While the news media are flooded with inane stories about Biden’s too-low approval ratings, Retrumplican demolition of democracy in the USA goes on apace. How to keep hoping when even many moguls of the “liberal media” have the visual acuity of a bat and the attention span of a gnat? The strong yearning to pretend that we’re back to politics as usual makes as much sense as, and will have worse consequences than, the invincible desire of many to pretend that the COVID pandemic is over.
Meanwhile, here and there, a few intrepid lawyers, professors, and bureaucrats—those most maligned of all humans, and sometimes rightfully so—continue to push the Sisyphean rock up Justice Mountain, upon whose peaks a gaggle of “originalist” SC justices sit waiting to kick them back down. (See https://heathercoxrichardson.substack.com/p/november-4-2021.)
We spent so much energy imagining that the Big Attack would come from Russian spies and missiles. We never prepared for the possibility that it would come from the decay and collapse of the very spirit of America—encouraged and fed by the cybertroopers of a Russian lie-master, yes, and by a jackass-savant of an American president that he helped elect. But we can’t blame the Russians or the orange roué-soleil for the loss of our national vision and will. That’s on us. “We the People” has dissolved, and it’s far from obvious that we will ever be able to reconstitute ourself.
I admire Heather Cox Richardson’s ability to find rays of hope. For me, though, it’s more a matter of continuing, without hope, to do the American citizen thing, and even to try to do it with increasingly serious devotion, while always recalling that my ultimate citizenship is in a kingdom that has outlasted every human regime that has appeared and disappeared over the last two millennia. They all do disappear. It is a great sadness to be watching ours dissolve. But in principle, it should be no surprise. And it would be wrong to stop trying before the game is over.
America was never perfect! Whoever wrote “God mend thine every flaw” knew, perhaps, that the flaws were sufficiently numerous and grievous that only God could ever conceivably mend them. Nostalgia for the golden age that never was is as false and pernicious in those who mourn its loss as in those who think they are retrieving it.
America is sick, as every human polity has always been sick, and it is surely a sickness unto death, like every human sickness. The question is time. How much time do we have, and what will we do with the time that we have? The options include: grab all you can for you and yours while stomping on the hands and heads of those trying to catch up to your level of prosperity; or love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly before your God. Has any generation in any nation really ever been in a different situation, or faced a different choice?
Our most basic choice is not between red and blue, conservative and liberal, Biden and Trump. If that’s where you start, you end up wrong.
Rather: You try to save your life, or you lay it down for others. Those are your two choices. That’s all there ever has been or will be. Everything else flows from that. In America or anywhere else. If you’re a follower of Jesus, you know that. Right?