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. …