The squalid manner in which former president Bill Clinton left office earlier this year, leaving a trail of dubious pardons behind him, spoke volumes not only about an administration that some saw as deeply corrupt, but about the entire "American century" that just ended. Unfortunately, at the end of this 100 years of stupendous achievement, it is the failings of the American promise rather than the innumerable good things America has given the world that are most troubling. In a gross and exaggerated form, America's failings came to be epitomized in the person and presidency of Clinton. They can be summarized in two words: rampant individualism.
All Americans enjoy the freedom that modern individualism allows, but it is always possible to have too much of a good thing. Like Clinton, many of us are individualism junkies: We just can't say no. We know we should accept limits, but when it comes down to it, we refuse to impose them on ourselves. This seems to be the great American dilemma at the end of the 20th century.
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