Old America vs. New America

John McCain is old; Barack Obama is young. McCain looks back; Obama looks forward; McCain represents the past; Obama represents the new. See how Peggy Noonan frames the election in terms of two mindsets already at work in our culture: the Old America vs. the New America:

In the Old America, love of country was natural. You breathed it in. You either loved it or knew you should.

In the New America, love of country is a decision. It’s one you make after weighing the pros and cons. What you breathe in is skepticism and a heightened appreciation of the global view.

Old America: Tradition is a guide in human affairs. New America: Tradition is a challenge, a barrier, or a lovely antique.

The Old America had big families. You married and had children. Life happened to you. You didn’t decide, it decided. Now it’s all on you. Old America, when life didn’t work out: “Luck of the draw!” New America when life doesn’t work: “I made bad choices!” Old America: “I had faith, and trust.” New America: “You had limited autonomy!”

Old America: “We’ve been here three generations.” New America: “You’re still here?”

Old America: We have to have a government, but that doesn’t mean I have to love it. New America: We have to have a government and I am desperate to love it. Old America: Politics is a duty. New America: Politics is life.

The Old America: Religion is good. The New America: Religion is problematic. The Old: Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. The New: I’ll sue.

Mr. McCain is the old world of concepts like “personal honor,” of a manliness that was a style of being, of an attachment to the fact of higher principles.

Mr. Obama is the new world, which is marked in part by doubt as to the excellence of the old. It prizes ambivalence as proof of thoughtfulness, as evidence of a textured seriousness.

She goes on in this vein. . . .What do you think of her categories? Is the New America inevitable?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Obama embodies the new view of history: it exists as a continuing narrative that we can edit according to our political and social, even personal, desires.
    He’s perhaps the greatest public example of the worst of the pitfalls of modern, progressive education: it’s so self-centered, and thus so relative. Intelligence is no guarantor of knowledge; intelligence alone isn’t enough to combat the propaganda that much of education is.
    History nowadays starts on the day I was born, and it all led to moi.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Obama embodies the new view of history: it exists as a continuing narrative that we can edit according to our political and social, even personal, desires.
    He’s perhaps the greatest public example of the worst of the pitfalls of modern, progressive education: it’s so self-centered, and thus so relative. Intelligence is no guarantor of knowledge; intelligence alone isn’t enough to combat the propaganda that much of education is.
    History nowadays starts on the day I was born, and it all led to moi.

  • Ryan

    I’m 30 and and almost completely old america, what does this mean?

    The only part that doesn’t fit me is the first category:

    “…Old America, love of country was natural.
    …New America, love of country is a decision. It’s one you make after weighing the pros and cons. What you breathe in is skepticism and a heightened appreciation of the global view.”

    I love my country by nature, but I am a skeptic on human nature and thus government (I believe the founding fathers where too). I also don’t believe in a nationalism that wraps the Bible in the American flag.

    Furthermore, is there something wrong with a heightened appreciation of what others in the world have to say on a subject? Christianity is global after all.

  • Ryan

    I’m 30 and and almost completely old america, what does this mean?

    The only part that doesn’t fit me is the first category:

    “…Old America, love of country was natural.
    …New America, love of country is a decision. It’s one you make after weighing the pros and cons. What you breathe in is skepticism and a heightened appreciation of the global view.”

    I love my country by nature, but I am a skeptic on human nature and thus government (I believe the founding fathers where too). I also don’t believe in a nationalism that wraps the Bible in the American flag.

    Furthermore, is there something wrong with a heightened appreciation of what others in the world have to say on a subject? Christianity is global after all.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    I fixed the link, by the way, to Noonan’s column.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    I fixed the link, by the way, to Noonan’s column.

  • Joe

    Ryan – it depends on the subject and it depends on the hieght to which you appricate those views.

    I have no problem looking around the world to see what others are doing. We can learn that way, but there are many who seem to want to end the US’s ability to act without the “world’s” permission. I am also disturbed by the import of European law and mores into our constitutional jurisprudence.

  • Joe

    Ryan – it depends on the subject and it depends on the hieght to which you appricate those views.

    I have no problem looking around the world to see what others are doing. We can learn that way, but there are many who seem to want to end the US’s ability to act without the “world’s” permission. I am also disturbed by the import of European law and mores into our constitutional jurisprudence.

  • Don S

    I read her column a few days ago — it’s not a distinction between old and young, but rather between old and new. So, Ryan, just because you are a young 30 doesn’t mean you have to have a “new” viewpoint. On the other hand, as Noonan points out, there are those in their seventies who are very “new”.

    I think her column is insightful, and balanced. There has been a paradigm shift in this country in the last 15, and particularly in the last half dozen years. Traditional biblical morality is no longer valued, or even known, by many people you talk with today. People have always sinned, but in the past there was associated shame. Now the sins are celebrated as being preferred and entitled to protection from criticism. In days past, there was general agreement among Americans that the U.S. is the greatest country, particularly considering its great power, ever to exist on earth, primarily because of the individual liberty that it acknowledges is granted to each citizen by our Creator. Currently, however, individual liberties don’t seem to be valued. Folks are willing to give up these liberties, in favor of a bigger, more coercive government which will give them things. Equal outcomes are prized, rather than equal opportunity. And we dare not mention the Creator.

    No one will be surprised that I am wholly in the “old” camp.

  • Don S

    I read her column a few days ago — it’s not a distinction between old and young, but rather between old and new. So, Ryan, just because you are a young 30 doesn’t mean you have to have a “new” viewpoint. On the other hand, as Noonan points out, there are those in their seventies who are very “new”.

    I think her column is insightful, and balanced. There has been a paradigm shift in this country in the last 15, and particularly in the last half dozen years. Traditional biblical morality is no longer valued, or even known, by many people you talk with today. People have always sinned, but in the past there was associated shame. Now the sins are celebrated as being preferred and entitled to protection from criticism. In days past, there was general agreement among Americans that the U.S. is the greatest country, particularly considering its great power, ever to exist on earth, primarily because of the individual liberty that it acknowledges is granted to each citizen by our Creator. Currently, however, individual liberties don’t seem to be valued. Folks are willing to give up these liberties, in favor of a bigger, more coercive government which will give them things. Equal outcomes are prized, rather than equal opportunity. And we dare not mention the Creator.

    No one will be surprised that I am wholly in the “old” camp.

  • CRB

    There is little doubt in my mind that we are headed down the same road as Rome and Carthage!

  • CRB

    There is little doubt in my mind that we are headed down the same road as Rome and Carthage!

  • Susan aka organshoes

    http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/06/20/the-great-seal-of-obamaland/
    At the above address, you will see Obama’s seal, used to set him off amongst others at a ‘discussion’.
    This is hubris. This is the adolescent (Noonan’s ‘young’) spitting in the face of history (the ‘old’).
    The man is hubris-on-steroids. He represents a world of adolescents (regardless of chronological ages) who see history and the people who manufactured it as utterly useless.
    McCain is doomed, not for lack of character or experience, not for his unlikeability, but for his lack of hubris.
    We are doomed as well.
    I don’t feel so good. In fact, I feel worse than ever.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/06/20/the-great-seal-of-obamaland/
    At the above address, you will see Obama’s seal, used to set him off amongst others at a ‘discussion’.
    This is hubris. This is the adolescent (Noonan’s ‘young’) spitting in the face of history (the ‘old’).
    The man is hubris-on-steroids. He represents a world of adolescents (regardless of chronological ages) who see history and the people who manufactured it as utterly useless.
    McCain is doomed, not for lack of character or experience, not for his unlikeability, but for his lack of hubris.
    We are doomed as well.
    I don’t feel so good. In fact, I feel worse than ever.

  • CRB
  • CRB
  • fw

    Mr. McCain is the old world of concepts like “personal honor,” of a manliness that was a style of being, of an attachment to the fact of higher principles.

    there IS a kind of “manliness” I do suppose that would allow a man to abandon the wife of his youth who bore his children and stuck by him while he was a prisoner of war for years. the wife had become stricken by illness that left her less than physically attractive. she had been a gorgeous model.

    the older wife was traded in for a gorgeous new one. who was courted before the divorce.

    It is off limits, unchristian or irrelevant to choosing a president and evaluate his character by mentioning these things as uncontroverted facts?

  • fw

    Mr. McCain is the old world of concepts like “personal honor,” of a manliness that was a style of being, of an attachment to the fact of higher principles.

    there IS a kind of “manliness” I do suppose that would allow a man to abandon the wife of his youth who bore his children and stuck by him while he was a prisoner of war for years. the wife had become stricken by illness that left her less than physically attractive. she had been a gorgeous model.

    the older wife was traded in for a gorgeous new one. who was courted before the divorce.

    It is off limits, unchristian or irrelevant to choosing a president and evaluate his character by mentioning these things as uncontroverted facts?

  • poo

    Maybe what this person is trying to say is, that the new “America” is filled with a bunch of weak-minded, pacified wimps that do whatever their government says because they’re afraid this “legalized mafia” will kill them while they sleep. Policies overrun the country and the world, leaving people not in control of their own lives. Live your lives, the “old America” did, they died for their beliefs with dignity. If they were alive today, they’d probably smack every single one of us (including myself, I’m not without sin either.), and they’d probably also cry for what we have become. A scared group that hides behind their credit and computers. The outside world is no longer wonderful, it’s dirty with ridiculous laws and policies that prohibit anyone from living to their true potentials. And that true potential will bring peace to the world but not without suffering first (as in all times in history).

    Forget presidents, forget congress, forget this government. They’re all corrupt and only care about money. They could wipe their butts with all of America’s constitution and laugh at how we don’t do anything about it.

    Get to the heart of the matter and FIGHT! Get angry! What’s it going to take to make everyone get pissed off?!? What’s wrong with all of you?!? Stop wasting your money on retarded items in this withering economy and FIX THE PROBLEM BY ATTACKING LIKE MEN! There is no more pacifism in a world of people that take away our constitution and use the police to enforce control rather than freedom.

    I’m sorry everyone. America isn’t the same anymore, I wasn’t even alive back then but when you read up on history, it makes it seem like it was such a better place and time for freedom and morality. Then again, don’t listen to me. Go back and watch CSI or some other stupid TV show, or maybe watch E! and find out whether Rihanna is still with her stupid boyfriend. WHO GIVES A ****?

    Goodbye America. Welcome to another civil war (coming soon in about a few months to a year.)

  • poo

    Maybe what this person is trying to say is, that the new “America” is filled with a bunch of weak-minded, pacified wimps that do whatever their government says because they’re afraid this “legalized mafia” will kill them while they sleep. Policies overrun the country and the world, leaving people not in control of their own lives. Live your lives, the “old America” did, they died for their beliefs with dignity. If they were alive today, they’d probably smack every single one of us (including myself, I’m not without sin either.), and they’d probably also cry for what we have become. A scared group that hides behind their credit and computers. The outside world is no longer wonderful, it’s dirty with ridiculous laws and policies that prohibit anyone from living to their true potentials. And that true potential will bring peace to the world but not without suffering first (as in all times in history).

    Forget presidents, forget congress, forget this government. They’re all corrupt and only care about money. They could wipe their butts with all of America’s constitution and laugh at how we don’t do anything about it.

    Get to the heart of the matter and FIGHT! Get angry! What’s it going to take to make everyone get pissed off?!? What’s wrong with all of you?!? Stop wasting your money on retarded items in this withering economy and FIX THE PROBLEM BY ATTACKING LIKE MEN! There is no more pacifism in a world of people that take away our constitution and use the police to enforce control rather than freedom.

    I’m sorry everyone. America isn’t the same anymore, I wasn’t even alive back then but when you read up on history, it makes it seem like it was such a better place and time for freedom and morality. Then again, don’t listen to me. Go back and watch CSI or some other stupid TV show, or maybe watch E! and find out whether Rihanna is still with her stupid boyfriend. WHO GIVES A ****?

    Goodbye America. Welcome to another civil war (coming soon in about a few months to a year.)

  • hlc

    Write your comment here…

  • hlc

    Write your comment here…

  • hlc

    America used to be the Greatest co8untry and will always be. we Were the greatest country. history shall always remember us as the greatest country. Obama is destroying us and yet many rejoice. we were only powerful because god had blessed us. i fear we have drifted form Gods eyes. God made us invincible but we rejected him. thats why we fall from power. the old America was the greatest. it was invincible but now the new America isn't . we have destroyed ourselves. everything we do is turning bad. we are becoming Babalyon like in the Bible. we must go back to God to save our country.

  • hlc

    America used to be the Greatest co8untry and will always be. we Were the greatest country. history shall always remember us as the greatest country. Obama is destroying us and yet many rejoice. we were only powerful because god had blessed us. i fear we have drifted form Gods eyes. God made us invincible but we rejected him. thats why we fall from power. the old America was the greatest. it was invincible but now the new America isn't . we have destroyed ourselves. everything we do is turning bad. we are becoming Babalyon like in the Bible. we must go back to God to save our country.


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