The election of Barack Obama was the Lexington and Concord in the latest great battle of race in America. We are a nation at war with itself. For all of our desire to move beyond the narrow confines of many of the events of our tragic history, we cannot. The president's election gave new life to what had been lying dangerously dormant for the better part of 50 years.
Why we now view Franklin as modern instead of old-fashioned says a lot about how we view our national narrative of the history of sexuality. Historians of sexuality have long argued that the story of American sexuality isn't a simplistic arc that bends toward increased freedoms and progress for all.
This is why the religious right lost the battle on gay marriage. They erroneously believed that the common American value system was their religious beliefs. It wasn't. Our nation's value system is a belief -- often inconsistently held, but one held nonetheless -- that individual rights and individual liberty matter.
As governing systems, both China's autocracy and America's democracy are facing crisis. In many ways, their crises are the mirror image of each other -- and so are the solutions. To fix itself, China needs more re-politicization -- robust popular feedback and accountability to aerate its hidebound mandarinate. American democracy needs more de-politicization --stronger meritocratic, non-partisan and deliberative practices and institutions -- to escape its capture by the populist, short-term horizon of voters, organized special interests and the paralyzing gridlock of its adversarial political parties. Our two political cultures are as distinct as our economies are intertwined. Yet both have much to learn from each other's strengths as well as weaknesses. In short, China needs to lighten up; America needs to tighten up.