The death of idealism

The twin revolutions of the 1960s and the 1980s liberated the individual — first socially and then economically — and weakened the community. More surprising, this boomer-versus-boomer campaign has decimated idealism.

There is no uplift in this race. There is an entire absence, in both campaigns, of any effort to appeal to the higher angels of our nature. There is an assumption, in both campaigns, that we are self-seeking creatures, rather than also loving, serving, hoping, dreaming, cooperating creatures. There is a presumption in both candidates that the lowest motivations are the most real.

Ironically, one of the tasks for those who succeed the baby boomers is to restore idealism. The great challenge of our moment is the crisis of isolation and fragmentation, the need to rebind the fabric of a society that has been torn by selfishness, cynicism, distrust and autonomy.

At some point there will have to be a new vocabulary and a restored anthropology, emphasizing love, friendship, faithfulness, solidarity and neighborliness that pushes people toward connection rather than distrust. Millennials, I think, want to be active in this rebinding. But inspiration certainly isn’t coming from the aging boomers now onstage.