Tuesday, January 10, 2006

WILL AMERICA SURVIVE?

As another year begins, a grim question haunts me: Will America survive?

I read the contemptuous remarks of jihadist critics and cringe. The cogency of barbs directed toward a decadent culture seems palpable. The burning of thousands of autos in France by “disaffected youths” presages the future of a culture dedicated to the proposition that life is a random development within a universe destined for oblivion.

The only thought that prevents despair is my recognition that two countries exist side by side within this nation. And the answer to the question about survival depends on which of the two ultimately prevails.

On the one hand, there is the America that believes its rights to life and liberty are gifts of a benevolent Creator—an America that embraces the motto “In God We Trust” not as a creed to be forced on non-believers but as a humble affirmation of goodness that transcends the vagaries of human ambition and weakness.

There is the America where family life is revered and wedding vows are taken with due solemnity. In this America children are cherished as blessings to whom parents owe their best efforts and from whom they receive the reward of enduring affection.

There is the America that proclaims the equality of all its citizens before the law based on the belief that each person bears a divine imprint. In this society individuals are judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

There is the America of honest labor, diligence, and industry—the country whose bounty rests on the pillars of self-control, law, education, and institutions that inspire in workers the confidence that they will receive the due fruits of their labor.

There is America the grateful, America the generous, America the sacrificial—the nation that produces brave men and women in uniform and proudly salutes them. This America flies the flag with respect and bears the heavy burdens that must be borne to insure the survival and success of liberty.

On the other hand, there is the America whose creed revolves around the popular anthem “Do your own thing.” This country exports to the world countless scenes of soulless sensuality. In this America life is reduced to a frenzied pursuit of glittering trinkets and serial highs that end, ideally, in a quick and painless dissolution of sentience.

In this America government is viewed as the black-robed guarantor of the right to be as nasty as you wanna be—as the champion of those who wish to be offensive, but not to be offended. This is the America that views vulgarity as a sign of sophistication—that takes pride in flaunting its depravity and in showing contempt for traditional virtues.

This is the America where innocence is derided and children are reduced to an exploitable demographic—the America where selfishness is equated with rationality and patriotism is mocked as the folly of chumps. This is the America where women who parent their own kids are viewed as losers or traitors to their sex.

In this America well over a million fetuses are aborted every year, and an Ivy League professor speaks glibly of killing defective newborns. In this America hip parents smile smugly as corporate pimps transform their daughters into miniature streetwalkers and their sons into baggy-pant gangsta dudes.

This is the America that calls moral emptiness “tolerance” and uses the word “trust” to describe parental neglect. In this America moral fervor is expended on fashionable causes that don’t inconvenience laidback lifestyles—not on the development of character. .

This is the America of Tinseltown and Madison Avenue—of easy sex, entertainment, and ennui. This is the America that blames a few corporate and political scapegoats for self-inflicted wounds and touts entitlements as the cure-all drug for a late-night congregation that worships its gut and reviles righteousness.

The latter America, I am confident, will not survive and does not deserve to survive. 300 years of toil and principled sacrifice have not been endured for the sake of a society that sings debauched hymns to the gods of self-indulgence. The only question is whether that moribund society will drag the other America along with it into the dustbin of history.

4 comments:

G.Rap said...

Brilliant. The complicating problem is that both Americas often exist in tension within individual people. And where are they learning the wisdom and fortitude to sacrifice the worse for the better parts of their own selves as the dustbin yawns (in both senses)?

James Cardener said...

Happy New Year Mr. Kirk,

Thank you for continuing to share your thoughts. I have given more thought to your words and I feel a bit more centered,less frustrated, and less fixated on where to channel my anger.

Be Well,

James Cardener

RKirk said...

My best to you, Mr. Cardener. I hope the new year brings you greater peace and a life enriched with acts of love--given and received.

To Dr. Rap: Thanks for the review. It is true that even the best folks have dark sides with which they must struggle. But there is also value, I think, in putting forth the "two sides" of an issue without injecting "complications" into the mix. Martin Buber spoke of the value of speaking in such stark Yes and No terms, lest we lose essential distinctions amid a plethora of footnotes.

Put otherwise, there is, indeed, a full-bodied three-dimensional community of "good" people and another actual community of profoundly "selfish" people--even given the fact that all of us are imperfect. Indeed, I need not include myself in the category of "good" folks to make this socio-ethical observation. I think it is important to point, concretely, at communities that constitute the hope or the doom of the nation.

Put bluntly, Hollywood is a sewer--and so is Madison Avenue. Other communities, despite their faults, largely embrace the ideals upon which national survival depends. National survival doesn't demand perfect individuals. It does require a substantial community that praises virtue as its ideal.

Axolotl said...
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