Smiley faces

A recent obituary leads me to return to a question that now and then shows up in my writing and speaking: what happened during the recent past to change a formerly virtuous America into the chaotic amoral society that presently evokes bleating among virtuecrats who are sure the rest of us are slouching toward Gomorrah?

Each commentator has her or his own idea of what soured American life. We historians stand by, commenting upon and recording their complaints and proposals. I, too, cannot evade my responsibility to do some chronicling and developing of hunches about what led to the fall.


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