Dean Barnett over at Hugh Hewitt’s blog, has some very thoughtful reflections on Peggy Noonan’s column from last week on the Virginia Tech shooting. He did not like it because he thinks that it demonstrates a kind of reflexive "things used to be better" sentiment that he finds distasteful. At the time that I saw Noonan’s column, I thought that it was very good--though I liked different things in it than the things Barnett emphasizes. (For example, I especially liked her description--and subsequent retraction of the adjective--of the campus mental health officials as "endearing losers.")
I think Barnett raises a good point worthy of serious consideration, however. There is a tendency (and Barnett rightly points out that it is common on both the right and the left) for people to look at the past with a kind of nostalgia that is not productive. I do not deny that it can be helpful, by way of contrast, to examine the present in light of the past. But getting the past right requires more than nostalgia. When the past is considered with nostalgia only, it very often leads to hysteria in the present. Beyond that, heavy doses of nostalgia tend to have the effect of making one humorless and ungrateful and unmindful of the tragic/comic nature of our existence.