One of the bloggers, I follow, as somewhat of a Dionysian foil to my severe Apollonic propensity is Rick Marschall. I may not always concur with the views of this “social critic, political commentator, and Christian writer.” But I, nevertheless, cherish one those cultivated rarities who are well-informed about their own heritage. However, Mr. Marschall occasionally galvanizes a reaction such as in his recent article, People of Faith Ask, to Trump or not to Trump, which complacently soothsays that the current commotion in the American body politic is not unlike those of yesteryear. Mr. Marschall thereupon gives a fairly detailed history of past political turmoils in his nation; particulars, much of which supplement my own knowledge; and as is therefore much appreciated.
I tend to look upon history more from the perspective of broad ideological, cultural, and social trends. Furthermore, as a student of world history, I will situate American history and politics within the context of a larger ideological narrative with sociopolitical consequences. Whereas, you will find many Americans, such as George Will, unable to think outside of their Exceptionalist box. Historical and external events are measured in the context of American situation and psyche, a civic form of (Ayn) Randian egoism, which I would suggest poses a great noetic stagnation.
It is not unusual for persons dwelling inside the kettle of a society to be oblivious to the tumult that is about to occur within their midst; and when it begins, to be freshly surprised on frequent basis as new travesties and atrocities unfold. I, on the other hand, am inclined to be on the side of the Chicken Littles.
However, this tumult in the U.S. has been anticipated, as has been claimed elsewhere, since the late 1980s. Events since then have pretty well gone to script of previous run ups to civic conflagration. And indeed, I have noticed in the last couple of years, a remarkably dizzying acceleration in the disintegration of the social peace and cohesion such that I am having problems catching up.
These are my remarks to that article, if in case the comment is not published, revised for spelling and grammatical errors and superficial additions.
It is granted that American democratic politics has always had a rough and tumble element. This was also true of the politics of the Roman Republic. Nevertheless, the Roman Republic did eventually come to an end; although many at the initial stages of the Civil War thought, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, albeit in Latin.
Dear Mr. Marschall, with all due respect, I don’t believe that you are properly interpreting the signs of the times. One must disregard momentarily, the current stage ham actors, and look at the longer term trends.
There exists a widening and intractable civilizational-level ideological schism which is accelerating. And to quote Yeats in 1919 after the Old Order (1815–1914) had finally and completely discredited itself in WW1, “the center cannot hold”, anticipating what Niall Ferguson called the long European civil war.
Civil wars over ideology do not occur because of mere differences of opinion, no matter how wide. They occur when one or more factions arrogantly attempt to force their ideology and ethos upon other factions to the point that the latter’s psychological integrity and material survival and welfare are seen as seriously threatened, to which they can no longer tolerate accommodation.
There exists a widening and intractable economic disparity and concentration of the means of production, as the higher classes have turned their backs on the less fortunate neighbour (The Revolt of the Elites, Christopher Lasch, 1995), leaving the lowest classes in economic decline, contributing to a decay of mind, culture, and morals, political influence and judicial inequality. So much for de Tocqueville’s “democratic man,” which deferred to no man. And just like the Versaillean nobility, the Potomac and Hudson elites have proved to be just as oblivious about the state of their society, while an insurgency from the bottom arises and closes its pincers from both the socialist left and Bismarckian right.
You have widespread corruption, venality, and lack of principle and civic virtue in your politicos; widespread mendacity and imbecility in your journalism; absence of fresh ideas in your censorious universities; bombastic simple-minded Manichean plots in your movies; theological vacuity in your churches; family dysfunction and single-parenthood among the white lower classes which exceeds that of the blacks in the 1960s (Moynihan Report); a sexual deviancy which matches the late Roman Republic, the Weimar (Berlin) Republic or Marquis de Sade preceding and during the French Revolution, except now we are beginning to witness “furry sex,” a harbinger of zoophilia methinks.
The over-educated youth, sacked with huge student debts, are operating in a highly tilted economic plane against a hardening nepotistic and networked upper middle class ceiling, while having little hope of owning a home as a Fed-induced asset boom watches houses prices fly, fly away.
Finally, the Trump phenomenon has revealed that great loss of faith in the republican model of self-governance on the right, which now completes loss of faith on the left since Woodrow Wilson (or earlier). Madisonian notions of government belongs to a small political faction. Indeed, public knowledge of your own civic heritage and history is at 50% in ISI tests (I am a foreigner with only high school and I am hitting mid-90s). And how can one believe in one’s civic heritage if one does not know what it consists of? FYI. A decade before the final civil war which ended the Republic, Cicero noted that the youths of his day did not know the Twelve Tables (Rome’s Constitution).
Does this seem like plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose? Is there a precedent in your American history for all of this? Most of those things I describe remind of the late Roman Republic.
I do not see Armageddon? But I do perceive an imminent American civil conflagration just waiting for the right catalytic event to end your free civic polity.
For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation. (2 Peter 3:4)