To the Editor:
I’m a retired baby boomer who was born in 1946. I come from the working class and I’m a Vietnam veteran. I returned to our country from Vietnam in June, 1968, in the midst of an undeclared war against the war in which I served. But things in our nation are much worse today than they were even during those dark and chaotic times. The center, it seems, cannot hold. The election of Donald Trump officially marks our descent into the endgame of the “Weimar Republic” phase of our larger national decline. So I would have to agree with Yuval Levin’s astute and perceptive essay about the decline of American institutions (“Trump Fills the Vacuum,” December).
The operative word to describe the state of our disunion would be “decadence.” But I interpret that word less in its strict moral sense and more in the technical sense in which Jacques Barzun used it in his classic historical critique of Western Civilization, From Dawn to Decadence. Having grown up in an extended family of European immigrants who endured the Great Depression, I recall hearing the adults talk about lean times during which they still held out the hope that things would get better. And things eventually did improve, after we won the Second World War. That sense of hope seems to have vanished, as demonstrated by Donald Trump’s stunning victory in the election. We seem trapped in a parallel universe for the nostalgia of bygone times, and the zeitgeist today makes me think of the European nations that were sleepwalking toward the abyss before the outbreak of the First World War. I hope I am being too pessimistic. But I doubt it.