and ongoing experiment in testing the limits of nationalncohesion. Vast segments of American society have been andnare being Hispanicized and Asianized. No one knows whatnthe long-range consequences of this will be. To some extentnit works against not only traditional Western culture andnreligion, but also against liberal tendencies, such as separationnof church and state and feminism. Many of the newnimmigrants bring value systems not wholly compatible withnthe traditional and prospective functioning of Americannsociety.nMany observers, including the New Immigrants themselves,nquestion the ideal of the Melting Pot. Some regard itnas an intolerable oppression to give up Spanish for Englishnor abandon their traditional male supremacy for morenegalitarian American standards. Egalitarianism amongngroups does not necessarily translate into liberty amongnindividuals. And what is good for particular groups isnincreasingly substituted for what is good for society as anwhole, even beyond the degree to which the ideal ofndemocracy as a consensual compromise between variousngroups would allow. Striving for Americanization has beennreplaced by striving for status in a hierarchy of “victims.”nA pessimist would point to the increasing attenuation ofnthe values and institutions that used to provide unity inndiversity. The decimated public schools no longer maintainna common standard of culture and values, or even ancommon standard of educational achievement. Americansnused to be unified by the Constitution — viewed largely as annegative restraint on government. But the Constitution nownmeans whatever the most powerful and adept political forcesnwant it to mean, and is viewed primarily as an instrument tonserve the interests of minorities of all kinds.nAmidst a general decline of morals and the traditionalnfamily, it is difiBcult to find any ethical standards that firmlynbind most of the population, and society increasingly resortsnto bureaucracy and legal hair-splitting to enforce behaviorsnthat once were enforced by social pressure. No one knowsnhow deeply the resentments of older Americans now runnagainst the establishment policies of affirmative action (thenold ideal of equal opportunity having been swiftly supplantednby one of special privilege), unlimited immigration,nintolerable toleration of crime, and official hostility tonChristianity. It is possible that these resentments are muchndeeper and more lasting than the insouciant leadership,nchoosing to ignore the problems except in election rhetoric,nwill admit. They may even be intensifying in a youngnpopulation that no longer has the experience of real nationalnunity.nEven so, by a curious paradox, it is the unprivilegedngroups who remain the most committed to an unquestioningnAmerican nationalism — that is, a real love of countrynthat transcends the question of “What’s in it for me?”nMiddle Americans, Southerners, the ethnic groups lessnofficially recognized and privileged have responded mostnreadily to the Reaganite formulation of American nationalismnin terms of pride and opportunity.nA shared culture has in the past provided a basis for unitynamong people otherwise diverse. But the most enduring andnvaluable forms of culture, at least in their formative stages,nare a product of homogeneity and stability. Americanizationnhas tended to attenuate both high culture and folk culture.nWhat has been gained in inclusiveness has been lost innfocus. As Tocqueville and other early observers pointed out,nthe thrust of American democracy is toward standardizationn— a standardization that might be at a quite comfortablenlevel but that tends to pull down the higher manifestations ofnculture.nAmericans build splendid palaces in which to display thenmusic and art created in other ages on other continents.nOurs is a culture derivative and poured in from the top, notnevolved from the grass roots, and it therefore has a limitednpower to bind. Without Southern and Jewish writers, bothnimperfectly Americanized, there would hardly be anynAmerican literature of world class in the late 20th century.nThe two most original forms of American folk culture.nSouthern black music (the various forms of jazz) andnSouthern white music (“country music”) are being attenuatednby standardization at the same time that they arenadmired around the world as both admirable and uniquelynAmerican.nTo many the loss of some cultural coherence may be ansmall price to pay for a tolerant diversity, high standard ofnliving, and democratic spirit, but culture is not only valuablenin itself but makes up an essential binding ingredient thatncan hold a people together even under reverses andnoppression. (The resurgence of Poland provides perhaps thenmost telling example today.) It may even be that, in the longnrun, a coherent culture is an economic necessity. <^nAfter Memorial Day in thenBrandywine Battlefieldnby Ruth MoosenOne sitting duck on a silver pondncircles cattails and jewelweednbeneath the bloomnof blackberry briars. Buttonwood trees,nhollow as caves were saplings under Lafayette,nwhose headquarters is a shadow behind.nA dragonfly hovers like a helicopternin the green and red soundsnof 9 A.M. traffic. On a floating limbnjust below the freshetnwhere a redwing blackbird comesnto shower, sits a frognthe size of my thumb. He is bronzenas a medal, full of frognand all the frogs before him,nnot listening to the jugging,nlike an orchestra of cellos,nfrom his father and unclesnaround him. Future soundsnof gunfire like kettledrumsnis held in the historynof stones who remember.nFrogs forget, forget, forget.nnnNOVEMBER 1990/21n