Almost a half-century ago, in 1968,
The Vietnam War, a bitter and close presidential election, antiwar protests, racial riots, political assassinations, terrorism and a recession looming on the horizon left the country divided between a loud radical minority and a silent conservative majority.
It appears as if 2017 might be another 1968. Recent traumatic hurricanes seem to reflect the country's human turmoil.
After the polarizing Obama presidency and the contested election of
But this time the divide is far deeper, both ideologically and geographically -- and more 50/50, with the two liberal coasts pitted against red-state America in between.
Century-old mute stone statues are torn down in the dead of night, apparently on the theory that by attacking the Confederate dead, the lives of the living might improve.
All the old standbys of American life seem to be eroding. The
Politics -- or rather a progressive hatred of the provocative
The new allegiance of the media, late-night television, stand-up comedy,
The smears "racist," "fascist," "white privilege" and "Nazi" -- like "commie" of the 1950s -- are so overused as to become meaningless. There is now less free speech on campus than during the McCarthy era of the early 1950s.
As was the case in 1968, the world abroad is also falling apart.
The failed state of
Is the chaos of 2017 a catharsis -- a necessary and long overdue purge of dangerous and neglected pathologies? Will the bedlam within
Is the problem too much democracy, as the volatile and fickle mob runs roughshod over establishment experts and experienced bureaucrats? Or is the crisis too little democracy, as populists strive to dethrone a scandal-plagued, anti-democratic, incompetent and overrated entrenched elite?
Neither traditional political party has any answers.
Yet for all the social instability and media hysteria, life in
The economy is growing. Unemployment and inflation remain low. The stock market and middle-class incomes are up.
Business and consumer confidence are high. Corporate profits are up. Energy production has expanded. The border with
Is the instability less a symptom that America is falling apart and more a sign that the loud conventional wisdom of the past -- about the benefits of a globalized economy, the insignificance of national borders and the importance of identity politics -- is drawing to a close, along with the careers of those who profited from it?
In the past, any crisis that did not destroy