How the Great Awokening Undermines E Pluribus Unum

U.S. flag at the Lincoln Memorial during a protest to mark Juneteenth amid nationwide protests against racial inequality in Washington, D.C., June 19, 2020. (Erin Scott/Reuters)
The pandemic and civil unrest place new strains on public narratives.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE A s Joan Didion wrote in the beginning of The White Album, “we tell ourselves stories in order to live.” This applies to governments as well as people. The legitimacy of any regime in part depends on the story it tells about itself, and the breakdown of those public narratives can have grave consequences for that regime.

Set in East Germany during the waning years of the Cold War, the 2006 German drama The Lives of Others is sometimes portrayed as a film about the bitter hollowness of Soviet Communism. Sent to spy on a playwright, a member of the Stasi becomes


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