The old Puritans, whatever their defects, and they had many, preached a gospel of holding back until the right moment, of working and waiting, not to mention invoking divine blessing. The old culture was generally serious. Ease and indulgence could wait. You couldn't have your way the minute you decided what that way was. You had obligations, moreover, to others: family, in particular. Words like "duty" were abroad in the culture; and "responsibility;" and, on the flip side of that, "disgrace" and "dishonor." How many in 21st century culture -- besides particular Wall Streeters, joined, ironically, by a career man of honor, David Petraeus -- encounter public censure any more? A culture of indulgence tries hard not to rein in a thing called personal expression.
The personal is what we live for. This makes everything in politics personal - especially these days, the perception that a-bunch-of-redneck-preachers-want-to-take-away-my-contraceptives. (Which, of course, I want the government to pay for!) As an American of the 21st century, I want my government-paid medical care. I want my full, unreduced Social Security 30 years from now. Yeah, and those 1 percenters the president always talks about -- "millionaires and billionaires." Can't we make them a little bit more like me?
Sure. No sweat. The Republican millionaire with his pre-modern ways of interpreting the vision of America -- let's spurn his suit. The Democratic millionaire -- a flip-flops kind of guy, who likes people to have what they like; there's a 21st century American leader for you and me. Alas.