American is convulsed by violence. The death of a black man in Minneapolis after a brutal and sickening police assault might have been the spark. But the conflagration is much wider. And yet—bizarrely—it comes as no surprise.
What we once knew as America is now a vortex of meaninglessness. Like all vacuums, this ethical absence has been filled. In America’s case it’s been saturated by an unrelenting and pervading materialism; an “all-for-me and me-is-all” approach to life.
In America today there is no longer a common good (there are only common goods).
There is no civic duty (there is only civil restraint).
There is no shared sense of the sacred (there’s only an exultation of the profane).
There is no love for one’s neighbor (there are only strangers).
There is no tolerance (there’s only ignorance).
There is no mutual responsibility (there’s only mutual apathy).
America was once a place defined by a tension between the ideal of liberty and the reality of responsibility. That tension is gone. Liberty has run amok—in too many ways to bear mention. Responsibility is nowhere to be seen.
You could protest that there’s so much good, so much kindness, so much courage in America. And you’d certainly be right. But, evidently, it’s not enough. Like a great ship that’s struck a shoal, America is foundering.