Humor and moral outrage share the stage in this semisatirical look at Western culture.
Haynes’ book looks at American history starting at about 1960—a point which the author takes as the culmination of U.S. ability and moral authority—and traces what he sees as a slow and tragic decline. Using an extended metaphor of Frisbee and Milk Duds to express cultural trends that are harming the U.S. (moral relativism, apparent immaturity), he explains that Western culture is self-destructing under its own bad habits, and he makes a case for returning to the cultural norms of America circa 1957–1963. These norms include a strong nuclear family, a traditional Christianity in the Protestant mode, and a vehement stance against communism and, by extension, socialism. Haynes makes his points with charm and good humor, but the overall effect is less than convincing, because his arguments are short on analysis and logic. At several points, Haynes extols the virtue of science and engineering, yet he dismisses evolution and climate change—both theories which, while controversial politically and socially, have the preponderance of scientific evidence on their sides—with glib responses that portray more emotion-based approaches than rationality. More damaging to the overall tone, Haynes repeatedly uses terms such as “decent” and “normal” to describe those who think like him, potentially alienating many readers. By the end of the book, Haynes’ early attempts at determined fair-mindedness give way to condescension, disguising his natural wit and authorial charm with a clichéd set of talking points that make it difficult to latch on to the occasional good point he does raise.
Despite his considerable skill as a writer, the author’s initial tone of logic and thoughtfulness morphs into barely checked irritation, which makes reading difficult.