Seeing the truth of what has happened to America
During the post 2000 presidential election crisis in Florida, I wrote a pair of articles for NewsMax.com, called Our Long National Nightmare is Just Beginning, and Our Long National Nightmare, Part II, in which I laid out a series of mostly logical, partly fanciful, and increasingly apocalyptic scenarios that might result from the Democrats’ attempt to overturn the results of a presidential election. A young reader wrote a moving e-mail to me in which he expressed his despair about where the country was headed and asked for some basis for hope about the future. My reply to him, below, was perhaps too grim, reflecting in particular the dark and anxious mood of November and early December 2000, but it presented what I felt was the only basis of hope, which is to recognize the truth.
November 25, 2000
Dear Mr. ________:
It was difficult responding to your e-mail because you’re touching on things that are not just difficult for you but for me too. Over many years I have increasingly felt that our civilization is destroying itself. In one form or another, this is a common experience for serious conservatives. Most establishment conservatives are not serious, they are basically interested in their careers and the economy and having a pleasant life, not in truth or loyalty to our civilization.
There are two dimensions to this destruction: the objective process of the destruction itself, and our own personal experiences of it. Thus different persons come to these realizations at different times.
For me, the realization first came around 1982, when I became aware of the effect of mass Third-World immigration on this country and everything that that entailed, including the loss of America’s very identity as a nation. The experience of destruction accelerated in the 1990s, when one public moral outrage after another occurred which in earlier times would have aroused the opposition of society, but which now was accepted. It is the public acceptance of things that once would have been rejected that marks the destruction of the society.
As just one example, think of Al Sharpton. When, after the Tawana Brawley affair in the late 1980s, Sharpton did not become persona non grata for his vicious lies that had been exposed but instead became a major political celebrity in this country, that was one of the things that signaled to me that our civilization had died. It might still exist physically and be very successful materially, but spiritually it had died and would soon die physically as well.
But, as the saying goes, there is much ruin in a great nation, which I interpret to mean that there is a lot to be ruined. The ruin does not occur all at once, but takes a long time.
Now, in the Clintonian ‘90s and (maybe) the Goresque ‘00s, we have witnessed one outrage after another, and once again it is not the outrage itself that marks the further death of some aspect of our civilization, it is the acceptance and approval of that outrage by mainstream public opinion, combined with the condemnation of ordinary morality and standards as “intolerant” and therefore evil. That was the point of my closing paragraphs in the article on our long national nightmare.
So, that’s the bad part, objectively. Subjectively, the bad part is when we start to realize these things ourselves, when, for example, some incredible transgression occurs in the world of politics or media or entertainment or in the way people are living, and we think to ourselves, “Now people will realize the destructive course we are on, now they will turn away from this.” But instead of that happening, the latest transgression is, as I’ve said, simply seen as normal. This comes as a terrible blow. All the things that we thought were solid and dependable, all the things that constituted our world, seem to be dissolving or are threatened. This is a traumatic experience, and, since there is much objective ruin to be had in a great nation, the subjectively experienced trauma of realizing that it is happening occurs again and again.
There is nothing I can say to relieve you of this experience, which all of us must pass through in our own way. And we must pass through it again and again until we are relieved of our pleasant illusions relating to the basic soundness and goodness of our present society. In other words, we can only begin to see and resist the corruption of the dominant culture when we recognize that it is, in fact, the dominant culture. As long as we’re in the pleasant dream that everything is basically ok, that things in America have never been better and all the rest of it, then in effect we are on the side of the dominant left, defending their work.
The establishment conservatives, by the way, refuse to pass through this traumatic experience of seeing that America has gone fundamentally awry; like Norman Podhoretz in his recent book My Love Affair with America, they are completely invested in the notion of the wonderfulness of America’s current order because it has been so good for them personally. Once again, it all boils down to themselves and their personal sense of well-being, not to any commitment to a larger civilization. For these establishment conservatives, to protest seriously the ongoing destruction of our basic institutions by the dominant left is to be “disruptive” or “anti-American.”
If that’s the bad part, what’s the good part? The good part is, first, that through all these catastrophes we are seeing the unfolding of truth. In the very seeing of falsity and its consequences, we are seeing truth. The greater the darkness, the greater the light that sees that darkness as darkness. There is strength and even joy in this. If something like my final “nightmare” scenario occurred, in which Clinton suspends the Constitution and stays in office, that would be horrible, but it would also be great, because it would start to wake up people to the evil that they have themselves acquiesced in step by step all these years. It would be a truthful revelation of the nature of evil that would help many people reject that evil. (People haven’t recognized the evil because they are too damned comfortable with their lives and themselves; thus it is only something really awful that can wake them up.)
Second, all the falsity and evil in the world cannot destroy truth and goodness. Even if the falsity seems triumphant at the moment, it is still falsity. Even if, for example, everyone in the world believed that Clinton’s behavior was acceptable for a president, because “everybody does it,” or even if everyone in the world believed that the House Managers were simply rabid partisans who were trying to destroy Clinton because they couldn’t abide a Democrat in the White House or because they were sex-crazed puritans or whatever, that would not make it true. Truth can never be defeated by falsity.
Third, there is a lot to fight for, much of our civilization still remains and can be saved.
I hope this letter has not seemed too grim in response to your request to be given some signs of hope. But that’s the reality as I see it, and I feel that true hope can only arise on the basis of seeing the reality.