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I have never been partial to doomsday scenarios. End-of-the-world prophecies always seem to leave their proponents in the throes of revisionary confusion, manically adjusting their calculations and hoping to get it right the next time, and the time after that, ad vomitatum. Mark Biltz and John Hagee have belabored the blood moon event, but lunar tetrads of no overwhelming significance have occurred before. Population gurus promise mass starvation while the food supply defiantly increases. Flood experts inform us that the entire eastern seaboard will soon be under water but ocean levels remain insolently stable. Global warmists predict an atmospheric inferno while the temperature refuses to comply and the next Ice Age gradually but inexorably approaches. And so it goes.
Real threats to our wellbeing and even existence—a wayward asteroid, an EMP attack neutralizing the electrical grid, or the cultural debacle of unrestricted Islamic immigration—are exigencies that can be met, given the mental alertness and political will to prepare for and defuse them. Doomsday scripts and warnings are another matter, figments of the realm of theological speculation or pathological fantasy. Yet one must always allow for a possible exception to the general rule, if only to avoid the intellectual rigidity of epistemic and ideological dogmatism.
Recently I’ve been reading Jonathan Cahn’s two disturbing books — The Harbinger (a novel) and The Mystery of the Shemitah (a non-fiction study) — foretelling the imminent collapse of the United States. Cahn, who bills himself as a messianic rabbi and pastor, is a dreadful writer, repetitious to the point of reader catatonia, enamored of the trick of posing obvious rhetorical questions and then answering them as if he were pulling a rabbit—or a rabbi—out of a hat, and occasionally prone to assuming premises as axioms. To take just one example of the latter, the Christian site Lighthouse Trails explains that pluralistic America’s relation to God is very different from God’s relation to theocratic ancient Israel—the one initiated by man, the other by God—which Cahn wrongly presumes to be equivalent. And yet, for the most part, the evidence he marshals for the revelation he relentlessly advances is inarguably compelling. There is just too much specific and relevant data to discount. The books need to be closely studied if one is to get the full brunt of his thesis, but his argument can be stated in cameo form.
Shemitah is the Hebrew word for “release” or “remission,” referring to the Sabbath Year enjoined by the Lord in the Tanakh (the Hebrew canon) as an obligation upon the children of Israel. Every seventh year the nation is required to leave the land fallow and to cancel all debt and credit, a year of cessation from productive activity commemorating the seventh day of creation when the Lord rested from his labors. The shemitah is an acknowledgment that the land belongs not to the people but to God and that all blessings and prosperity flow ultimately from the Divine.
However, when it is ignored or forgotten, the blessing it entails upon the people of Israel morphs into a judgment of disaster. This judgment is foreshadowed by nine harbingers, adumbrated in strict sequence in the Book of Isaiah—recorded as the Breach, the Terrorist, the Fallen Bricks, the Tower, the Gazit Stone, the Sycamore, the Erez Tree, the Utterance and the Prophecy—intended to warn the people to change their ways and return to the terms of communion and observance. Every one of these omens, which Cahn elaborates in minute detail, has occurred from 9/11 to the present with serial exactitude. But should the auguries fall on deaf ears and blind eyes, calamity inevitably ensues.
Cahn contends that the harbingers apply not only to ancient Israel but to contemporary America, which was founded on principles that formally established it as a second Israel and a nation consecrated to God. He has in mind the words of dedication from George Washington’s first presidential address: “there is no truth more thoroughly established, than that…the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.” Food for thought.
The literal conditions of observance may have changed, but the recognition of grace and benediction, the belief that the nation has been consecrated, remains binding. Should the nation turn away from its origins and betray its hallowed commitment, it will begin to break apart. “As did ancient Israel,” Cahn writes, “so now America began removing God from its national life, from its culture, its government, and its public squares.” Cahn’s narrative surrogate in The Harbinger pronounces his own judgment on America: “America must now face the magnitude of its moral and spiritual descent, the degrading of its culture…and the altars covered with the blood of the innocent.” For among the multitude of its sins, we come to understand, America is sacrificing its unborn in record numbers. “Barbarity has seeped into the culture so completely,” writes conservative author Fay Voshell, “that its toxicity has poisoned nearly every institution, every court of law, every educational institution and very nearly every family.”
This is the burden of Cahn’s argument. America has sunk into the swamp of corruption and venality and is ripe for chastisement and retribution. As a result, the nine prophetic signs of judgment have now come to pass, which Cahn charts with mathematical and graphic precision, making his warnings hard to dismiss as the hallucination of yet one more cracked soothsayer. The biblical template has been followed to the letter.
Like Israel at the time of the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions, Cahn warns, America is set to founder, militarily, financially and economically. Although I am a skeptic by nature, I readily confess that I cannot simply wish away the many strands of evidence Cahn presents. Each one by itself may be regarded as problematic, but taken in their entirety the tapestry he has woven is quite terrifying in its individual features, completeness, vividness and uniformity. The authors of an American Vision pamphlet take issue with some of Cahn’s fiscal data regarding market disarray, but do not effectively succeed in scuttling his general thesis. In short, his accounting is unlike the fanciful prognostications of the general run of catastrophists, whose predictions always fail to be realized. Cahn is on to something and should be read with an open mind.
What Cahn sees as a biblical prophecy, I see as a perfect storm, a levy of forces, events and developments coming to bear upon America—and the West—at approximately the same historical moment and working eerily in unison. Before I had opened Cahn’s pages, I was drafting a series of notes toward an essay on the subject of America’s decline, in which I had compiled, oddly enough, nine signs or harbingers of my own, which I called “portents” and “heralds” presaging a coming collapse. True, these auspices were not based upon a biblical pattern and they did not march in the systematic order of Cahn’s harbingers, nor were they plotted on a temporal graph or affixed to the calendar. But taken in their aggregate, they seem incontestable in their collective momentum and persuasiveness.
I have no way of knowing if this strange alignment of nines is the result of serendipity or mere accident. However that may be, these were for me unmistakable heralds of cultural dissolution. Each of the issues I examine has been treated extensively in a plethora of books and articles over the years, as well as in my own essays, so they need not be amplified here. I list them in no particular order from the notes I had assembled, pre-Cahn.
Education. American pre-university education, with its inbred pedagogical and curricular decrepitude, has been further compromised by the entrenching of the Common Core program, characterized by coercive federal intrusion and string-attached funding, monopoly publishing and testing, elimination of pivotal American figures and historical events, a leftist disposition, and a powerful pro-Muslim bias.
Higher education is in no better shape. There can be no doubt that the university has been in free fall since the radical takeover of its mission in the festering 1960s, though its decline can be traced back to the “progressive,” child-centered pedagogy of John Dewey in the early 20th century. Standards have been lowered to admit those who are unfit for the rigors of post-secondary education; the curriculum has been both diluted and politicized; the campus has become a hotbed of revolutionary sentiment and activism; debate, argument and the free exchange of ideas are no longer part of its intellectual currency as a left consensus has shut down the expression of contrary views; feminist orthodoxy has exerted a castrating effect on university teaching and policy; trigger warnings prioritize feelings over knowledge, infantilizing a student body that must be spared the slightest twitch of emotional discomfort; and draconian language laws meant to combat expressions of “micro-aggression,” no matter how vanilla, have prohibited statements like “America is the land of opportunity” or “I believe the most qualified person should get the job.” In short, the utopian ideal of “social justice” has snookered the pursuit of truth and the formation of inquiring minds.
In the language of Jack Cashill’s recent Scarlet Letters, a critique of the cult of liberal intolerance, the university has been commandeered by an “inquisitorial” and “neo-puritanical” camarilla of administrators, professors and students. Analogously, academic fascism, writes Walter Williams, “pose[s] a far greater threat to our way of life than any terrorist organization or rogue nation.”
In effect, the liberal arts have ceased to exist.
By the same token, the professional and technical disciplines have also been corrupted by the race, class and gender shibboleths on affirmative admission policies that typify the modern academy. As The Wall Street Journal reports, “four in 10 U.S. college students graduate without the complex reasoning skills to manage white-collar work.” The university now graduates in ever increasing volume a class of sanctimonious and indoctrinated incompetents—a recipe for social calamity.
Gender Theory. Gender has come increasingly to be regarded not as a biological fact but as a social construct, and ultimately as an expression of one’s “inner feelings” (as if there were any other kind) and affect-laden sense of sexual or personal identity. A man is a woman is a trans is a tiger is a wolf—in other words, an idiosyncratic caricature of a normal human being. This absurd and self-indulgent deformation of nature—living and thinking A Rebours, to cite Joris-Karl Huysman’s early analysis of cultural degeneracy—has produced a society—or its patrician echelon—in process of losing its bearings, unmoored from the traditional usages that served to keep it intact. The trend toward gross disfigurement and mutilation analyzed in J. Robert Smith’s incisive article “Trans isn’t Just for You” is merely another sign of the rampaging decadence of a culture on the skids. Putting the stamp of legitimacy on the farce-in-progress, Obama has just signaled his approval of gender dysfunction in appointing the freakish transgender aspirant Raffi Freedman-Gurspan as director of outreach and recruitment for the White House personnel office. It is not only a random group of misfits and weirdos engaged in a fringe exhibition that should concern us; it is an entire culture that is mutating away from itself.
Such aberrations follow from and go hand in hand with a longstanding, aggressive and doctrinaire feminism that has infected every important social and professional institution, leading to the legal and societal deprivileging and even the feminization of men, who must not only endure institutional inequities but must continually apologize for their existence—another recipe for social and cultural catastrophe. Janice Fiamengo’s new video series The Fiamengo File is devoted to a wide-ranging analysis of this sociocultural and academic travesty and repays consulting.
Immigration. Open-door immigration, a consequence of programmatic multiculturalism conceived as a social good and justified by the contentless mantra of “diversity,” is a surefire source of disorder, tension and sporadic episodes of violence. Indeed, the incursion of Islam into the West is nothing less than the latest installment of the millennial campaign to subvert and conquer the liberal democracies of the developed world. The Islamic doctrine of hijra or migration, emulating Mohammad’s journeys to Medina (originally Yathrib) and Abyssinia, is being re-enacted before our noses. The evidence is all around us and is so convincing that only the deluded, the cowed or the complicit can deny or cosmeticize or facilitate its progress.
Europe is disintegrating before our eyes, the Commonwealth nations are gradually being destabilized, and the United States now finds itself saddled not only with a growing and restive Islamic community but with dubious Muslim officials embedded in the highest levels of its administration and a president who has modified the oath of allegiance so that immigrants [read: Muslims] need not “bear arms on behalf of the United States.”
Add to this the unstanchable deluge of illegal migrants pouring across the southern border, abetted by the current government, swollen by anchor baby, “birth tourism,” and antiquated chain migration law, and encouraged by the existence of so-called sanctuary cities. As a result, we have a country losing its national character and exposing itself to mounting domestic turbulence.
Religion. No less than Nature, the human spirit abhors a vacuum. The empty pews of the mainstream Christian churches and, to a lesser degree, the reformist adulteration of the Jewish communion are obvious signs of cultural desuetude and the evisceration of moral principle, betokening the decoupling of Judeo-Christian civilization from its sustaining origins. Human beings, however, cannot live without faith in some aspect of transcendence, irrespective of how tarnished, brittle or artificial. The vacuum is ineluctably filled by pretenders to the throne, whether a belief in some secular ideology, political cause or a competing theology such as Islam qualified by emotional fervor, self-assurance and communal solidarity (which the 14th century Tunisian scholar Ibn Khaldun in his monumental book The Muqaddimah called asabiyyah, the “bond of cohesion”). One becomes a social justice warrior or a warrior for Islam or some other substitute for what has been relinquished. As G.K. Chesterton is reputed to have said, “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.”
The problem is that what has been lost tends to remain lost. The customary and immemorial groundwork of values and virtues that unifies a people undergoes a tectonic shift and issues in a ubiquitous sense of social anomie, defined by the French sociologist Émile Durkheim as a condition of anxiety and disequilibrium caused by the wasting away of standard purposes and ethical ideals. Aside from the robust evangelical community, the U.S., like Europe, is turning away from its religious foundations, with the attendant loss of civil coherence. From one, many.
Replacement Ratio. When a nation ceases to reproduce itself, the prognosis for long-term survival is patently negative. Every liberal democracy, with the exception of Israel, has fallen dramatically beneath the replacement ratio of 2.1, including the United States (reaching an historic low in 2013, according to Forbes ). This is a palpable sign of impending ruination that cannot be ignored.
As Western cultures grow increasingly hedonistic , concentrating on pleasure and entertainment rather than living productive and reproductive lives—Iain Bamforth remarks in A Doctor’s Dictionary how “hedonism has turned into a kind of militancy”— as marriage becomes a failing social institution, and as pro-choice abortion is now virtually unlimited, it is only a matter of time before the regenerative mortgage forecloses. The subprime market of childbearing appears here to stay. Immigration may partially replenish the census, but the upshot is that the liberal democracies, and especially America with its double influx, will forfeit their civilizational patrimony, shrivel and decay.
Anti-Semitism. Although anti-Semitism and its cognate, anti-Zionism, are by no means a significant social depravity in the U.S., they flourish in three major constituencies: the elite leftist segment of the population, the Democratic Party, and, most tellingly, the administration of Barack Obama, whose foreign policy is demonstrably anti-Israel and pro-Muslim, in particular pro-Iranian. Throwing his support behind the Muslim Brotherhood while playing Doctor Faustus to a diabolical ayatollah, he has, in fact, surrendered the Middle East to prolonged Muslim insurgency, thus endangering the survival of Israel, America’s traditional and loyal ally. Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren’s recent book Ally, despite its measured tones, makes this act of treachery amply clear. Similarly, “if Obama has his way,” observes James Lewis in a short but compendious article for American Thinker, “Israel will be the first national victim.”
Domestically, Obama’s relation to the Jews is wily and perfidious, favoring ostensible Jewish organizations like J Street and various rabbinical conclaves (Rabbis for Obama, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, Rabbis for Human Rights, etc.) that work against the welfare of the Jewish state. It is fair to say that a form of institutional anti-Zionism, the modern instance and deceptive guise of age-old anti-Semitism, has taken root in the U.S.
Anti-Semitism is an historically validated sign that a host nation is working against its own best interests. Julien Bauer points out in a recent article, accentuating the unintended irony of self-destructive vengefulness: “The West is, most probably without being conscious of it, encouraging Israel, and its high-technology sector, to be increasingly linked with Asian countries, accelerating the rise of Asia in the world. In that way, the West’s enduring anti-Semitism, consciously or not, is helping bring about the end of Western political, cultural, [and] economic…domination of the world.” The anti-Zionism pervading the American government is another illustration of its approaching plummet.
Race. Race relations in the U.S. have markedly deteriorated under the suzerainty of the present administration, in some places resembling guerilla warfare as black-on-white violence proliferates and race riots are becoming an almost regular occurrence. Victor Davis Hanson in an article for PJ Media aptly titled “The Tragic and Complete Collapse of Racial Relations” indicates that “a small cohort of urban African-American males under fifty—no more than 3-4% of the general population—is responsible for about 50% of many of the violent crimes committed.” The racial divide is widening rather than closing and the prospect for civil upheaval metastasizes alarmingly.
The irony is undeniable. The two-term election of a black president and the installation of two successive black attorneys-general—Hanson remarks that the prestigious roster includes “the secretary of Transportation, the secretary of Homeland Security, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the head of NASA,” not counting overt disproportion in favor of African-Americans in government service and sports management positions—should have signified to most doubters that America is clearly putting to rest a troubled history. Instead, a great opportunity to further the work of the civil rights movement has been squandered—apparently by design. Civil disorder is radical community organizer Saul Alinsky’s formula for revolutionary triumph, and his handbook Rules for Radicals is the Democratic Party’s bible. Alinsky was the subject of Hillary Clinton’s senior thesis at Wellesley College and Obama’s teaching at Chicago University Law School.
The Economy. The American economy under the statist and regulatory dispensation of the present administration is plainly on the verge of implosion. Massive unemployment, the piling on of astronomical debt, the collapse of the housing market, the insensate printing of fiat money, the downgrading of the nation’s credit rating, the high cost of the carbon conspiracy fostered by the false hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming, a crushing trade deficit, and the precarious status of the reserve currency all point to a looming and unprecedented fiscal cataclysm in the making.
Niall Ferguson in The Ascent of Money observes that the dollar “depreciated roughly 25 per cent against the currencies of its major trading partners,” bad news indeed. Similarly, economist Michael Snyder notes the negative ratio of wholesale inventories to sales in the U.S., the plunge of consumer spending to multi-year lows, and the sinking of the Dow below the 200-day moving average in the last four years. These are all indices of a deepening financial crisis and an imminent major recession. Its reach is global and what Ferguson has called “a weary American titan” will not be spared.
Obama. Anyone who doubts that Barack Hussein Obama, to quote James Lewis once again, is a “false messiah” and “a cancer on the body politic,” a Marxist-trained and Alinsky-inspired radical, an Islamic sympathizer, a nuclearizing agent for Iran (thus fulfilling Carter’s legacy), a congenital liar and frivolous narcissist, a contemptible dispenser of apologies for a country that has been—or had been—a force for good in a maleficent world, and the worst and most dangerous president in American history by an order of magnitude—anyone who doubts this has not been listening or looking or is himself dedicated to America’s destruction.
Add to this the redistributionist tax-and-entitlement policies Obama has put in place, effectively robbing one class of earners to subsidize those who do not pay taxes. As former secretary of the treasury Andrew Mellon wrote in his 1924 Taxation: The People’s Business, “I have never viewed taxation as a means of rewarding one class of taxpayers or punishing another. If such a point of view ever controls our public policy, the traditions of freedom, justice, and equality of opportunity, which are the distinguishing characteristics of our American civilization, will have disappeared.…The man who seeks to perpetuate prejudice and class hatred is doing America an ill service.…[B]y arraying one class of taxpayers against another, he shows a complete misconception of those principles of equality on which the country was founded.”
Moreover, in the words of Wall Street Journal deputy editor Daniel Henninger, it is Obama who “unleashe[d] the left” against the American university, via a Title IX instrument that imposes a near-totalitarian compliance on parietal life and conduct. The interstice between Obama and his “Marcusian mobs” is a place where the sun doesn’t shine.
“Everywhere we turn,” laments former president of Americans for Limited Government Bill Wilson, “American freedoms and free markets are under attack—from Obamacare’s insidious individual mandate to the IRS persecution of conservative groups to the NSA’s warrantless mass surveillance of all Americans.” The litany of progressive evils continues, launched by a “vast left-wing conspiracy” epitomized by “selective justice, the perpetual subsidization of our dependency culture, open borders, a disarmed populace, vaporized property rights…the ceding of popular authority to the state (and American sovereignty to the world), the deification of progressive leaders, mass youth indoctrination via government-subsidized revisionist history, the debasing of religious freedom [and] the erosion of the U.S. Constitution.” Protest is contra-indicated and dissent quashed, as conservative film-maker and author Dinesh D’Souza, arraigned for a minor campaign finance infraction and ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment (shades of the Soviet Union), has discovered.
Under Obama’s nation-withering hand, the land of the free and the home of the brave is fast becoming the land of the hunted and the home of the suborned. Obama is like a Judas goat leading the sheep into the abattoir. If this ruthless minion of the left completes his term successfully according to his intentions, the United States will not recover. It will be fatally riven by internal dissension, infiltrated by avowed enemies and millions of so-called “undocumented workers” and queue-jumpers, drowning in unpayable debt, subject to judicial intimidation and repressive state control, and vulnerable to a host of hostile nations—China, Russia and Iran, to name only the most prominent. It will be game over.
Of course, Obama did not appear out of nowhere; the way was already long prepared for him. An almost unbroken series of inept, amoral and mendacious presidents, a leftist governing class addicted to evasion, fabrication and outright deceit, and a dumbed-down electorate have furnished the White House for his occupancy.
But Obama himself, to use Cahn’s word, is the ninth harbinger.
A considerable sector of the American public is surely aware, dimly or acutely, of several, many or all of the nine signs of approaching national collapse assembled here, even though these portents are almost universally censored or deliberately misrepresented by the liberal elite, by government and academia, and by mainstream press and TV coverage. These entities operate under the aegis of what has come to be known as political correctness, the assault upon truth, honesty and candid expression that taints and devitalizes the culture. It serves a triple function, namely, to suppress anything that opposes orthodox opinion or is felt as unpleasant, no matter how crucial to our wellbeing, to flatter our exalted sense of ourselves, and to promote a political agenda by masking its underlying purpose. As George Orwell famously observed and history has abundantly demonstrated, the perversion of language is a tried and tested facet of totalitarian strategy, which seeks to destroy the ability of a subject population to think lucidly and to make reasoned judgments.
Political correctness is a moral atrocity and an infallible symptom of social and cultural rot, in essence, of a reluctance to confront reality and a manifestation of the unholy terror of plain honesty. It instills a fear in ordinary folk of calling things by their right names, of speaking truth, or even of telling jokes that might offend some sensitive soul or of uttering something that violates yet another in a burgeoning tally of social taboos. The result is that a culture that hides from itself cannot expect to hide from its enemies. And America, probably the most litigious country on the planet, is in the grip of this mortal disease.
Consequently, as much as I hate to say this, I do not see America heeding the decisive signs of national collapse—Cahn’s nine harbingers or my nine portents, different from one another but foretelling the same endgame. There have been two major “shakings”—Cahn’s term from Isaiah—namely, 9/11 and its aftermath, and the stock market and economic collapse of 2007/8. We are both certain a third is in the offing. What form it will take is not graven in stone. It may manifest as a financial collapse with global implications. It may involve a significant terrorist attack on American soil. It may manifest as a nuclear war in the Middle East now that Israel’s conventional options against a genocidal Iran, to quote nuclear expert John Bosma, have “been stripped away by Obama’s decision…to let Iranian bomb-making R&D run free…while imposing lethal restrictions on Israeli countermeasures”—a war which would also impact the U.S.in political and economic mayhem. Something wicked this way comes. One way or another, a malign carnival is coming to town, and a happy ending is by no means guaranteed.
In the most stunning of Cahn’s correlations, he points out that Ground Zero, the locus of the first great “shaking,” faces and was owned by St. Paul’s Chapel, where on April 30, 1789, immediately following his inauguration at Federal Hall in New York City, “George Washington, the nation’s first president, [accompanied by] the Senate and the House of Representatives, bowed together to consecrate the new nation’s future.” Ground Zero was America’s ground of consecration. It is now the Valley of Jezreel. The Divine blessing has been transformed into a Divine judgment and the sacrament has turned into a punishment. America has been warned.
There are a number of ways, as I suggested at the outset, that I’m not in complete sympathy with Cahn. In particular, I cannot accept the Christian apologetics of Cahn’s conclusion. I am not able to take Jesus into my heart, any more than I can convince myself I would have liked the Hebrew patriarchs and prophets if I had to live with them, rather than merely reading about their exploits and absorbing their profundities. Admiration is not conviviality and respect is not intimacy. I don’t know where I stand with regard to the sacramental but I can recognize immorality, deceit and corruption when I see it, including in myself. I don’t write from a holier-than-thou perspective. In an imperfect world full of imperfect selves, one’s aspirations for thoroughgoing renewal, whether of the individual, the nation or humanity itself, must eschew extravagance to avoid both harm and disappointment. In the case under discussion, I would be content with the prospect of a gradual revival of national will and a sane foreign policy, the re-assertion of the entrepreneurial spirit, and the re-emergence, however halting, of an ethic of common decency and administrative prudence. Implausible, to be sure.
The unmistakable signs of a disaster from which we would all suffer, the fall of the once-greatest nation on earth, have left me “shaken.” After all, nothing is too big to fail, not even the universe as it moves toward the eventual Big Crunch. On a less cosmic but still critical scale, the question I now pose is paramount. Can the desired election of a responsible and patriotic conservative administration undo the damage and turn back the tide of devastation? Can America return to its foundations? The future, like science, is not settled. Chance—or miracle—may intervene to alter a trajectory. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely to me, but such is the only species of “hope and change” that is authentic, that is at least theoretically conceivable, and that really matters.