Punitive Liberalism

If you watch old movies, read books from the first half of the 20th century, and are old enough to remember the early 1960s, you will recall that New Deal liberalism was a cheerful, optimistic creed, pro-American and working for economic prosperity.  After all, liberals from Franklin Roosevelt through Hubert Humphrey were progressives, which gave them confidence that things were getting better and better.  But after a certain point, liberals began to be filled with gloom and doom.  America must be punished for its sins; our neglect of the environment will incur apocalyptic judgment; economic prosperity weakens our moral fiber.  Conservatives used to sound that way, and did, before the sunny optimism of Ronald Reagan.

George Will discusses the shift to a “punitive liberalism” in a discussion of a book that sees the tipping point as  the assassination of John F. Kennedy, even though Lee Harvey Oswald was a Communist.  (I think the tipping point was the Vietnam War, but still. . . .) [Read more...]

November 22, 1963

This is the day, 47 years ago, when John F. Kennedy was assassinated and C. S. Lewis died. Also Aldous Huxley, who wrote the prophetic dystopian novel Brave New World.

So the day can be seen as something of a watershed–the end of political idealism, the beginning of the post-Christian age, the entry into a new dystopian age, the day the music died, etc.

People of my generation remember where they were when they learned that Kennedy was shot. I was in study hall in Junior High. I guess I was 12. I was a big Kennedy fan and political idealist at the time. A few of my friends applauded at the news, whereupon I yelled at them. It was scary, since we thought (correctly) that the Communists were involved and the Russians might attack. Then seeing Lee Harvey Oswald get assassinated too blew our minds again. Watching the news was more dramatic than watching fiction.

Are any of you old enough to remember where you were and what you felt?

Was the day really a watershed?


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