At the twilight's lastDAVID WARREN
Reading the pundits, on the second Obama Inauguration — that imitation Coronation, performed out of church at fixed intervals — one might think that half of America was attracted, and half repulsed.
Emperor Obama invited the United Statists once again to "come together, right now, over me." . . . He invited them to join him in advancing the great unifying causes: gay rights, climate change, the need to defend every penny of Entitlements. . . . "He say, I know you, you know me, one thing I can tell you is you got to be free." . . . But America was discussing his wife's new hairdo. (Thumbs down.) Some were remarking on how his daughters had grown, since his last Coronation. (True.) There were various opinions on Beyoncé's rendition of the national anthem. (Mostly positive.) A few asked who James Taylor was. (An outpatient from the late 'sixties.) And everybody loves a parade. (Well, almost everybody.)
"Got to be a joker, he just do what he please."
It is amusing how representative democracy works. There is not a policy on Obama's sleigh that enjoys widespread popular support, if polls are to be believed. Opposition to things like gay marriage, tax-funded greening, open-spigot welfare, Obamacare — and now arbitrary gun control and "immigration reform" — has been overwhelming. Even among Democrats in Congress, it is hard to buy majorities for any of those things. But Americans voted to get it all, and get it hard.
Why? Because they liked Obama better than they liked Romney. In fact, after one billion dollars of media effort (plus ten-billion-worth that was free), the Democrat machine was able to convince Americans that they didn't like Romney at all. He murders people, and his running mate pushed his own grandma off the cliff in her wheelchair. That's the sort of message that goes to the heart of The People. Whereas, public policy leaves them yawning. Axelrod and the boys got this: they know voters are stupid, and they proved it.
As to the pundits: many were appalled by an inauguration stump speech, which vowed to continue overthrowing every value enshrined in the U.S. Constitution; which promised to eliminate the last vestiges of Reaganism, and of Clintonism, too; which heralded perpetual expansion of centralized government under bureaucratic czars, to snuff the last embers of civil society. And many pundits were delighted by all this. But the majority were somewhere in the middle.
I disagree with those radical rightists who say America won't be America any more. It isn't America any more. Those who think the old Norman Rockwell can still be restored are, as the progressives say, "living in the past." Likewise, "American exceptionalism" is not going, but gone, for the last few things that made America exceptional are passing into extinction.
He is in that sense the American Gorbachov: after him, the deluge. The very premisses upon which U.S. power was projected to the ends of the earth, have been withdrawn; and the means to do so must necessarily follow. Should some future administration wish to re-assert "hegemony" within the old American sphere of influence — the Arab world, the Far East, the Americas, western Europe — they will find that it isn't an option any more. They will be like Putin, trying to restore the Russian Empire. It is gone, and cannot be rebuilt on the backs of drunkards and punks and the frightened.
One of the oddest things I find, in surveying the pundits through Real Clear Politics and the like, is general agreement that American society is now characterized by decadence. This is often lamented on the Right with gnashing of teeth; on the Left it is casually admitted; but the "perception" is shared. Confirmation comes by every statistical indicator. At bottom, the birthrate is now plunging to European levels. There is even some general understanding that the Nanny State is unsustainable; that the Ponzi scheme, by which each new generation paid benefits for the last, collapses as each new generation shrinks proportionally — the quicker as the young are increasingly unemployed, and becoming basically unemployable. The only thing that varies is willingness to confront this hard reality, and its unambiguously moral causation: little on the Right, and almost none on the Left.
Yes, "fracking" and cheap domestic carbon energy may give a statistical appearance of recovery, a dead cat bounce. Such hopes are cited by the well-intentioned progressives of the Right, from an outlook as materialist as the progressives of the Left. It is the current variation on "technology will save us." Look around you. Technology cannot save anything. (Even the digital links go dead after a few years.)
I myself loved the old "exceptionalist" America, for all its theological flaws; for all its strange trinity of "We the People," and "In God We Trust," and "E Pluribus Unum." Moreover, I know how I feel about the destruction of my own Dominion of Canada. I am not being cute or insincere in expressing my heartbreak, to see that old United States of America likewise die, leaving a desiccated shell. As an old Loyalist, it was my country, too: the same language, the same fundamental attitudes shared by Loyalist and Patriot alike. The same pioneering spirit; the same self-reliance. The same egalitarianism, of an older kind: the kind that looked your neighbour in the eye; that looked your woman in the eye; that looked your children in the eyes. There was so much noble in that old America, replaced now in this "new era" with bullshit and sleaze.
But everything in this world must go, into that trash heap of history. "O dark dark dark, they all go into the dark, the vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant." And shining in that dark is Christ, whose Kingdom is not of this world. And nobility, too, is not of this world; is unkillable, and will take new forms. And consider: the last fond hope of the Enlightenment has now gone under the hill. That leaves us nothing to rebuild, but Christendom.
David Warren. "At the twilight's last." Essays in Idleness (January 22, 2013).
This article is reprinted with permission from David Warren.
David Warren is a self-confessed white male, and Roman Catholic of the worst kind. He pings mostly from the Parkdale district of Toronto, Canada. Most recently he was filing thrice-a-week for the Ottawa Citizen (copied to other papers in the PostMedia chain), but may have stepped out of "legacy media" forever; except, a few dead-tree magazines to which he sometimes contributes. His blog, Essays in Idleness, replaces the archive into which all his newspaper columns since September 11, 2001, had been shovelled. They will no longer be easy to find.
Copyright © 2013 David Warren
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