There’s a difference between being part of a tradition and being haunted by the past. In a way, the two are opposed. Tradition is, among other things, a way of coping with the past, a form of cultural digestion. Like good digestion, it is not purely passive. One eats only at certain times, one pays attention to the little signals from one’s stomach, one takes a little wine, and so forth. In the absence of tradition-making and tradition-keeping, a society suffers from an undigested past. Such a society is haunted. The past acts, but it acts in a different way: often unexpected, often scary.

American society is haunted.