What is happening to my former home?
You Americans don’t notice it, because you are the frogs being boiled (yes, I know that this is not really true about frogs). But you can see it from a distance. The temperature in the pot you call home is going up. And only a few of you – and even fewer among those who are doing well – feel the need to jump out.
The problem is one of disconnection from reality.
Here is an example: On 17 September 2001, President Bush, a good-hearted man and a Republican, said that “Islam is peace.” Actually, Islam is submission, and I suppose that is a form of peace, if you agree to submit to it. But otherwise it is relentless jihad.
While President Bush at least opposed radical Islam, President Obama supported the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and even the revolutionary regime in Iran, which he enriched and enabled by the JCPOA, the agreement that he made with them to short-circuit the attempts of the US and some elements of the international community to enforce the nuclear non-proliferation treaty that Iran had signed and was violating. The Obama administration also tried to suppress language that it considered “islamophobic,” and removed phrases like “Islamic terrorism” from public documents. Terrorist incidents motivated by Islam were sometimes placed in the category of “workplace violence” or treated as crimes committed by disturbed individuals. Truth was sacrificed for political correctness. And the danger from real Islamic terrorism increased as a result of these attitudes.
There are other ways in which reality has been denied; in particular, the realities of the relations between racial and other groups. In the universities, the postcolonialist doctrine that divides all peoples into the categories of oppressor and oppressed, white and “of color,” Western and Eastern, was joined by that of intersectionality, which insists that morality demands supporting the “oppressed,” and taking sides on every conflict on the basis of the party line. So on one side are found straight, “cis gendered,” white Western men, and on the other, people of color, sexual or gender nonconformists, women, people with disabilities, fat people, and countless other groups that are allegedly victimized by the former group. Naturally, Jews – despite their history of victimization and their Middle Eastern provenance – were placed on the “oppressor” side, and Muslims (especially Palestinians) are considered oppressed.
This conceptual scheme is incoherent because it can’t account for the observable facts of anti-white racism, the oppression of Jews, the conflicts between oppressed groups, or even the existence of right-wing homosexuals. It is totalitarian because it requires its adherents to sign on to all of its positions or be expelled from its fraternity, which has come to dominate every aspect of life on college campuses, and has now expanded throughout the urban part of the nation, including business and even the military. It also seems to have been adopted by the tech companies that operate the social media platforms that have replaced more traditional sources of news and interpersonal contact.
There is more. The traditional American belief in radical freedom of speech has been eroded, with considerations of possible “psychic harm” to the hearer of certain discourse overriding the right to speak. The likelihood of harm is determined by irrefutable – because they are private to the one complaining – feelings of danger, so there is no appeal. For example, if I were to try to publish this essay in a major magazine or deliver it as a lecture at most universities, it would be rejected (or I would be mobbed) because it would cause Muslims and people of color to feel “unsafe.”
There are taboos against certain ideas, things that one is absolutely forbidden to say. Is it possible that on the average, some genetically related groups of people are better at some things (sports, mathematics, music) than others? Could there even be differences of average intelligence between groups? How could there not be such differences? But don’t dare suggest this if you are a professor or writer, because you will classified as another Hitler if you do.
Finally, more and more the difference between facts and wishes, between reality and narrative, have become blurred. Again, this began in the universities, where intellectuals – in accordance with Orwell’s adage that some ideas are so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them – were charmed by postmodern theories of truth, in which every culture, and perhaps even every individual, has a narrative, a socially or personally constructed reality, that is more “true” than the old-fashioned common reality. And it too has spread to the urban and social-media realms. This is why anti-Israel media claimed – and in some cases continues to claim – that Israel perpetrated a massacre of hundreds of Palestinians in Jenin in 2003, when no such thing happened.
A yawning ideological gulf has opened in the US, more based on social and cultural issues than traditional politics. At the same time, the combination of a one-sided mainstream media (highly recommended link) and an insulated “bubble” for those outside of the mainstream has made the two sides experience the same events in entirely different ways. Needless to say, this has increased the disconnect and created hostility between the sides. Trust in media, local and national government, and other institutions has fallen to perhaps a historical low point.
There are also external threats, from potential enemies like China, Iran, or even North Korea. There are serious vulnerabilities to unconventional warfare in technology-dependent societies, where large populations are fed by monocrop agriculture and imported food, where critical control of utilities depends on interconnected computers and networks, where just-in-time inventory systems mean that there is no cushion against shortages in emergencies, as happened with personal protective equipment when the Covid-19 epidemic struck. Today, a determined enemy can do a large amount of damage without a large, expensive military.
Should one be more worried about dangers from within or without? I think that the fragmentation of the country and the destruction of its traditional pragmatic, reality-based world-view is more serious, because is not only dangerous in itself, but also weakens the ability of the nation to withstand attacks from outside.
The American republic had some good years. If it doesn’t get free of the ideological miasma that’s enveloping it, it won’t have many more.