A prime part of American exceptionalism is how relatively new the nation is. One result is that for many Americans their sense of history goes back three centuries or less, for some just a few decades, if there is any sense of history at all.
It is ironic in one way. America, even with defections, is still a Judeo-Christian society. Both traditions look back in belief and scripture at least two millennia. That should be a clue that things have been radically different over time, that things of then are not things of now, and that things of now will not always be thus.
Much of the world knows this experientially. Not only do countries east and west have long histories. Those histories are steeped in changes, some benign, some malign, all a part of natural impermanence.
All things must pass.
America justifiably wants to keep the best of itself and its institutions. That desire has been made more pointed by two overlapping phenomena: a leader who cares nothing for the best and well-being of America and a virus that cares nothing for the best and well-being of América.
The nexus of these has America desperate for the way things were, in ways little and big. Those ways are both existentially significant or trivial. The significant and existential ones should not be lightly abandoned. But as we fight for the way things were, we must acknowledge right now what most nations know from their complex histories: whatever that was or this is, it isn’t forever.