Essay: On Tradition, Or What is Left of It

"THE youth of America is their oldest tradition," observed J. Oscar Wilde. Although the U.S. is not as young as it used to be, it still views all kinds of tradition with more youthful irreverence than any other nation, past or present. In fact, there is a widespread suspicion that tradition—the sense of continuity that is part faith, part convention and part habit—is disappearing altogether from the American scene.

In other and older countries, tradition is the visible testament to established order; referring to the matches between amateur and professional cricketers, the British still speak of The Gentlemen and The...

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