50 Years Ago: Has This Country Gone Mad?

The 1960s age of violence was “invoked by the most rational, public, and respected of our institutions, as well as by the most obscure and piteous lunatic.”

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50 Years AgoThe happenings of the late 1960s in the U.S. seemed apocalyptic to those accustomed to the country’s status quo. Race riots, war protests, a worsening conflict in Vietnam, and several high profile assassinations brought renewed focus to American violence. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a sociologist and politician, wrote about America’s new “age of violence” 50 years ago in the Post (“Has This Country Gone Mad?”).

Moynihan decried the country’s new status quo as one of institutional and individual violence: “It is greater, more real, more personal, suffused throughout the society, associated with not one but a dozen issues and causes. It is invoked by the most rational, public, and respected of our institutions, as well as by the most obscure and piteous lunatic.”

His preferred solution for the country’s 1968 predicament was bipartisan agreement between liberals and conservatives. “The great power of the American nation is not the natural wealth of the continent, nor its physical isolation, nor the invigorating mix of peoples that make up our population, nor the genius of scientific research and business enterprise that have made so much of these assets. Our strength lies in our capacity to govern ourselves,” he wrote. Moynihan’s indictment of violence at a time when “one group after another appear[ed] to be withdrawing its consent from the understandings and agreements that have made us one of the most stable democracies in the history of the world” can seem applicable still. The answer to it all, in turn, is just as elusive.

Read Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s 1968 editorial “Has This Country Gone Mad?”

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  1. An interesting editorial indeed by Moynihan. 50 years later there is greater civility on the surface disguising even more social and economic division than ever before. Mainly Vietnam then, nearly everything now.

    Monynihan was right about JFK’s assassination. Unlike Lincoln’s, it lit the match that permanently altered this country in way it has never recovered from. At least then there was a collective consciousness about the problems and trying to solve them.

    Today there’s so much technological overkill with electronic media distractions that it has everyone in their own individual world not extending beyond a smartphone stupor or selfie taking time. Others are adding marijuana to the mix like never before, in a resigned attempt to numb the out-of-control, always accelerating carnival ride American life has become.

    I wish Moynihan could materialize in the present, to access life today. What would he say about a country that prides itself as educated with a clearly broken down, monopoly ‘educational’ system still rooted in the 19th century?!

    We need education more today than ever before, yes, but that starts with a complete overhaul of the archaic fear-based information regurgitation system. The fact the U.S. is more messed up and ignorant now than ever before isn’t surprising. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the very definition of insanity!

    A system SO corporately and corruptly embedded for profit, combined with a hopelessly brainwashed, gullible, frightened, teched-out public, unfortunately guarantees its permanent continuance and the madness.


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