Old vs. New

Peggy Noonan, in her regular Friday column, writes about how November’s race is about Old America (McCain) vs. New America (Obama). Here’s a snip:

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.

Both Old and New America honor sacrifice, but in the Old America it was more essential, more needed for survival both personally (don’t buy today, save for tomorrow) and in larger ways.

The Old and New define sacrifice differently. An Old America opinion: Abjuring a life as a corporate lawyer and choosing instead community organizing, a job that does not pay you in money but will, if you have political ambitions, provide a base and help you win office, is not precisely a sacrifice. Political office will pay you in power and fame, which will be followed in time by money (see Clinton, Bill). This has more to do with timing than sacrifice. In fact, it’s less a sacrifice than a strategy.

A New America answer: He didn’t become a rich lawyer like everyone else—and that was a sacrifice! Old America: Five years in a cage—that’s a sacrifice!

In the Old America, high value was put on education, but character trumped it. That’s how Lincoln got elected: Honest Abe had no formal schooling. In Mr. McCain’s world, a Harvard Ph.D. is a very good thing, but it won’t help you endure five years in Vietnam. It may be a comfort or an inspiration, but it won’t see you through. Only character, and faith, can do that. And they are very Old America.

Old America: candidates for office wear ties. New America: Not if they’re women. Old America: There’s a place for formality, even the Beatles wore jackets!

Don’t take this as my endorsement of McCain, but the great Ms. Noonan is spot on.

2 thoughts on “Old vs. New”

  1. I consider myself a moderate, probably more conservative, however, I have a disdain for right-wing lunatics and bleeding-heart liberals. That being said, I find this article by Ms. Noonan really scary. I thought that in America we were free to decide on issues such as family size. So what if the old America had big families. “You married and had children” sounds more like some sort of “socialist” idea. What is great about America is that you, the individual, are totally FREE to decide. “Life happened to you” you didn’t decide, it decided. HUH? I have something inside my head called a brain, and, thank God, I get to decide. In other countries that aren’t as free as America, you don’t get to decide. Ms. Noonan, there is absolutely nothing wrong with “heightened appreciation of the global view. It’s what Hitler and Stalin and Castro would discourage. As far as love of country, making a prudent decision on anything after weighing the pros and cons is a good thing. So is a healthy dose of skepticism. Blindly following anything without weighing it for yourself, especially tradition, is a recipe for disaster. THAT IS WHAT IS SO GREAT ABOUT THIS WONDERFUL COUNTRY, WE ARE FREE TO DO SO. Religion is good? Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t, again, THE INDIVIDUAL GETS TO DECIDE FOR HIMSELF HERE. As far as your “rich lawyer, activist, five years in a cage comment,” : wake up, both Obama and McCain are very wealthy men compared with most Americans, and I mean personally, not their campaign money. There is nothing wrong with personal wealth, it’s great, however, for the most part, only the very wealthy are able to become serious contenders for national office because of the way our system is set up. This is something about our country that is not so great. I run into countless examples of character and faith everyday, in “New America.” That’s not just “Old America.” Candidates for office wear ties? Not if they’re women? DUH. What’s your point? Your article reeks of an attitude that serves no useful purpose, except to allow those who want to see their opinions or way of living foisted upon their fellow citizens in the name of tradition or the “old way.” America is not an island, it is in every American citizen’s best interest that we learn to thrive in a global forum.

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