The Fraying Of America

When a nation's diversity breaks into factions, demagogues rush in, false issues cloud debate, and everybody has a grievance

Just over 50 years ago, the poet W.H. Auden achieved what all writers envy: making a prophecy that would come true. It is embedded in a long work called For the Time Being, where Herod muses about the distasteful task of massacring the Innocents. He doesn't want to, because he is at heart a liberal. But still, he predicts, if that Child is allowed to get away, "Reason will be replaced by Revelation. Instead of Rational Law, objective truths perceptible to any who will undergo the necessary intellectual discipline, Knowledge will degenerate into a riot of subjective visions . . ....

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