism or technocratic government can obtain some swift successes, in the end, only a democracy can enlist a people’s energies on a sustained and renewable basis. To guarantee the individual maximum freedom within a social frame of minimal laws ensures — if not happiness — its hopeful pursuit.”
    That is a cogent statement about our America. This week, as all weeks, we are debating what the American experiment means, debating about massive government in the economy. We will only approximate the ideal. But that the debate and the approximation take place is the American experiment.
    And, we’ve seen with Obama’s election Americans’ hopes to reenlist a people’s energies on a sustained and renewable basis.

    How does Updike’s statement strike you?
    Is he describing your America?
    If you have read his work and either admired or objected to it — add a few of your thoughts right here today. (And come back tomorrow for more on ReadTheSpirit, as well.)
    Even if you didn’t follow his writing — tell us what you think about this important statement he made.

P
lease, add a Comment, even if it’s brief.
    Or, if you prefer, drop us a quick Email.

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