At first I thought something like “Marauding Madness” would do the job, but it didn’t quite fit. Then maybe “Death Cult Chronicles,” but that seems a bit over-broad. Then maybe “Dark Gods 2023?” No, that doesn’t quite work. So call it what you like. Maybe “Fred.”
Tuesday mornings are tough for this particular essayist. No one expects much from me on Mondays, which is a good thing considering how hard it can be to shake off the weekend news-doldrums. But when Tuesday arrives, I’m supposed to be fully awake, with all the cylinders firing and the tachometer nudging the redline, as befits a dispenser of righteous fury. Sadly, it’s not always that way.
What does it say about a man’s mental state when he can hardly stir his glands over stories such as these?
- Rand Paul staffer brutally assaulted by just-released inmate.
- Liberal prof thinks it okay to murder conservative speakers.
- Calif Dem wants to legalize child kidnapping by the state.
- Trans malefactors act up in New Zealand.
- Whaddaya know? Nashville school shooter was trans!
I didn’t quite yawn at the above, but I did shrug. Minutely. I can’t help but wonder: How many of my Gentle Readers are reacting the same way?
Are we becoming inured to the lunacies and violence? Has the parade of perversions and predations numbed us to it all? It would be an understandable defensive reaction of a people who’ve decided that there’s no way to stem the tide of madness. If we must simply endure it, why let it command our attention or engage our emotions?
Has what I recently called “the new abnormal” become so ubiquitous and pervasive that we shall no longer permit it to concern us?
I feared that was the trend I saw developing. We’ve been gradually accepting the failure of American norms and institutions. We’ve been pulling into ever smaller and harder shells. We’ve been “hunkering down,” preparing to defend ourselves and our loved ones, but not much else. Has the process reached a terminal state?
It’s hard to shake the impulse to surrender, to throw up my hands and declare the country lost. Perhaps it’s a mistake to regard my mood as representative of many others, no matter how similar our convictions. But I must admit that I can’t see a lot of countervailing evidence.
Who is still fighting? Who has yet to retire from the field?
I was taught from an early age to “love my country.” There was no exegesis provided for the phrase. None of my teachers encouraged me to ask what it means. Eventually I did ask, but I received no answer from any of the authorities of my youth. It became clear as I matured that if there is a hard and fast meaning to “love of country,” I would have to find it for myself.
“How does one hate a country, or love one? Tibe talks about it; I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one’s country; is it hate of one’s uncountry? Then it’s not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That’s a good thing, but one mustn’t make a virtue of it, or a profession. . . . Insofar as I love life, I love the hills of the Domain of Estre, but that sort of love does not have a boundary-line of hate. And beyond that, I am ignorant, I hope.”
[Ursula LeGuin, The Left Hand of Darkness]
In this regard, Therem Harth rem ir Estraven is the wisest of all fictional characters. Earlier in LeGuin’s tale, he was a public servant: the prime minister of the Kingdom of Karhide, exiled and disgraced because of political chicanery wielded against him. In the above he reveals the problem inherent in what we call “love of country:” Few of us know what we mean by it. Few of us approach the question from enough angles, or attack it with enough determination. When Stephen Decatur said: “To my country! May she always be right, but my country, right or wrong,” was he confirming an eternal verity, uttering a foul blasphemy, or something in the middle? What about when E. M. Forster said “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country” – ?
If you, Gentle Reader, love your country, what is it, as precisely as you can state it, that you mean by your country?
What about this perspective? Who has better sense, Gordon Krantz or George Powhatan?
“They may be wrong. They may even be crazy. But at least Dena and her comrades care about something bigger than themselves, and have the guts to fight for it. Do you, George? Do you?”
Powhatan had looked down at the floor. Gordon barely heard his reply.
“Where is it written that one should only care about big things? I fought for big things, long ago… for issues, principles, a country. Where are all of them now?”
The steely gray eyes were narrow and sad when next he looked up at Gordon. “I found out something, you know. I discovered that the big things don’t love you back. They take and take, and never give in return. They’ll drain your blood, your soul, if you let them, and never let go.
“I lost my wife, my son, while away battling for big things. They needed me, but I had to go off trying to save the world.” Powhatan snorted at the last phrase. “Today I fight for my people, for my farm-for smaller things…things I can hold.”
Is the question well-formed enough to have an answer?
“Your country” is an abstraction: a concept attached somewhat elusively to a variety of other things. Some of those other things are themselves concepts. To love an abstraction and know what you mean by it requires more penetration than most people are capable of. If “your country” is willingly going murderously insane, is it right and proper to continue loving it? The question is before us this very moment.
As you read this, the political class of “your country” is engaged in all the following:
- Enervating its military;
- Provoking a world war;
- Destroying its economy;
- Impoverishing its citizenry;
- Reducing its currency to wastepaper;
- Granting legal privileges to a single race;
- Admitting multitudes of foreigners to batten on us;
- Privileging the most aberrant members of its population;
- Undermining men’s incentives to marry and produce children.
- Reducing the United States of America, the “indispensable nation,” to a laughingstock.
All these things are happening right now, under the eager supervision of the men who “run the country.” Do you think they love the same thing you do?
I’ll leave it there for you to ponder.
Americans are not being well-served. The phrase “public servant” has become a cruel joke. The typical member of the species is wholly focused on his own personal interests: accumulation of status; advancement in the hierarchy; progress toward retirement. Let them protest to the contrary as much as they please. From the lowest to the highest, their conduct gives them the lie.
Yet We the Formerly Free are exhorted to love our country – the country that’s being stolen from us as we (and they) speak. We’re subject to ongoing erosions of our rights and escalating eviscerations of our “substance.” (Remember “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance” — ?) We’re told all manner of things, the greater part of them demonstrably false-to-fact and the rest too ridiculous to bother over. What’s left for us to love?
I love freedom. I love justice. Were “my country” still the embodiment of those things – what a dear friend had in mind when he said to me that “The United States is the crowning glory of human civilization” – I would love it unreservedly and unabashedly. I’m having a hard time with it this morning.
Forgive me, Gentle Reader. I’m feeling my years today. Perhaps tomorrow will be better. Have a nice day.