Is America in decline?

With his campaign in the throes of its death rattle, a frustrated Marco Rubio recently lamented that modern media covers politics largely as entertainment. The ill-fated Rubio is correct, but there are greater machinations at play here that signal a more troubling reality. Media doesn’t cover politics just as entertainment: Everything is now entertainment, because America may very well be in moral, political and intellectual decline.

This assertion is not to say that the country has just now reached a point where it rests on pillars of depravity. The unforgettable slaughter of indigenous Americans, enslavement of Africans, marginalization of women, persecution of immigrants, religious intolerance, segregation, homophobia, maddening incarceration rates, creation and condemnation of the poor, military interventions, empire building reminiscent of Rome, and other atrocities prove America’s moral compass has not always pointed true.

All the while, some Americans have resisted. From Lydia Maria Child to Shirley Chisholm, that resistance has been present. It is needed now just as much as ever. The brief mention of Rome is not accidental. Not only does the United States flex a level of military muscle relative to the rest of the world not seen since the apex of the Roman Empire, it has become the modern Rome in other troubling ways as well. In “Twilight of American Culture,” Morris Berman makes a convincing argument that America resembles ancient Rome not only by imposing itself on the rest of the world militarily, but also by entertaining its population to death at home.

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