This article was originally published on my personal blog at the height of the financial crisis in September 2008. I have updated it slightly to reflect the current crisis.
I used to think that the United States was basically indestructible, that our Constitution, the uncommon common sense of our people, a bountiful land, and a respect for our history and traditions could see us through any crisis.
Does that still hold true?
I believe these truths are immutable. But there is one very important additional truth that, when removed from the equation, causes the entire edifice to come crashing down in rack and ruin, a testament to the folly and failure of our politics and politicians.
I am talking about faith: Faith in government, faith in our leaders, faith in our institutions, and, most of all, faith in ourselves and our talent for self-government — the ability for us to decide what is best for our country and our families.
It is the faith of our fathers, and their fathers before them, and their fathers and grandfathers who bequeathed us a nation based on this simple, uncomplicated faith. Without it, there is no trust. And faith, like trust, once lost is a hard commodity to regain
I recall that on 9/11, there was a time that it was unclear the extent of the attack, especially after the Pentagon was hit. I am not overdramatizing when I say that I believe everyone in America wondered who was next. What else could happen? The absolute worst scenarios went through my mind, as I’m sure they did for most of you. And I remember thinking for just a second or two, “Is this the end of America?” But I immediately dismissed such a preposterous notion. America was a rock, a force of nature. You couldn’t destroy it. Knock a few buildings down, sure. But the almost childlike belief in our ability to overcome anything and emerge triumphant was a powerful tonic that worked its magic on the American psyche and gave us the will to pull together for the good of all.
In that crisis, we had faith to spare. Forgotten was the recent election and its gut-rending divisiveness as we came together as one people in the face of tragedy and crisis. It was inspiring. It was elevating.
It was an illusion.
In truth, our unity after 9/11 was a mirage, a temporary respite from the culture wars, the political wars, the ideological wars — the war for the soul of America. The natural equilibrium of political combat to the death reasserted itself within a matter of weeks and any sense of togetherness we felt was extinguished in a flood of partisan poison. And you can draw a straight line from the post-9/11 falling-out to our current crisis where what ails us as a nation has only been exacerbated by war and bitter acrimony.
I blame Bush. And the Democrats. And the liberals. And the conservatives. And I blame us for enabling the catastrophe, where it becomes easy to lose faith, trust, and even hope — hope that there was a way through this morass of hate and distrust so that we could emerge on a far distant shore, free of the infection that has sickened the body politic of America to the point that now, we teeter on the edge of a precipice, looking down into the blackness of an unknowable, unknowing future.
The internet is at fault. So is talk radio. So is the liberal/conservative/lazy media. So is the consolidation of information sources. So am I.
Am I taking the easy out? A typical Moran “a pox on both your houses” screed? Examine your consciences and you tell me where it’s all Bush’s fault or all the Democrats’ fault. Or where conservatives or liberals are blameless. Or even where one party or another is “more” at fault — as if you can place catastrophe on a scale and weigh it out, carefully loading one side or the other with rancor, bitterness, lies, exaggerations, political gamesmanship, and cynicism, thus hoping to determine the “real” culprit of our current predicament.
That kind of stupidity is silly and self defeating. And it only reveals that those who try it are part of the problem, not the solution.