Twenty years ago William Strauss and Neil Howe published an insightful book — “The Fourth Turning” — which began with these paragraphs:
“America feels like it’s unraveling.
“Though we live in an era of relative peace and comfort, we have settled into a mood of pessimism about the long-term future, fearful that our superpower nation is somehow rotting from within.
“Neither an epic victory over Communism nor an extended upswing of the business cycle can buoy our public spirit. The Cold War and New Deal struggles are plainly over, but we are of no mind to bask in their successes. The America of today feels worse, in its fundamentals, than the one many of us remember from youth, a society presided over by those of supposedly lesser consciousness. Wherever we look, from l.A. to D. C., from Oklahoma City to Sun City, we see paths to a foreboding future. We yearn for civic character but satisfy ourselves with symbolic gestures and celebrity circuses. We perceive no greatness in our leaders, a new meanness in ourselves. Small wonder that each new election brings a new jolt, its aftermath a new disappointment.
“Not long ago, America was more than the sum of its parts. Now, it is less. Around World War II, we were proud as a people but modest as individuals. Fewer than two people in ten said yes when asked, Are you a very important person? Today, more than six in ten say yes. Where we once thought ourselves collectively strong, we now regard ourselves as individually entitled.”
Twenty years later, we clearly have unraveled more and mended less than we had hoped. The worship of individualism promises power but leaves most of us feeling less powerful, more helpless. The exaltation of unearned “self-esteem” has created an illusion of status. The advertisers who promise we can have it all with no compromise delude and deceive us. The rise of the Tea Party mentality has made common courtesy seem like weakness. The “rational” ones who have dispensed with God prove to have nothing with which to “repeal and replace” the accountability which comes from serving a just Creator.
We can only hope that Donald Trump is our nadir. We cannot afford to go any lower than he is bringing us. May God deliver us.