Saturday, February 5

REread: Silent America, Bill Whittle

A Nation Of Ideas
Mike Marchand
REread: Silent America, Bill Whittle
February 1, 2005

Who the hell is Bill Whittle?

Well, he's not a movie star, he's not the distinguished senator from the great state of Florida, he's not an acclaimed musician, he's not a successful entrepreneur, he's not a legendary sports star, he's not a wealthy socialite, he's not a five-star general, he's not a radio shock jock, he's not an award-winning biographer, he's not the winner of a reality TV series, he's not a red-carpet fashion critic, he's not a Broadway playwright, and he's not the reigning WWE Heavyweight Champion Of The World. In other words, he's not a celebrity.

In addition, he's not a newspaper columnist, magazine writer, think-tank analyst, political cartoonist, former U.S. ambassador to Crapistan, talk-radio host, college professor, foreign-policy advisor or FOX News contributor. In other words, he's not someone whose opinions are considered expert.

Which is precisely why he wrote Silent America. And precisely why it's a marvelous book.

If you add up all the people who are considered "celebrities" whose books currently sit on store shelves and all the opinionated pundits whose bloviating was transcribed and printed, you'd have a big fat number. Let's just say it's one thousand. You know what? Let's go crazy: five thousand. That represents .00169% of Americans. There are 295 million and some-odd other people in this country. The ones you don't ever see getting interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters or Bill O'Reilly. They are Silent America.

Silent America? Since when are we silent?? We are, after all, the home of marching bands, Smith & Wessons, Harley-Davidsons, atomic bombs, jet engines, Corvettes and rock 'n roll. Yet there we are, unspectacular in every way except for the sheer number of us.

And yet, who are we? How can 295 million individuals have anything in common, especially as most of us are the products of other nations and the blending of other cultures? What force could possibly be so strong that it binds us all?

In Letters From An American Farmer, early American writer J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur found the somewhat circuitous answer:
What then is the American, this new man? . . . He is an American, who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. He has become an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater.
But that was in 1782, when the nation was still a child's age. Success and material wealth breed complacency, however, so when our nation was attacked on September 11, 2001, many people weren't even consciously aware that America, both the physical nation and the intangible idea, required defending.

This new paradigm was instantly discernible to some people. Others were only vaguely aware of what it meant but knew immediately that the course we had been heading in led to disaster and it was time to bail out. Bill Whittle fell into the latter category, and as an experienced pilot, named his weblog Eject! Eject! Eject! to symbolize that feeling.

But the essays he wrote weren't merely an emergency warning. He also retraces our steps to find out where we went wrong and surveys the wreckage, like the National Transportation Safety Board whenever a plane crashes. That incorporeal feeling of patriotism that 295 million people (minus a few oddballs and freaks) felt when they bought and hoisted American flags, signed up to join the U.S. Army or the CIA, or, for those foreign-born, to become citizens of this nation — they may not have been able to say just why they felt the way they did, but the beliefs were real, right down to their hearts and souls. Bill Whittle gives them words.

And he doesn't mess around. Each of his 14 essays have one-word titles, stripped of the ostentation of superfluous verbiage but always capitalized and boldfaced to highlight the enormity of their importance. Some are references to the massive events and currents that dominate human existence, like WAR, HISTORY, VICTORY, and POWER. Others are odes to American characteristics, like FREEDOM, CONFIDENCE, RESPONSIBILITY, and STRENGTH. Still others, like EMPIRE and MAGIC, are about what America is not.

Each provides a window into what America means. Even when the topic at hand strays from 9/11 or the other overriding issue in the book, the war in Iraq, they still impart valuable lessons for why we are who we are. That's important because the individuals who comprise Silent America usually don't make history. It's easy, in fact far too easy, to consider ourselves pawns in great clashes of ideas and civilizations; who we are and what we think doesn't matter. But on those rare occasions when we do speak, even if it's as cosmically insignificant as buying and raising an American flag on September 12, 2001, we unite as Americans and utter statements that resonate throughout the world. In 1776, it was "We hold these truths to be self-evident." In 2001, it was, in so many words, "This shall not stand." And we must stay strong, because if Silent America loses that voice (never mind the oxymoron), this nation, this idea called America diminishes — something that the British military couldn't accomplish then nor can al-Qaeda's demented ideology of terrorism can accomplish now. If we break, the world will be forever altered, and not in a good way.

It's important to note the organic nature of Silent America. All of Whittle's essays remain free to read on Eject! Eject! Eject!. He was persuaded into blogging and eventually publishing them by other members of Silent America. And the good reviews dotting the back cover don't come from The New York Times or People or even the likes of Sean Hannity or Ann Coulter — they came from Silent America. The book is, to borrow a famous phrase, of, by, and for the people.

So do yourself a favor and buy it, now. I know you can read it all free online — but you can read the Bible for free online, too. But you buy one because it's worth it to have a documented anchor for your beliefs. So it is for Silent America. Aside from one really marginal disagreement (ed: which I eventually posted), I've never found words so eloquent, that ring so true with those beliefs I feel in my heart except in the Bible.

So who the hell is Bill Whittle? He's one of us. And that's all that's important.

Edited 2/10 11:57 PM to add the last link.


Location: Mishawaka, Indiana, United States

I graduated with an English degree from the University Of Notre Dame in 2001, and in 2008 I have a day job that has nothing to do with my degree but gets the bills paid in a semi-regular fashion. (I have running water five days a week!) The idea is that once I get turned around on my bills, I go to grad school. I also have an idea for cold fusion. Anyone's guess which will be feasible first. In non-work mode, I'm usually reading columns by famous and well-read thinkers, blogs by critically praised writers, or sometimes blogs by overzealous cranks who make me laugh. I yearn to be all three at once; until then I'll settle for being the third. I also have an undying love for the Chicago Cubs and Notre Dame football. Praise them and I'll buy you a beer; curse them and I'll dump it over your head. If that's not enough, I'm becoming quite the fan of no-limit Texas Hold'em. My games have one of two results: I either win all the money or whine because I didn't win all the money.

marchandchronicles -at-

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marchand chronicles has such massive readership and influence that it makes me weep.
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Damn right.


What's Your Line?


I absolutely love the name of your site.

Scott "Big Trunk" Johnson, Power Line
Just the name? Not the content? . . . I'll take it.

You have something in common with Dave Barry, Hemingway, and Mark Steyn: I'm not linking to them, either.


That's good stuff there Mark.

Dean Barnett, Soxblog
Psst, it's "Mike."

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All text and original images © MMVI by Mike Marchand/Marchand Chronicles.

Okay, so I don't really have a copyright. But I still don't want you ripping me off. Reprint it all over the Internet if you like, but give me proper credit and link back to me. Besides, if you're going to plagiarize, steal from someone with some talent.

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