The Urban Crisis (Cont’d)

"The Urban Crisis (Cont'd)" (A reply to letters), Commentary, January 1971.


Usually, and fortunately, the kind of disagreement that has emerged between Mr. Zukosky and myself tends to remain “academic.” In settled times, the modes of civility in daily life are not controversial issues—though individuals may, at their leisure, speculatively question them. But these are not settled times we live in; such vague, “cultural” issues become stubbornly intrusive; and so Mr. Zukosky and I, whose specifically political opinions are not far apart, are nevertheless at odds. I see an evident decline in American decency, and I am therefore worried about the future of this country. Mr. Zukosky, seeing the democratic: machinery still functioning, and full of his “faith in the common man,” is offended by my anxieties. He thinks I am being hysterical; I think he is being unperceptive. He thinks I magnify the importance of ephemeral things (e.g., the drug culture, student radicalism, etc.); I think he fails to take seriously important things (e.g., the drug culture, student radicalism, etc.). He thinks I pay too much attention to what some people say and write; I think he is being misled by statistical aggregates.

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