By 1960, we had become truly one nation and one people.
America was not perfect. No country is. But no country ever rivaled what America had become. She was proud, united, free, the first nation on earth. And though the civil rights movement had just begun, nowhere did black peoples enjoy the freedom and prosperity of African-Americans.
Attorney General Eric Holder said Sunday that America is today in "a fundamentally better place than we were 50 years ago."
In some ways that is so. Equality of rights has been realized. Miraculous cures in medicine have kept alive many of us who would not have survived the same maladies half a century ago.
But we are no longer that "band of brethren." We are no longer one unique people "descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion."
We are from every continent and country. Nearly 4 in 10 Americans trace their ancestry to Asia, Africa and Latin America. We are a multiracial, multilingual, multicultural society in a world where countless countries are being torn apart over race, religion and roots.
We no longer speak the same language, worship the same God, honor the same heroes or share the same holidays. Christmas and Easter have been privatized. Columbus is reviled. Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee are out of the pantheon. Cesar Chavez is in.
Our politics have become poisonous. Our political parties are at each other's throats.
Christianity is in decline. Traditional churches are sundering over moral issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. Islam is surging.
Our society seems to be disintegrating. Over 40 percent of all births now are illegitimate. Among Hispanics, the figure is 52 percent. Among African-Americans, 73 percent.
And among children born to single moms, the drug use rate and the dropout rate, the crime rate and the incarceration rate, are many times higher than among children born to married parents.
If a country is a land of defined and defended borders, within which resides a people of a common ancestry, history, language, faith, culture and traditions, in what sense are we Americans one nation and one people today?
Neocons say we are a new kind of nation, an ideological nation erected upon a written Constitution and Bill of Rights.
But equality, democracy and diversity are not mentioned in the Constitution. As for what our founding documents mean, even the Supreme Court does not agree.
More and more, 21st-century America seems to meet rather well Metternich's depiction of Italy -- "a geographic expression."