Correctly identifying shifts in the direction of our nation—or any nation for that matter—is a decidedly iffy business. Events and individuals tend to alter history in ways we cannot readily predict.
The Catholic Church was all-powerful in 1517 when a dissident cleric named Martin Luther was angry enough—and stubborn enough—to launch the Protestant Reformation. The French revolutionaries who stormed the Bastille in 1789 would have laughed at the notion that a decade later they would be living under a military dictatorship that would soon conquer Europe, but Napoleon Bonaparte sprang out of the tall grass and seized power in a manner that defied all the expectations of those who only recently had overthrown their monarchy. When Queen Victoria died in 1901, the British Empire seemed firmly entrenched across fully one quarter of the earth, but only twenty years later it was in full retreat on virtually every front, and their Imperial dreams were not only dead but a source of distinct shame as well.
History seems inevitable only when viewed in retrospect. At the moment it is happening, it is a jumbling, tumbling, fumbling mess that we foolishly presume to understand in order to calm our fears about our own futures.
However, tentatively and with the full knowledge that I may grimace if I read this commentary ten years from now, I am going to squint into today’s maelstrom and suggest that we are seeing a rather dramatic cultural shift appearing around us—a very big one.
During the 1950’s and 1960’s we were a nation swaddled in stupendous post-war affluence and a swaggering belief in our own omnipotence, which made it easy for many to enjoy risk-free rebellions that questioned the traditional norms of behavior. It is almost incredible that America—in a manner perhaps eerily similar to the power of Great Britain at the time of Queen Victoria’s death—was then so stupendously wealthy and militarily powerful that challenges to traditional norms regarding marriage, child rearing, patriotism, military service, law and order, work and career, education, public decorum, and a host of other matters could be disregarded with little worry that long-term damage might be the eventual result.
When I went off to college in the late seventies, I remember hearing older alums marvel that my generation did not have to wear a coat and tie to class or attend mandatory chapel services. The freedom I enjoyed to slouch through my classes in jeans and a tee shirt seemed blessed, and the lack of a spiritual life was of no concern to me or most of my peers. We had shrugged off what we considered the pointless vestiges of a less enlightened past, and we saw the future as one where we would all enjoy lives liberated from oppressive ancestral norms, free to now pursue our unfettered happiness without the nags of pesky morality nipping at our heels.
But something went seriously awry on the way to utopia.
Over past fifty years a creeping oppression and angst has rooted deeply into our troubled nation, which would perhaps shock those who presumed glory days were dead ahead.
Rates of divorce, abortion, drug use, and single parenthood have skyrocketed, and these problems have brought with them much of the damage that has ground down generation after generation of children, leaving a societal wreckage that is so much a part of our daily lives that we no longer remark upon it. Religious belief, the bedrock upon which civilization was built for thousands of years is now sneered at and denigrated to the point where to profess a deep sense of faith is to be considered a bigot or ignoramus by the smug set that now dominates our leading institutions. Americans are more lonely, more depressed, and more angry than at any time in our recent history. We are also forced to accept daily existences that are coarser, less caring, and more dangerous because to criticize the actions or attitudes of others is a sign of intolerance that must be swiftly punished.
In a world gone mad in so many ways, we are told that the only sane response is to submit to the wisdom of the priesthood of experts and Wokesters who now equate dissent with hate. The difference between critical thinking and uncritical acceptance has been lost during the long march of Marxism through our educational institutions. Capturing our classrooms has proven far more effective than a million Molotov cocktails.
The irony is that what has made us unable to resist indoctrination are the traditional American values of justice and fairness that have now been converted into cudgels being used to bring our nation to its knees. Hoping to perfect our country, we became the useful idiots of those who want only to tear it down.
The best of us became the wrecking balls working for the worst of us because our hearts saw injustices and desperately wanted to remedy them.
After all, cultural norms have clearly been used in the past to justify practices and beliefs that had their horrid side. Religion has been used, for example to excuse the murders of those of different faiths, and the British were certain that their subjugation of so many countries during the days of the Empire was ordained by the innate superiority signaled by the color of their skin. The French who yearned for freedom marched under their flag and put the torch to much of Europe. Over the course of time, any traditional belief can, unfortunately, breed a dangerous and destructive arrogance that must be guarded against by humbly searching our souls on a daily basis.
However, to presume the cure to the problems that have plagued humanity in the past is to discard every shred of necessary self-control, basic human decency, and respect for religious freedom requires fanatical subjugation to inherently intolerant political and social dogmas. To presume that we can live happy and fulfilled lives by disregarding the consequences of our actions, offloading our morality to faceless bureaucracies and experts, and relying on our cell phone apps for human connection leaves us vulnerable to hundreds of daily tyrannies both large and small.
In order to win the questionable privilege of acting as the arbiters of our own sad, small moral universe, we have had to sacrifice much.
However, I suspect our flirtations with fanaticism have now peaked, and we—as both individuals and as a society—will now begin to ask ourselves if our nation, communities, and families actually benefit from accusations disguised as enlightenment, fear masquerading as reason, and discussions devoid of healthful self-doubt.
The wheels of national change turn slowly and haltingly, but they do turn. Americans have awakened to the threats posed by leaders who promote policies that kill viable babies, reward lawbreakers, sexualize children, celebrate violence, discourage personal responsibility, denigrate America, punish free speech, spread racial animosity, encourage ignorance, harm national security, impede energy independence, attack the police, waste taxpayer dollars, and allow extremism to flourish. The citizenry are aroused and filled with a sense of purpose, which terrifies politicians and agitators who see their lucrative hustles coming to an abrupt end if today’s rage turns into tomorrow’s votes.
A trickle of American anger has become a rising tide of revulsion, and we now are left to search through history for a helpful parallel to guide us. Whether we should worry about a Robespierre, fear a new Napoleon, or welcome a modern day Martin Luther, a stark change is evident.
Leftists deem this new movement by Americans to be a scary right wing populism that must be resisted because it heralds a return to values that are antithetical to the faculty lounge Marxism that allows them to turn every discussion of personal values into a hate crime—and use every extra-legal tool of censorship, harassment, and exclusion to pound down their opponents. This dynamic betrays the grim intolerance at the empty core of so much of what passes for public discourse today and accounts for much of the seething anger now informing our electoral politics.
People grow weary of being told to shut up if they speak out about the injustices and falsehoods they see being perpetrated by those claim America and American values are the source of every evil in the world today. Explain this—if you can—to the terrified people now being crushed under the heel of the Taliban because Americans using their power to preserve freedoms around the world so terribly offends the leftists who also want to defund your local police departments. Acquiescing to terrible ideas harms us, harms our families, harms our nation, and harms others across the globe. Standing up for what is right should not result in a howling mob of loonies calling you a hater, bigot, or fascist, but this is the world we live in today.
There is no one more dangerous to themselves and others than a person who believes they cannot possibly be wrong, and to be blind to the blindness that is baked into all humanity is the first step toward tyranny. The unwarranted self-regard of extremists who insist that we must agree with their twisted ideas is frightening, as is the manner in which they have wormed themselves into positions of authority across our nation.
A successful effort to reassert American values requires votes, boycotts, and an awareness of how fanatics employ the many freedoms granted by our democracy in order to actively subvert it—but the will to do so is now there. If history teaches us nothing else, it does provide a lesson in how a determined and vigilant people can raise their voices and change their nation for the better, and it seems more and more obvious that many feel the time for this is right now.
It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work.