Nothing outside the United States of America is powerful enough to tear her down. But the rapidly metastasizing cancer of smallness may soon consume her vitality from the inside and the contagion stills the heartbeat of a once-vibrant nation and the Great Experiment concludes.
The hopeful conviction of a people committed to a Creator and a cause greater than themselves gave birth to the United States. The death of the United States may be by the hand of a people committed to the smallness of blind devotion to self.
The Real America
There are still pockets of what was discoverable to those who seek with valiant spirit.
There remains today enough of the old to provide a glimpse of the real America, a nation founded upon the blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice of men emboldened by the promises of a merciful God. This America was a land of the free, home of the brave, with citizens endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.
In the darkest and most inadequate moments of the United States of America there is one thing that should always be remembered about the very nature of our country. It is not such a fool as it looks. The types of American, the fringes and loudest factions of America, always misrepresent the country.
The United States is no longer ruled by the people, but is an oligarchy controlled by an entrenched political class. The nation must prefer that its oligarchy should be inferior to itself else representatives in the capital would represent the people of their district and not one another.
Can the US be Resuscitated?
What follows is my unapologetic tweaking of G.K. Chesterton’s A Glimpse of My Country (1909, England.) I read, I pray, I consider, I attempt to communicate, and I string words together – but harbor no illusions of artistic ability.
Mr. Chesterton was an extraordinary wordsmith who used language the way great masters use a painter’s palette. I want to offer you the best I have. Chesterton’s prose on this or any topic is superior to anything I might compose unassisted. His original essay is in the public domain without copyright.
There is precious little time remaining to resuscitate the United States of America before it dies a small death. It will not go out with a bang but with the cumulative whines and whimpers of all claiming disenfranchisement. The smallness of “If I can’t have mine I don’t care if no one gets any.” has replaced lofty ideals like Nathan Hale’s “I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.”
John F. Kennedy’s 1960 inaugural address challenged citizens to; “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Contrast Kennedy’s message with the current best-selling philosophical selfie; “Only victims believe anyone should die for their country; better the country should die for you.”
The Hidden Nature of Politicians
The speaking in Congress, for instance, is not only worse than the speaking was, it is worse than the speaking is, in all or almost all other places in small debating clubs or casual dinners. Our countrymen probably prefer this solemn futility in the higher places of the national life. It may be a strange sight to see the blind leading the blind; but the United States provides something yet more strange; the US shows us the blind leading people who can see.
For political aristocrats not only speak worse than many other people; they speak worse than themselves. The ignorance of politicians is like the ignorance of judges, an artificial and affected thing. If you have the good fortune to really speak with a politician, you will be constantly startled with his saying quite intelligent things.
It is the same with the voters. The average man votes below himself; he votes with half a mind or with a hundredth part of one. He votes a single issue as if he would feed a single toenail though the remainder of his body starves. A man ought to vote with the whole of himself as he worships or marries. A man ought to vote with his head and heart, his soul and stomach, his eye for faces and his ear for music; also (when sufficiently provoked) with his hands and feet. But as it is, the difficulty with US democracy in all elections is that it is something less than itself. The question is not so much whether only a minority of the electorate votes. The point is that only a minority of the voter votes.
This is especially true of that old intelligent middle class which we imagined had almost vanished from the world. It seemed to me that all the main representatives of the middle class had gone off in one direction or in the other; the old middle class I refer to has no representative today.
Its food was plentiful; but it had no show. Its food was plain; but it had no fads. It was serious about politics; and when it spoke in public it committed the faux pas of trying to speak well. I thought this old earnest political United States had practically disappeared. I took one turn out of Main Street onto a remote Midwest country road and found a room full of it.
Great Thinkers are an endangered species
One thing especially filled my soul with the soul of my fathers. Each man speaking, whether he spoke well or ill, spoke as well as he could from sheer fury against the man with whom he disagreed. This is the greatest of our modern descents, that nowadays a man does not become more rhetorical as he becomes more sincere. An eighteenth- century speaker, when he got really and honestly furious, looked for big words with which to crush his adversary. The new speaker looks for small words to crush him with. He looks for little facts and little sneers.
Instead of stretching to grasp the thoughts of great thinkers we endorse small people above whom we hold ourselves. Politics of personal destruction demean, demoralize, and cripple opponents instead of offering loftier ideals, more thoughtful plans, and seeking the greater good. The victor crowned today is he who eviscerates the opposition in the name of tolerance and goodwill rather than the gentleman of yesteryear who had the good morals to knock him down fairly with a rhetorical fist then offer a hand to pick him up and dust off his backside.
The men in this remote place of middle America are reminiscent of an eighteenth-century club; though entirely different, each one rose to his feet quivering with passion, and tried to destroy his opponent, not with sniggering, but with eloquence.
Suddenly returning from reverie to Main Street at dark, by a dim lamp I saw pasted up some tawdry nonsense about Occupiers and how the people were rising against something that the people had hardly heard of. Then I suddenly saw, as in one obvious picture, that the modern world is an immense and tumultuous ocean, full of monstrous and living things. And I saw that across the top of it is spread a thin sheet of ice; of self-indulgence, wicked wealth, and of lying journalism.
And as I stood there in the darkness hope bubbled up ’tilI I almost fancied that I heard it crack.
Death by Smallness
The question before us is, “How many of the people still prefer a nation that offers the most to the many than one transformed by personal preference into islands of individuality where each is repelled by the other?” Such a nation cannot survive because it is no longer a nation but a random collection unified by nothing more than proximity. How blind have the huddled masses yearning to breathe free become?
God may oblige prayers to tear down the remnants of the old nation, but unlike the days when the United States gave opportunity to all who sincerely sought it, no distant shore remains offering a welcome to victors seeking escape from the destruction they have wrought.
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying:“Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
And He said, “Go, and tell this people: ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
“Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes;
Lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed.” – Isaiah 6
G. K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles, chapter 34, A Glimpse of my Country
Article originally published July 4, 2015. Updated for this website February 2017.