Best Days Behind U.S.?
by TOM MCLAUGHLIN
August 4, 2012
Many feel that America's best days are behind us, that our country peaked sometime in the late 20th century and has begun to decline. Maybe most Americans feel that way, I don't know. Some point to disintegration of family. Others cite economic decline - that we don't produce much anymore as manufacturing is outsourced. The old Yankee saying that we could "Make the thing, or make the thing that makes the thing," doesn't apply anymore. Still others point to welfare dependency and the rise of our big-government nanny state. While liberals still claim children go hungry in the US, the real problem is childhood obesity.
The "poor" in America are too fat. Many lament that Americans have become not only fat, but dumb and lazy as well. It used to be so that Americans were too proud to accept hand-outs from government, but now they're encouraged. Our US Department of Agriculture even recruits people in Mexico to come to the United States and apply for Food Stamps immediately upon arrival!
Others cite parallels to Gibbon's "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" repeating in the country which used to see itself as "the city on a hill." According to Wikipedia's description of Gibbon's thesis, that empire declined because: "Romans had become ‘effeminate,' unwilling to live a tougher ‘manly' lifestyle." It also cited Gibbon's belief that Christianity's ascendency after Emperor Constantine weakened the empire because: "Christianity created a belief that a better life existed after death, which fostered an indifference to the present among Roman citizens, thus sapping their desire to sacrifice for the Empire. [Gibbon] also believed [Christianity's] comparative pacifism tended to hamper the traditional Roman martial spirit."
While Gibbon cited the rise of Christianity as hurting Rome, still other Americans cite Christianity's decline causing our decline. If America is indeed declining, then who is ascending to fill the global power vacuum? China? Radical Islam? God help us, but those would be the two leading candidates.
What's life like in China? Well, it's still communist. While it's relaxing its historic demonization of capitalism, it's maintaining, even increasing its big-government, dissension-hating oppression. For more than a generation, women have been allowed only one child. Get pregnant a second time and government will compel you to kill your child in utero, even if the pregnancy were concealed until eight months along. Criticize the government there and you disappear to a forced, re-education camp for indoctrination in political correctness. There, you might lose a kidney or even a heart to the black market in human organs - especially if you're a match with a ranking Chinese Communist Party official who needs one.
How about life in a Sharia-compliant country like Iran - or what Egypt and Libya are likely to become? There's the Iranian "Modesty Police" who arrest women on the street if they show skin or hair. Homosexuals are publicly hanged, and women accused of adultery - even if that "adultery" occurred as they were gang-raped - are publicly stoned to death. Those converting to another religion are "apostates," and the penalty for that? Death.
Several writers on both left and right agree that American power is on the wane. Liberal former Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria wrote "The Post-American World" in 2008 and conservative National Review's Mark Steyn wrote "After America" in 2011.
Zakaria purports that America's decline is only relative because other countries like China and India are rising while we stagnate, and only the degree of our dominance is declining. He thinks America will just lumber along sharing global leadership with China and India.
Steyn, however, is far more concerned; his subtitle is: "Get Ready for Armageddon." He sees America becoming sclerotic with big government debt, bureaucracy, and regulation. In this way, he parallels Gibbon's observation that Rome lost its vitality and so has America. Steyn sees American decline as imminent and precipitous; hence the subtitle. He purports that British decline and European decline were genteel because America alone carried western civilization in the last half of the 20th century as it fended off communism and other forms of civilizational evil. Indeed, "America Alone" (2006) was prequel to "After America" (2011). Steyn sees the twin demons of Chinese-style big government and fascist, theocratic Radical Islam waiting to fill the void after American collapse.
I hope both Zakaria and Steyn are mistaken in their forecasts. If they're not, I'd much prefer Zakaria's vision for our future, but I'm sorry to say that Steyn makes the stronger case. Can our decline be reversed? We'll get a clue about that in November.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Tom McLaughlin is a (now retired) history teacher and a regular weekly columnist for newspapers in Maine and New Hampshire. He writes about political and social issues, history, family, education and Radical Islam. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.