A trio of flags: one raised in victory by six Marines atop Mount Suribachi, a second lifted in defiance by three firefighters at Ground Zero, a third planted by two astronauts on the moon.
To Jill Lepore, professor of history at Harvard, that flag—the first of six to pierce the lunar surface—symbolizes the moral waste and martial failure of the United States: a nation too racist to accept, too misogynistic to acknowledge, and too xenophobic to advance the rights of all men and women.
That our flag is still there, that that star-spangled banner yet waves (or looks like it does, thanks to horizontal metal tubing), that it continues to give proof through the night, across 18,000 nights since Buzz Aldrin first saluted its broad stripes and bright stars on the Sea of Tranquility, that America remains one Nation under God—all of this is too much for Lepore to bear.
She cannot see the good in the attainment of greatness. Not when all she chooses to see is a vast ocean of poverty, crime, and starvation. Not when she commits a giant leap against mankind by indicting one small step for a man. Not when she hates nationhood but focuses most of her anger against one nation: the United States.
Lepore longs for the perfect society.
Her dream is the abolition of America—and the abolition of man.
Her dream is as lifeless as the moon.
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