The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Whither America?

When I was a young boy, first going to school, one of the first things we learned to do was to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. When I first learned it, it did not have "under God" in it. That was added in 1954 but had been used since 1951 by a couple of national organizations but predominantly by the Knights of Columbus. It came from a Lincoln speech, the one at Gettysburg... you may recall that speech, quite famous.

The last sentence (a rather long and convoluted one, we might call it a "run on sentence") goes like this:

"It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the
great task remaining before us…that from these honored
dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which
they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here
highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain;
that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of
freedom; and that government of the people, by the people,
for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
[emphasis added]

No one seemed to think it was a bad idea to add that phrase back then. But that was before the onslaught of lawsuits over separation of Church and State began. It could never had been added in 1964, just ten years later.

That's how quickly this nation seems to change. We have changed many times over my meager lifetime. We have now become as fragmented as were were in the decades leading up to the Civil War. Only the lines are not so easily drawn today. The lines are philosophical, ideological, and seem to have no physical demarcation. Now our divisions have no "Mason-Dixon Line". We are divided internally between Progressive and Conservative ideologies. At the same time, we are under assault from the outside by other ideologies.

I am used to the external assault. Being born in the year after the end of World War II, I grew up with the Cold War. I did the "Duck and Cover" drills... as if hiding under a little school desk would protect us against a nuclear attack... like all the other kids. The Soviet Union seemed a real threat. It took about 10 years for that to change. By the mid-60's, most of the youth pretty much felt the Soviets were not likely to invade or to start a war that would, essentially, destroy all civilization.

I had figured out that it would make no sense to achieve a victory that would be entirely Pyrrhic. I might have been a bright child at age 12 (when I first recall thinking much about it) but I figured the people running nations were at least as smart and knew it also. The logic was called "Mutual Assured Destruction" (aka "MAD"). It was working. Because we understood that even the Godless Soviets didn't want to return to the Stone Age. And I think the Soviets didn't really fear an attack from us, they just promoted that as a way to unify their people... much as Castro has done for 50+ years in Cuba and Chavez does in Venezuela. And Iran has done since 1979. As Qaddafi is doing now.

I used to wonder why the Soviets thought we would attack them. But what really bothered me was that there were people who lived here, in the U.S., that seemed to think we would. In the second half of the 60's, a lot of the youth seemed to entertain that thought. I suppose that is understandable. We were embroiled in a pointless war halfway around the world. There were terrible stories coming out of that and no one seemed to understand why we were there. No one saw little Vietnam as any threat to the big old USA. And few under the age of 30 were buying into the Domino Theory.

We have a new Domino Theory developing. Let's call it the "Islamic Dominoes Theory." A bit of chaos morphs into a popular revolt, the revolt topples a long standing dicator or monarch, and out of the resulting power vacuum, the Islamist movement grabs control. You can see it in action in the Middle East and North Africa. You will see it in more and more areas in the next few years. It started in Iran in 1978-1979. That was the model for what is happening now.

Instead of presenting a united front against this, the US is fractured. We are fighting more against each other and ignoring the greater threat.

There are times, I wish someone deeply respected by all sides would stand up and say "Enough! Start behaving like adults! There are worse things in this world than having a Democrat or Republican in charge." But there is no such person today. Ironically, I would probably fear that person as much as I feared Stalin and Khrushchev and Mao in those early Cold War years.


Irish Gumbo said...

You said it best: there is no such person today. And I probably wouldn't trust them, either, if they did step up. It seems like things are getting more tribal these days, and I for one am not exactly sure what tribe I belong to.

Douglas4517 said...

The more united we were supposed to become (according to 60's myths) the more divided we have turned out to be. It's been a bit like following a stock broker's advice,

T.C. said...

I think people are not budging from their ideological beliefs these days. Yet, as you point out, it's not really about that. In some way, it relates to my point about Quebec and its (by old-world nationalists) increasingly pointless language war they seem addicted to.

Nice post!

T.C. said...

I should have expanded. The language war distracts Quebec from progressing free of manufactured cultural wars.

Sightings said...

I don't buy the argument that America is disintegrating. Sure, there are plenty of different groups and attitudes -- rich vs. poor; liberal vs. conservative; coastal vs. midwest; black vs. white; men vs. women; young vs. old -- but most of these divisions have been around for a long time, and many of them used to be a lot worse. There's no more KKK; no more lynchings; no more Joe McCarthy; no more Stalinists or Weathermen. Even male chauvinist pigs are an endangered species.

The political divide we hear about constantly, ad nauseum, is in my opinion largely a construct of the media. On FOX, the more outrageous the guest, the higher the ratings (think Ann Coulter). Meanwhile, the more MSNBC fights FOX, the higher their ratings. They all seem to follow the old axiom that the best way to get attention is to start a fight, and so the level of their conservation is about the same as a bunch of drunks at a rowdy bar.

I'm kind of a mealy mouthed independent moderate myself, so maybe I just want to believe that Americans are more reasonable than the media would have us believe. But most of us are not like a bunch of rowdy drunks at a bar. When you talk to your neighbors and friends and relatives, you usually have a civil discussion even though you sometimes disagree. Don't you?

Douglas4517 said...

Aren't culture wars the the primary purpose of any civilization?

Douglas4517 said...

To a great extent, I agree with you. I don't think America is disintegrating
but I do think it has that potential. People aren't dividing along ethnic
lines so much as they are along ideological lines. Yes, all the news
channels tend to engage in the adversarial format. Especially the
commentary/opinion shows. That actually started on "60 Minutes" with the
segment back in 1971. But the main thing I have noticed over the last 20
years or so is an increase in the animosity toward those who disagree
politically. My brother and I are polar opposites when it comes to politics.
We have to make an effort to to avoid the subject altogether or we'd just
end up shouting at each other. As for the Weathermen (Weather Underground),
they have mainstreamed into academia and government. Well, the ones that
avoided very long prison sentences and didn't blow themselves up anyway. The
60's "street politics" is now mainstream. Well, just my opinion.