It’s easy to get wrapped up in men and moments. In the current election season, for instance, we may see a candidate appearing to embody all our hopes and dreams (or at least many) and come to assign him country-savior status. Even the great Thomas Sowell — a man for whom I have tremendous respect — has called the November choice “the last chance for America.” Yet even if we do choose the “right” president, it will only amount to a stay of execution.
Many people lament that “Obama has destroyed America these last eight years” or, alluding to same, will say “I don’t recognize my country anymore.” This is much like viewing a woman who marries a greasy-haired, dope-smoking, heavily tattooed and pierced, unemployable reprobate and saying that her matrimonial decision destroyed her, when the real problem was that she was the kind of person who could make such a choice in the first place. Do you really think Obama isn’t a symptom at least as much as a cause? Do you think the 2000 A.D. America that elected him would have been recognizable to 1950 Americans?
And even if the next president is an anomalous good result, he won’t even be a pause that refreshes, but will at best slow down the runaway train racing toward the precipice. This is because our main problems aren’t illegal migration, trade deals or health care, as significant as those things are. Our problems are more fundamental.
Do you really want to save America?
Okay, then completely transform the media, academia and entertainment so they’re not brainwashing citizens 24/7 with anti-American, anti-Christian, multiculturalist, socialist, feminist and a multitude of other lies. End legal immigration, which, via the importation of massive numbers of Third Worlders, is changing our country into a socialistic non-Western culture. Even more significantly, convince the 70-plus percent of Americans who are moral relativists to believe in Truth; these are people who, as the Barna Group research company put it, believe that what we call “truth is always relative to the person and their situation” and whose most common basis for moral decision-making is “doing whatever feels right….”
Why does this matter? Well, if we saw a child who didn’t obey rules and simply made up his own “rules” — changing them as was convenient — would we say that he was governed by anything worthy of being called “rules” (principles)? Or would we conclude that the word had simply become a euphemism for flights of fancy and feelings-based decisions? Alright, now, is it any different when an adult does it? Furthermore:
Is it any different when large groups of adults do it — even country-size groups?
We can put as much lipstick on this pig of preference-oriented decision-making as we want, but it amounts to this striking reality: we are a people that, to a great extent, now operates by the credo “If it feels good, do it.” Yet there’s another way of putting it, one clarifying matters even more.
Many of us now believe, in essence, there are no rules governing man.
And we often behave that way.
Oh, we know there are things called laws, regulations, social codes and “values,” but too many of us don’t believe they could have a basis in anything objective (God’s law), anything beyond our own collective desires. I know of a seemingly sociopathic man who once said to someone close to me, “Murder’s not wrong; it’s just that society says it is.” How could the relativistic majority among us answer him? “Well, yeah, I guess. But most of us really, really, really don’t like it”?
To understand the effects of this no-rules mentality, a little analogy is instructive. Imagine that baseball players came to believe there were no rules governing the sport, that it was “whatever works for you.” A pitcher might decide there should be only one strike, while a batter might reckon there should be five. A first baseman might insist that the hitter shouldn’t be able to run past first base, while the hitter might say he should be able to run past all of them. And things would continue degenerating, with everyone writing his own ticket and battling over standards, until, perhaps, players began tackling one another and sometimes wielding the bats as weapons. Games can’t work without agreed-upon rules.
Civilizations can’t work without them, either. And there won’t be agreement when people believe everything is “relative.” This is our lot, and we see the effects all around us. Far from Middle Age Europe, where, as G.K. Chesterton put it, everyone agreed “on what really mattered,” today we agree on nothing that matters. We’re not just balkanized racially and ethnically, but ideologically, philosophically and spiritually. There are conservatives, liberals, libertarians, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, existentialists, Wiccans, atheists, just to name a handful, and a multitude of variations within most of the categories; reflecting this disagreement on “First Things,” other things are equally fractured. There are nationalists and internationalists, feminists and male-rights activists, multiculturalists and cultural Americanists, patriots and perfidious scoundrels, activists and the apathetic, Marxists and free-market defenders, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum. Heck, many of us don’t even know what marriage or sexual propriety is anymore, the difference between a tissue mass and a baby, or even what boys and girls are, as we dial back our maturity level to the infantile stage during which a child can’t distinguish between male and female.
With our agreeing on almost nothing, it’s not surprising most everything ends up in court, as we enrich lawyers and empower judges to become the Ultimate Arbiters of All. Meanwhile, not-so-huddled masses, Muslim jihadists and perhaps weapons of mass destruction pour across a border that’s still not porous enough for the miles-wide fifth column in our midst. And the same people tell us voter-ID is oppressive, as our government prints official documents in dozens of languages and we press one for English and hope the customer service representative we get to help us with our crummy Chinese-made product will have a decipherable accent.
Speaking of which, why is China often called the “world’s oldest civilization”? It has seen governments come and go, endured tyranny, disease and starvation, but certain things have remained: the Chinese people, language and culture. China truly is a nation, meaning, an extension of the tribe, which itself is an extension of the family (hence, there’s no such thing as a “nation of immigrants” — unless they’re all from the same country). We’re now the opposite, a federation of competing sub-cultures — some imported, some domestically made — not all of which are trying to coexist within the same borders. Many of us simply hate each other’s guts.
Given that all civilizations rise and fall, being able to determine when yours is close to its terminus may be helpful. Imagine you knew a man who was drinking, taking drugs and indulging sexual perversion more and more over time. It was increasingly difficult for him to retain employment, act responsibly, pay his bills and get along with others, as his devolving mindset led to accidents and violent outbursts. You’d recognize that his life was spinning out of control and wouldn’t be surprised to later hear he was in prison or dead. Such is the last stop on the road of inexorable moral decay. Now, would your expectations be any different if it were a group of people exhibiting such self-destructive behavior?
Okay, what about an even larger group — let’s say, a country?
Of course, not all of us are that nigh-to-the-grave reprobate. But America’s collective face does increasingly resemble him.
We can also hark back to the baseball analogy. With people tending to make up their own rules, our “game” is breaking down. Why do you think we have candidates who scoff at enforcing immigration law and a president and judges who wipe their paws and claws on the Constitution? In a land where all is relative, laws are relative to the men; then you become a nation of men, not laws.
This is why none of our “solutions” will solve anything. We can talk about Ted Cruz and constitutionalism. But was John Adams a fool when warning in 1798, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other”? We are now the “other.”
We can echo Donald Trump echoing Ronald Reagan and say “Make America great again!” But as an apocryphal quotation oft repeated by Reagan goes, “America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
And we can bellow “Freedom!” Braveheart-style. But as British philosopher Edmund Burke noted, “It is written in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”
Intemperate minds abound. Passions we’ve got. Fetters we’re getting. Of course, I’ll choose to, if possible, add a few more pages to the American republic’s story. But I know that, even now, her last chapter is being written.