The Reason for Optimism
Lies cannot last forever.
by James Leroy Wilson
September 23, 2004
In a recent Letter to the Editor, Brian Mack wrote,
"Ours is an inefficient, corruptible, and all too often failing system of government. However, I think that we can agree that it is also the best working model the world has ever seen. We have several examples of JLW's 'dark view', my question would then be what is the light view? Is there anything that you’re happy about vis-à-vis the way that the country is going?"
I would probably choose the Swiss Confederation as a superior model. The executive in that system, as I recall, has no where near the power of the American President. And its model of decentralized, local government, and neutrality in foreign affairs - the system the Founders envisioned, would have made America a much more free and secure country than it is today. Switzerland ought to have been our model; instead, we chose to inherit Great Britain’s nationalization of public affairs and the Messianic, imperialistic desire to “save” the world.
The downfall of the USA is ultimately not its form of government, but the nationalist impulse. Switzerland’s Confederation includes three different major linguistic groups, and they are jealous to keep their public affairs local - as they have for several centuries. In the USA, the people are transient, moving from place to place. Our oldest settlements aren’t even 400 years old. We get our cultural bearings not from the place we have lived in for just a few years, but from Washington, D.C. This nationalism, while understandable considering the demographic and sociological realities, is abhorrent to the design and language of the Constitution. And once we ignore the inconvenient parts of the Constitution (such as the Tenth Amendment), we are susceptible to sliding off its rails and flying off the cliff of tyranny.
Ultimately, a culture which values family and community will better protect liberty than a culture which exalts nationalism and ideology, regardless of what the Constitution says or how the political system works. I doubt that America has the cultural tools anymore to restore family or community, or even robust individualism.
That said, not all is hopeless. Is there anything that I’m happy about vis-à-vis the way the country is going? Well, the phony “assault weapons ban” expired. And by and large I prefer a culture of social toleration - those who would permit homosexuals to live their lives as they see fit are more likely to support at least incremental decriminalization of narcotics and bring an end to our barbaric War on Drugs.
And, as the power of unions decrease, I think I see among young people a greater self-confidence in their own ability to provide for their own living, rather than reliance on the government, tariffs, and a single corporation. One young man, recently laid off, extolled the virtues of a politician who, he thought, was economically conservative but socially liberal. I didn’t agree with his assessment of this politician, but I agreed with his sentiment. He didn’t feel that the government owed him a living.
Also, general opposition to this War on Iraq is encouraging. It shows that the will of the American people is continually spat upon by the powers who run both the Democratic and Republican Parties. Also encouraging, is the ample proof that the Democratic-Republican regime’s unquestioning yes-men, the elite media and mainstream media from The New Republic to The Weekly Standard to The New York Times to FOX News to CBS News, simply can not be trusted. The less trust put into the “system,” the more faith you must put in yourself and your God.
I also like some other things about America’s future. The tech sector - especially the Internet, from which the truth can be told. The possibility of watching every game of your favorite team, no matter where you live. The demise of the traditional studio-audience sit-com, which was always 95% bad. The ebb and flow of pop culture and the creation of niche markets. The increasing variety and quality of everything from coffee to bluegrass bands. The freedom to add cheddar and bacon to every sandwich I order. The fact that so many are willing to wage their own War on Obesity and War on Tobacco through the free market’s suggestions rather than through the government’s orders. That “Brown-Eyed Girl“ is still found in virtually every jukebox in America that I‘ve surveyed. The introduction of irony to America thanks first to PBS’s British imports, and then David Letterman, and which shows no sign of letting up thanks to The Onion. Advancements in CGI. The seeds of a new Christian Reformation.
If I’m pessimistic, that is because I do not believe in a political or cultural restoration of a bygone era, however attractive it may appear. The Constitution is gone. And, even though its leaders from both the Left and the Right are aware of it yet, so is “American Protestantism” which has now politicized itself out of credibility. But where restoration is impossible, there is still hope for reformation or renewal, something better that replaces what we had before.
If this optimism can be summarized, I suppose it would be that the American people might now be more honest and open amongst themselves, and therefore more suspicious of secrecy and disdainful of hypocrisy, than they have been in the past. While this has had its perverse moments such as reality tv in which people spill their emotions on camera, this is also the check on the American political system. Those who control our government must not have secrets, for secrets conceal private agendas, not government policy. And those who make our laws and tell us what to do, must not be hypocrites, but oblige themselves to the same rules. If anyone deserves to live in a glass house and have their private lives revealed on television, it is politicians.
So, to the extent I’m optimistic, it is because of the seeds sown, the suspicion and cynicism planted, that our system doesn’t really work and that none of these politicians can be trusted. Whatever political result may take place in the short-term, in the long-term of cultural transformation I’m optimistic. Lies can not last forever.
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