I posted this as a comment in NPK’s essay, but it is one of my favorites, and I thought it deserves a QFD of its own.
America was never innocent. We popped our cherry on the boat over and looked back with no regrets. You can’t ascribe our fall from grace to any single event or set of circumstances. You can’t lose what you lacked at conception.
“Mass-market nostalgia gets you hopped up for a past that never existed. Hagiography sanctifies shuck-and-jive politicians and reinvents their expedient gestures as moments of great moral weight. Our continuing narrative line is blurred past truth and hindsight. Only a reckless verisimilitude can set that line straight.
~James Ellroy, American Tabloid
If there is anything I take to heart, it is this (in spite of being something of a neo-fascist, Ellroy is brilliant and capable of significant insight – and cracking good crime stories).