I’ve always thought it impolite for a writer to quote himself, but perhaps I may be forgiven a breach of manners for the sake of brevity. In my novel Empire of Lies, the narrator Jason Harrow says: “The world always seems like it’s going to hell when you’re depressed. And, of course, it always is going to hell in some way. That’s what makes it so hard to tell the difference between Armageddon and the blues.”
There is no question that a substantial number of people — the thinking ones — are currently depressed over the state of western culture in general and of our nation in particular. How could they be otherwise? Europe our mother is dead and an anti-American American leadership seeks to impose on our homeland the same socialistic welfare state that was either the disease that killed her or at least the primary symptom of that disease. Our not-really-very-intelligent intelligentsia is openly bent on weakening the foundations of our freedom in law and in religion, perverting and ignoring the Constitution, attacking the Bible whenever it can’t be banned. Our educators have ceased to educate our children about the sources of our liberty — from Greece and Rome and Jerusalem to England and Virginia — and instead train them to elevate the primitive, the oppressive, the abnormal, and the downright wrong to cardboard thrones of mock nobility. I would say our elites are fashioning a golden calf for us to worship, but perhaps you have never been told that story.
The results of these destructive trends are everywhere apparent. More and more children are born out of wedlock and thus condemned to dysfunction and poverty. More and more people are trained to childlike dependence by a government that has learned to trade entitlements for power. The president and Congress grow rich in both money and privilege while demonizing the wealth of others in order to pacify a populace struggling to survive. “The best lack all conviction,” as the poet Yeats wrote, “while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
President Barack Obama is not the first cause of these problems but he is the incarnation and champion of the philosophy that is the cause. And as he seeks to divide American voters through envy and anger in the hope he can bamboozle them into the tremendous mistake of electing him again, the opposition seems able to do little more than assemble a hapless array of second stringers to try and stop him.
So we grow depressed and the world seems to be going to hell. But are we done for or just dispirited? Is it Armageddon or just the blues?
I’m not the only one looking for an answer. The New Criterion, led by PJ Media’s brilliant Roger Kimball, has posted a symposium of deep thinkers asking “Is America in Decline?” Mark Steyn’s latest book offers its answer in the title: After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. Over at GBTV, where I do my “Very Serious Commentary” videos, Glenn Beck holds out somewhat more hope but not before advising you to stock your bunker with canned food, bottled water, and guns. It is hard to listen to these knowledgeable men and not feel discouraged.
But the point of my self-quotation is that our feelings are not much of a guide in these matters. This is a world where the perishable is always going about the business of perishing while the eternal is always taking up residence in some new-fangled institution or cultural innovation. We’re always saying goodbye to what we cherish even as it rises from the ashes in some unrecognizable form. Impossible to tell when death is death or just a prelude to resurrection and about the coming of the final hour, as the Bible tells us, no one knows, not even the angels in Heaven.
It’s that unknowing that determines our only reasonable response to our current troubles and to the coming election. Love of freedom and respect for our ancestors forbid our taking refuge in fashionable despair. Faith demands we hope. Honor demands we stand and fight. As the new year begins, only one thing is certain: the end is not yet.
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