The Death of the Golden Age
SO WHERE did all the civility go? And when? I have read all the theories, the learned commentators who blame our incivility on everything from the decline of religion to the rise of the television, from our geographic mobility to the end of the Cold War. Although many of these theories seem to me to hold bits and pieces of the truth, they nevertheless are nibbling around the edges. As I grope for a thicker, more filling plate of reasons, I keep coming back to my long-standing hunch that it all began to go bad around 1965, when, as somebody said, everything seemed to happen at once. That was the year that America, quite suddenly, became postmodern. Many venerable American traditions--some wonderful, some horrible--all withered at the same time. And what has that to do with civility? Let us look and see.
The most salient fact about 1965 is that the New York Yankee baseball dynasty collapsed. This is a matter of no small significance. In the preceding fifteen years--that is, since the start of the 1950s-- the Yankees had been to the World Series an astonishing thirteen times. The team did it by being bigger and richer and smarter than anybody else. The Yankees did not pay their players as much as some teams did, and, as David Halberstam reports in his wonder-