It is a great time to be creative and adventurous, and a tough time to be a risk-averse localist. That has left many Americans, and many people around the world, with a void at the center: The things that once gave people a sense of meaning, relation, and fixedness are either diminished, eliminated entirely, or reconfigured beyond recognition. And so they go looking for substitutes.
The longing after a sense of significance that causes Hillary Hayward-Thomas to reinvent herself as the more exotic “Hilaria” is the same force that powers social-media hate mobs and shallow hashtag activism, cults like QAnon and the anti-vaxxers, and the relatively new but almost ubiquitous phenomenon of partisanship as a form of identity politics.
Every society worships something, and we have decided — disastrously — on ourselves.