Making War, and Peace, with '60S Two Looks at Liberalism's Effect in Turbulent Decade

By Reviewed Myron A. Marty | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), December 29, 1996 | Go to article overview
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Making War, and Peace, with '60S Two Looks at Liberalism's Effect in Turbulent Decade


Reviewed Myron A. Marty, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


SLOUCHING TOWARDS GOMORRAH

Modern Liberalism and American Decline

By Robert Bork 382 pages Regan Books, $25 MAKING PEACE WITH THE 60s By David Burner 295 pages, Princeton University Press, $29.95 *** `SLOUCHING Towards Gomorrah" is a scorching diatribe against things Robert Bork loathes in America's past and present. Among them are the "barbarians" who have invaded American life - persons with a "rage for liberty and the pursuit of happiness" and a "passion for equality." The Supreme Court he dismisses as an agent of "modern liberalism." He calls for censorship to redeem popular culture from its collapse. If crime, illegitimacy, and welfare are signs of the evil, greater evils, he asserts, lie in "killing for convenience" by abortion, assisted suicide and euthanasia. Dilemmas of race fire Bork's fury, too, as do the loss of standards in schools, the decline of intellect in colleges and universities, and religion's drift toward meaninglessness. These and other woes have the nation "slouching towards Gomorrah." Blame the 1960s. From that decade's self-pity and envy sprang "radical egalitarianism." So the proposition that all men are created equal has roots in the Declaration of Independence? So it has become, in the words of historian Gordon Wood, "the single most powerful and radical ideological force in all of American history?" That, says Bork, is "profoundly unfortunate." But the blame is broader: The 1960s fed "rootless hedonism, which is the end stage of unconfined individualism." These years created a culture "obsessed with technology," some of it used to provide "ever more degenerate entertainments." They gave us "radical feminists, black extremists, animal rights groups, radical environmentalists, activist homosexual organizations, multiculturalists and new or freshly radicalized organizations," including People for the American Way and the American Civil Liberties Union. Radicals' hostility to America, in Bork's view, account for the nation's losses in Vietnam. Although many things are wrong in America today, Bork's diatribe is a sort of motemper tantrum rather than a reasoned analysis or proposal for making things better. The 1960s did in fact contribute to cultural changes many of us find distressing, but Bork's indictment of the decade overlooks powerful forces with effects far greater than the antiwar protests on college campuses or the lyrics and beat of rock music. Consumerism, for instance, eimaacmchanged America more than any of the things Bork attacks. But that is only part of the problem with "Slouching Towards Gomorrah." More troubling is the way Bork sustains his diatribe by portraying exceptional instances of offensive conduct as typical.

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