Anthony Burgess wrote “Is America Falling Apart?”. The central theme of his essay was that America was too individualistic and would benefit from giving up some of that individualism in order to be a healthier society. “Where private ownership prevails, public amenities decay or are prevented from coming into being”. His view of American individualism and how America needs to change was warped by his limited experience of large metropolitan areas and he believed those experiences gave him an understanding of America. He also suggested that America would economically benefit from a lesson in socialism, addressing the culture’s distrust of anything but democracy.
Burgess continues to build his argument by presenting first-hand accounts of evidence: his experiences with the demise of education, allusions to history that America “rejects,” and condemnations of American society. He then turns the essay to present a positive view of America (according to the European perspective) recognizing this was a place in which the opportunity for “progress was possible”
Burgess would have had a different perspective if he had avoided New York City and Los Angeles in order to experience America through suburbia or some of the thousands of rural towns in between the coasts. Public transportation, which Burgess complained about the lack of it, is not even an option in the vast expanses in rural America. The issues that are important and how to deal with them changes depending on the area through which one experiences America.
Burgess properly identified the distrust of Americans to the corporate state, yet he failed to acknowledge that this distrust of the government was what made America great. This mistrust can be expressed in negative forms of individualism, which Burgess observed. It can also be expressed in positive forms, which Burgess failed to see; individualism by itself is not inherently evil. Rugged individualism that is necessary for life in rural America is much different from metropolitan individualism.
Burgess proposed more socialism as the solution for America. The dilemma is that when the government becomes involved in any area of life, freedoms are taken away. A clear example was a “freedom crisis” in Prince George County, Maryland, Where a state attorney, a judge and school officials believed that it was necessary for students to be vaccinated in order to attend school. Either students has to be vaccinated or their parents goes to jail. This was the inevitable result of people allowing the government to make decisions for them.
He argued that more freedoms were dispensable than had already been relinquished. In so doing, he attempted to take away the pillar that made America the nation he so admired and enjoyed. If Burgess had accepted the great flaws that are chained to limited government along with noticing the great potential of the same limited government, then he would have been able to see clearly the greatness that freedom brings. Clinging at all costs to the idea of limited government and using that freedom to make a better world is what made America great.
Anthony Burgess never really takes a definite side on the topic. He gave many reasons why America is “falling apart”, on the other hand, he made it clear that he likes America for what it is and he would return. Although, he referred to New York and Los Angeles where he visited, his entire argument of “America falling apart” was mainly based on his one-year stay in New Jersey. The issues he raised such as transportation, consumption, pollution and Americans love for cars, etc. is what constitute the American way of life. That is how Americans want to live. There was no evidence in his essay to agree that America is falling apart. None of the reasons he gave can be a cause for the demise of America.
Burgess, Anthony. “Is America Falling Apart?” The Norton Reader. 11th edn. Ed. Linda Peterson & John C. Brereton. New York: Norton, 2004. 286-291. Library of Congress. America as a Religious Refuge: The Seventeenth Century. 14 Feb. 2007. 25 Nov. 2007. “Md. Officials: Vaccinate Your Kids or Face
Jail.” Around the Watercooler. ABC News. 20 Nov. 2007.