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Dear Friends,

We just marked a 9/11 anniversary. It feels like we now race through these things. Perhaps there’s simply too much news to absorb.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was on a plane from Washington Dulles to the West Coast. The flight was diverted twice: first to Pittsburg and then, as United flight 93 crashed ahead of us, to Indianapolis. I rented a car at the Indianapolis airport and drove back to DC, 12 hours or so as I recall, listening to the radio to learn what exactly had happened.

As word began to spread on the flight that morning of the Twin Tower attacks, people were grabbing for their credit cards and in-flight Airfones. The fellow next to me asked if I needed a place to stay. His mother happened to live outside Indianapolis.

Flight 93, apparently intended by the hijackers for the Capitol building, went down at 10:03 am in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The Twin Towers were struck first at 8:46 am. American Airlines flight 77 hit the Pentagon at 9:37 am. Here’s (Opens in a new window) the Pentagon report.

On my drive back to DC, somewhere in Ohio, I got help with directions from a small restaurant manager, who gifted me his atlas. By the time I reached West Virginia, it was late and restaurants were closed. Two waitresses at one little establishment saw me poking around, opened the door, and cooked me a meal.

Elliot Ackerman helped us commemorate 9/11 this week. Elliot’s new book, The Fifth Act, is an account of America’s end in Afghanistan. It’s a story of anguish, misjudgment, incompetence, betrayal — and empathy, service, and gratitude. If you missed our Zoom discussion with Elliot, you can watch and listen here (Opens in a new window). In Iraq and Afghanistan, Elliot served five tours of duty as a Marine and received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart.

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The name of Samuel Huntington’s last book was Who Are We? That was nearly two decades ago. I met Sam through Peter Skerry over lunch in Boston. Peter is working on a piece that draws on his experience growing up in Medford, Massachusetts (Michael Bloomberg’s hometown). It’s not at all unrelated to Huntington’s work. Peter’s article will speak for itself, but as a hint: It’s an argument about how we have to lighten up about bearing down on each other. A certain amount of conflict, of knocking into one another, comes with the territory of pluralism and liberal democracy.

Forty years after the publication of his American classic, Hunger of Memory, Richard Rodriguez continues to speak eloquently to questions of how we work out issues of identity, opportunity, and fairness in America. Richard joined an American Purpose Zoom discussion recently with Georgetown’s Paul Elie as moderator (thanks to arts and culture editor Syd Lipset for bringing this program together). You can watch the video here (Opens in a new window).

Read (Opens in a new window) the four-part series we published this summer by David Skinner on today’s language police, with universities and parts of our media culture becoming increasingly intolerant of deviation and dissent (my doctoral dissertation examined how Marxist-Leninist language theory was applied to the purifying politics and severe, utopian educational system of communist East Germany).

Watch for the upcoming program Michael Kimmage will moderate with German historian Hedwig Richter. Hedwig’s work (Opens in a new window) on her country’s complicated relationship with democracy has stirred debate in Germany the last couple years.

Mickey Edwards is writing about how to begin fixing Congress. Mickey served as a Republican member of the House — representing Oklahoma’s 5th congressional district — from 1977 to 1993. Frank Fukuyama has started an important series on Trumpist demonization and right-wing attacks on the “deep state” — which, as Frank notes, is in other words the professional, high-capacity state that allows any modern society to function.

I’ll share more next week from our work on Ukraine, Russia, and the region, including details on our new project with Garry Kasparov, Uriel Epshtein, and their colleagues at Renew Democracy Initiative (we’ll be back in Berlin in October). Meanwhile, read (Opens in a new window) our former research associate Chels Michta on the war’s current turn. Note that Andreas Umland joins us from Germany by Zoom on October 5 at 12 noon ET.

Watch for Vladimir Putin’s war to become all about weaponizing the winter. He still has levers to pull. “Putin may start to sink,” says a friend from Moldova, “but if so, he’ll still be bent on sinking Ukraine with him.” We’re committed to helping Ukraine defeat imperialist, revanchist Russia.

Music Notes

We get plenty of mail. Here’s a recent sampling with reflections and recommendations.

Allen Guelzo writes about Aaron Copland:


Thank you for the note about Copland. I have long been enamoured of the 13-instrument version Copland originally prepared, and have watched this particular performance before just for the pleasure of watching thirteen players working together. The great theologian, Jonathan Edwards, once wrote that hearing his congregation sing in parts was a presage of heaven; so it is here, too.

Here's an odd footnote: Appalachian Spring is set in rural Pennsylvania, yet uses a Shaker tune for its denouement. I say ‘odd’ because there were no Shaker communities in Pennsylvania.

Yes, I know, only historians would think of that.

Rudolf Adam writes about something I missed:

Dear Jeff,

As always, entertaining, enlightening and inviting to reflect more deeply. Thank you!

May I suggest one essential musical event that you missed? In 1882 Wagner finished his last great opera (Parsifal) and had it premiered in Bayreuth. My impression always was that Wagner has more followers, fans and adorers in Anglo-Saxon countries than in Germany. So that might be relevant to your reflections.

As always Yours, Rudolf

PS: Can you think of a more complete antithesis than the one between Wagner and Gilbert and Sullivan? The one, the unrelenting prophet of heroic deaths, celestial disasters, destruction of Gods and the universe — and on the other hand, light hearted, frivolous satire, sarcasm, elegant verbal acrobatics. In Wagner operas listeners were supposed to be overwhelmed, brought to tears, shaken in their most existential emotions, confronted with fate, death and destiny. In G+S-operettas the listeners were supposed to be entertained, amused, confronted with the ludicrous conventions of English (not necessarily Scottish or Irish!) society, the all pervasive corruption, the conceit and lack of substance in their politicians, their military and their merchants and bankers.

There’s also this note from friend Herr Adam on my letter last week from Berlin:

Thank you for your letter from Berlin! Don’t you think we tend to have far too many ‘Wenden’? It all started at Sedan in 1871: ‘Welche Wendung durch Gottes Fügung!’ In 1933 the Nazi-Regime announced a ‘Wende,’ i.e., a repudiation of all Weimar had stood for. Then Helmut Kohl proclaimed his ‘geistig-moralische Wende’ in 1982. The next ‘Wende’ followed in November 1989. Gerhard Schröder promised an economic-financial ‘Wende’ with his Agenda 2010. And now even a ‘Zeitenwende!’ I would feel safer with a bit more continuity!

Martha Bayles brings to our attention a Swedish jazz (Opens in a new window)concert in Alexandria, Virginia, in November. Here’s (Opens in a new window) Swedish saxophonist Anders Lundegård (Opens in a new window), who will be playing on November 5 at the Lyceum.

American saxophonist Cannonball Adderley was born on September 15, 1928, in Tampa, Florida. Elementary school classmates called Julian Edwin “Cannonball” because of his impressive appetite. Here’s (Opens in a new window) Adderley’s “Autumn Leaves.”

Carla White would have been 71 today. The Oakland-born jazz singer died in New York City on May 9, 2007, after a long bout with cancer. She traveled, performed, and taught across the United States, Europe, and Northern Africa. She deserves to be remembered. Here’s (Opens in a new window) her Harlem Nocturne.

My best,


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