“From whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall some trans-Atlantic military giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe and Asia … could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. No, if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.”
— Abraham Lincoln
How many ways can a nation pick to destroy its future?
We may not have reached the tipping point yet, but we are clearly embarked on a four-lane highway with the brink of a cataract as its ultimate destination.
Many on the right are beginning to ask what we can do to avoid the fate we seem set upon achieving via a number of economic, social and political policies being adopted not only by the United States, but many other Western democracies.
Dissolution may not be imminent, but it’s necessary to discuss it in serious terms if we are to have any hope of countering a variety of present trends that strongly point to a single logical conclusion.
So, here’s a brief list of some of those trends, culled in recent days from a variety of authoritative voices among conservative thinkers. None of the things they describe appears irredeemable as an individual example, but added together, their cumulative effect poses a daunting series of obstacles for those who think the culture of the West is worth preserving as the highest example of human liberty and accomplishment the world has ever seen.
ECONOMIC DECLINE: While the front pages of the newspapers and TV market analysis are almost exclusively focused on the day’s hot stocks, the short-range prospects of the stock market and various indicators like employment, commercial investment, housing stocks and loans, all the long-term trends are negative, some of them extremely so.
Too much has been written about the coming impact of essentially unfunded programs such as Medicare and Social Security, but adding the impacts of the Affordable Care Act to those tens of trillions in shortfalls only exacerbates an already untenable future — one which is growing closer more quickly as shortfalls arrive more rapidly than anticipated.
And that doesn’t include the other trillions of unfunded mandates found at the state level in public employee pensions and other “investments” whose surface soundness is based on market returns far higher than any rational expectation.
Only a few states have soundly funded programs, and others, like California, New York and Illinois, have made promises that they are now beginning to renege on even before the full bill comes due. Oddly enough, the states with the biggest potential shortfalls are run by Democrats.
It is now becoming increasingly common for communities — ranging from Harrisburg, Pa. (now under receivership) to Stockton and San Bernardino, Calif. — to declare bankruptcy due to unaffordable commitments to their retirees, and many more communities are reportedly considering the once-unprecedented option.
True, there are signs of hope in some places. The fracking boom has made pockets of high prosperity in states like Pennsylvania, Nebraska and Texas. (Curiously, states with Republican leadership.) Yet, liberals and their allies in green groups in larger states like California and New York are fighting fracking tooth and nail, opting for dead-end environmentalism over a better life for the common citizen.
Which will prevail in the long run? That answer will come from the national level, and considering the current leadership in the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), prospects are not encouraging.
In a column headlined, “Green Anti-Humanism,” energy expert Dr. Robert Zubrin wrote on National Review Online on Feb. 21 that “the expanded use of carbon (energy sources) is both good and necessary. … The tenfold increase in human carbon use over the past century has driven a tenfold rise in global GDP per capita… This escape of a large fraction of the world population from horrific poverty, accomplished through expanded carbon use, is among the greatest accomplishments in history.”
Yet, he writes, the green position has always been one of opposition to growth, reasoning thusly: “1) There isn’t enough of X to go around. 2) Therefore, human numbers, activities or liberties must be severely constrained. 3) Those of us enlightened by wisdom must be empowered to do the constraining. 4) And having obtained such power, let’s make the best of it and stick it to those we despise anyway.”
And when we look across the Atlantic, we see a European Union tied to an inflexible currency, the euro, being barely held afloat by its single prosperous member, Germany, while the nations all around it skate along the edge of a bottomless fiscal canyon. Can they do that forever?
Indeed, can any nation long survive if growth is both mocked and blocked and prosperity disparaged as the concern of “the rich,” who are depicted as exploiters to be scorned rather than job creators to celebrate and emulate? It seems unlikely.
SOCIAL AND CULTURAL DECLINE: One of our nation’s most insightful social critics, Victor Davis Hanson, recently wrote a column headlined, “Western Cultural Suicide,” in which he describes the sad state to which “multiculturalism” and “diversity” have reduced many Western nations, including our own.
In brief, we once had a multiracial society united by a single culture, but have left that uniting principle behind. Instead of a “melting pot” in which immigrant groups who respected and honored their own backgrounds gave up the practices of their home cultures for those of America, we have created a society of jagged edges in which immigrants hold tight to their old traditions and fight for prominence among many competing cultures.
Thus, we create a culture in which a U.S. soccer team can play a Mexican one in Los Angeles and have the crowd cheer solidly for the foreign players. Or, we see Russian immigrants move here from a society in turmoil and even become citizens, and still be willing to bomb innocents at the Boston Marathon in the name of their distant hatreds.
Or, we see an Army officer, a doctor, so consumed with hatred he learned over the Internet from abroad that he slaughtered 14 innocent people (13 fellow soldiers and one unborn child) in an action our cowardly leaders will still not call an act of jihadist terrorism.
Similar examples are found in Europe, where immigrant mobs riot in the quintessential welfare states of Sweden and France; and where British citizens slay soldiers and citizens alike in the name of Islamic triumphalism.
Meanwhile, Hanson notes, our universities and colleges and their allied cultural, artistic, entertainment and political elites teach “salad-bowl separatism,” in which any immigrant “can pick and choose which elements of his adopted culture he will embrace, which he will reject, as one might croutons or tomatoes. But ultimately he can do that because he senses that the American government, people, press and culture reward such opportunism and have no desire, need or ability to defend the very inherited culture that has given them the leeway to ignore it …”
Hanson concludes, “This is a prescription for cultural suicide, if not by beheading or by a pressure cooker full of ball bearings, at least by making the West into something that no one would find very different from his homeland.”
And those homelands are often places of ideological, ethnic and religious discord, violence and oppression. Do we really want to recreate them here because we have neither the will nor the courage to defend what our forebears have built and left to us?
The task will be difficult, made much harder by the fact that so much of our society’s elites think patriotism is laughable, religion is meaningless and the very idea of a common culture is the height of repression.
Indeed, I could have added a hundred more examples to those I’ve listed here. Still, many Americans have held fast to inherited truths, and as long as some have not forgotten, the hope of restoration, though a flickering flame, can become a source of immense light and warmth again.
Some, of course, believe that won’t happen until things have fallen so far that the nation has no other choice. They may be right, though I hope not.
But even if they are, it falls to those who remember American ideals to continue to preach and practice them.
M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org