compromised immunity that resultsrnwhen wealth displaces moral values wasrnreflected in an influential “conservative”rnbiweekly, which offered some pop-culturalrncheerleading by an Americanrnephebe in Prague. “Glitzy stores andrnstate-of-the-art showrooms open everyrnmonth,” enthused the young capitalistrn(an editor for the Czech edition, Irnkid vou not, of Elle magazine). “Untilrnrecentlv,” he continued, “it was rare tornsee a Mercedes or BMW; now they’rerncommon. Last spring several Japanesernrestaurants opened.” Are these the signsrnof America’s triumph? The passagernreads like a Soviet-style caricature of thernWest. I thought we cherished Prague forrnHradcanv Castle and Old Town Square;rnfor civilized habits; for Havel, Kundera,rnand Kafka.rnApparently not. The young entrepreneurrnequated “the American influencernon culture” with “Danielle Steelrnand Stephen King.” Shall we be of goodrncheer now that “Czechs shop at K-Mart,rneat at Little Caesar’s, watch Baywatchrnand Beverly Hills 90210″? Many presentrnsuch filth as a triumph of America’srn”openness, sense of freedom, possibilityrnand vitality.” Perhaps this is to be expectedrnfrom an elite which routinely celebratesrnlesbian sperm shoppers. But truernconservatives are less than amused byrnsleazv characterizations of openness andrnfreedom.rnhi the age of Clinton there are two antitheticalrnvisions of American identity.rnOne view confounds freedom with materialrnentitlements and tolerance with license.rnThe other defines freedom as arnrising opposition to government’s arrogantrnintrusions and unnatural ideologies.rnIt sets individualism against the enervatingrnnoise and exhausted frenzy of Hollywood’srnprimping stadets and pamperedrnathletes. Some of us understand thatrnAmerica’s vitality stems from a moralrnsense, a willingness to accept responsibilitvrnand to defend the attendant rights.rnOpposed to this are drugs, soaps, victimologv,rnnarcissistic lifestvles, and contemptrnfor tradition. Emanating fromrnWashington, Manhattan, Hollywood,rnand wherever the cultural elite gathers,rnthis filth reflects our slide into infantilernconsumerism.rn”Mickev Mouse will see you dead,” insistsrna bitter CIA operative in RobertrnStone’s A Flag for Sunrise. His remark,rntossed off to a hall full of shocked Hondurans,rnhints at the mindless indulgencesrnthat drag us down. Our beaconrnto the nations has become a neon glarernmesmerizing what is weakest in peoplernabroad with what is cheapest in us. Arernsoap operas, drugs, teen suicide, quotas,rnand single-parent “families” the futurernthat we want? Are we content to surrenderrnour vigor to the paralyzing ministrationsrnof the nanny-state?rn”There really are no foreign names inrnAmerica anymore,” gloats a liberalrncolumnist, adding, “90 percent of thernAmerican dream is simply showing up.”rn(And they wonder why Proposition 187rnpassed.) We no longer are, it is claimed,rnnor should we be an essentially Europeanrnculture. No, that’s “racist.” Insteadrnwe will be a chaos of global orality, anrnanticulturc of slogans and consumeristrnposes.rnMulticulturalism is the latest pose. Itrncollects people like shades of lipstick, onernfrom each quota box. There is a differentrncolor for each day, for every mood.rnAs long as the shades aren’t white, thernliberals love them. Just show up. As thernman said, “Mickey Mouse will sec yourndead.”rnWhat were our beginnings that ourrnend should be so tawdry? That Establishmentrnpundits should confuse ourrnculture’s decay with victory? Three hundredrnand sixtv-five years ago, on a smallrnship in the middle of the gray North Atlantic,rnJohn Winthrop sat writing a layrnsermon. When he walked out of his cabinrnto read it, he looked not only to thernstormy west but toward the obscure future.rnWould his flock kindle a clear lightrnthere, or only a deceiving gleam? “Wernare entered into a covenant with God forrnthis work,” Winthrop wrote. “He hathrngiven us leave to draw our own articles.rnBut if we neglect them . . . seeking greatrnthings for ourselves, the Lord shall surelyrnbreak out against us.” Think of Brookernand Thorn and Storm.rn”The only way to avoid this shipwreck,”rnWinthrop went on, “and to providernfor our posterity, is to do justly, tornlove mercy, to walk humbly with God.rnWe must be willing to abridge ourselvesrnof superfluities . . . always having beforernour eyes our community as members ofrnthe same body.”rnThe keynote of Winthrop’s remarks isrndignity (where is that virtue stressed today?)rnand responsibility for oneself andrnfor one’s community. Only such a moralrncommitment, those pioneers believed,rnwould protect us as a nation and securernus as individuals. If we so act, Winthroprncontinued, then “ten of us shall be ablernto resist a thousand, and we shall be as arncity upon a hill.”rnSomehow, from these beginnings wernhave changed from a lamp to a mirror ofrndazzling and trashy brilliance. In it wernsee the worid, and the worid sees us, as arnself-gratifying toy. And in working thisrnbad magic, the bacchantes of spuriousrndiversity and bizarre lifestyles havernjoined idolaters of the free market. Bothrntell us “we are the wodd” but at the samerntime divide us into categories by genderrnand color, favoring some, vilifying othersrnfor being too Western, too rooted in thernculture Winthrop helped forge. Somernare given rights without responsibilities,rnothers are told to shell out and keeprnquiet.rnWe would do well to scrutinize howrnour national spokespeople package andrndefine us. Seeing ourselves reflected sornbadly abroad, it may be time to shut therngates and reset our understanding bothrnof America and of individualism.rnEugene Narrett is a professor of Englishrnat Framingham State College inrnMassachusetts and a columnist for thernMiddlesex News.rnDispatches fromrnIfte Last (DitchrnAnarcho-pessimists,rncrypto-Copperheads,rnpost-neo-Objectivists,rnand other enemies of thernpermanent regimernopining monthly, fromrnindividualist and EuropeanrnAmerican perspectives, onrnthe end of civilizationrnWrite for free issuernTrial subscription (4 issues), $15rn12 issues, $42 24 issues, $77rnWTM EnterprisesrnP.O. Box 224 DeptCHrnRoanoke, IN 46783-0224rnJULY 1995/39rnrnrn