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I posed a challenge on Twitter not long ago. It was this: Name one fundamental ideal shared by all or most Americans. Over 200 people attempted to come up with one. Sadly, none of the answers were convincing.
I’ve thought a lot about this over the past several days. I had time to stew over it as I was unemployed for two weeks. It came surging back to the forefront of my mind when I heard a John McCain speech insisting that we still live “in a land made of ideals.”
A land made of ideals? What ideals? Tell me exactly which ideals unite and define the United States in 2017? I don’t want to hear about what ideals united us in 1776 or 1890 or during WW2. Those days are gone. Tell me about today. This moment. Give me one ideal — just one — that can be said to unite nearly all Americans right now. After all, if we are a country made of ideals, yet we share no common ideals, then we are not really a country. Remove the bricks from a house made of bricks and you’re left with rubble. Remove the essence from something and you end up with nothing. So, what are our bricks? What is our essence?
Most of the people who attempted to answer my Twitter challenge suggested that our common ideal must be “freedom” or “equality.” But we are only united by “freedom” and “equality” in the sense that we all like the words “freedom” and “equality.” If you look at what we consider these words to mean, and how they ought to be applied, you find that my notion of freedom is no more similar to my neighbor’s than it is to the average citizen of China or Iran. You won’t find very many people on Earth who profess to despise freedom and equality in principle. You will find many who despise it in practice. And I think many in that category live in this country and work for our government.
I can easily disprove the freedom and equality thing right off the bat by pointing out that our wonderful nation under God legally exterminates a million children a year. And it does so with the approval of over half of its citizens. If your love of freedom and equality excludes babies, then you do not love freedom and equality. You love it about as much as Pol Pot loved it.
But it doesn’t end there, of course. Our free and equal country also happens to be one where Christian business owners can be forced to participate in gay wedding ceremonies against their will. 60% of Americans agree that Christians ought not have the right of religious expression if such expression would hurt the feelings of a gay person. 60% of all Americans support some version of socialized medicine. Over half of all Americans think their fellow citizens should continue to be forced to fund the abortion industry. A majority believe businesses should be forced to provide contraception to their employees.
The situation gets even worse when you look at the younger generations. 40% of millennials think we ought to limit speech that offends minorities. Over half of adults in their twenties don’t believe in free market capitalism. Over 30% are avowed socialists. 50% of millennials would give up their right to vote in order to have their student loans forgiven. The other half couldn’t respond to the poll because they were busy throwing molotov cocktails at cop cars over a conservative speaker on a college campus.
I could go on. But you’re sufficiently depressed at this point, I’m sure.
Get 100 random Americans into a room and you won’t find even half who actually care about freedom. Or they care about a freedom that doesn’t include the unborn, Christians, business owners, and taxpayers. Basically, they want freedom for lesbian atheist unemployed college students and few others.
I think the above examples pretty much wipe out “equality” as a uniting principle, but let’s take a closer look. It seems that many of us oppose equality where it should exist and insist upon it where it cannot. While unborn children are not considered equal to born childen, men in dresses pretending to be women are viewed as equal to women. Polls show that only 20% of Americans correctly identify “transgenderism” as a mental illness. 40% believe cross dressing men have the God given right to use the bathroom with my daughter. This is what millions of our fellow citizens mean when they extol the virtues of equality.
So, we do not share these principles. Not in any meaningful way. What do we share, then?
Americans used to be united by their common belief in a creator God from whom all rights originate. No longer. America today is home to a record number of atheists and a record number of empty or emptying churches. Even Americans who call themselves Christians — a record low number, of course — cannot come to an agreement about what “being a Christian” means. Many attend churches with blasphemous rainbow flags draped across them, where they hear about a God who loves homosexual marriage and doesn’t care if we dismember babies. As it turns out, their love for their faith is about as authentic as their love for freedom.
What else do we have? We used to value family, but it’s hard to say we have that in common in a country where the average family consists of three people, a record number of women have no kids at all, divorce is rampant, fatherless homes are endemic, record numbers of young people are putting off marriage or swearing it off completely, and we can’t come to an agreement about what marriage means and how you define it anyway.
What else? Language? No, we haven’t shared a common language in many decades. What’s left? Nothing of substance: Physical proximity. Zip codes. And, I guess, our vices. We all love to buy things. We watch too much TV. Most of us are pretty excited for Stranger Things 2. Is that enough to make a country? I doubt it. That’s enough for a Reddit community or an after school club, but not a nation, especially not one built upon ideals.
It appears that I’m not imagining things when I get the feeling that I no longer live in the same country as my fellow Americans. Many of them exist in a place where there is no God; there is no such thing as a man or woman; there is no truth; there is not objective morality; babies aren’t people; marriage is a social construct; the whole point of life is to make money and go on nice vacations, and the government’s job is to take care of our every need from cradle to grave.
I do not relate to a person like this. He is foreign to me. I share nothing at all with him. Ideals? We don’t even share a universe.
But, hey, we both have iPhones. So that’s something.
Now, this is the part where I’m supposed to offer an answer. People will be angry at what they’ve read, and if I don’t wrap it up with a neat little bow, they’ll take out their anger at the state of things on the guy who made the observation. “Why are you so negative?” “Why did you make me sad with all of these unhappy facts? I don’t want to be sad!” “Don’t just complain! Give us solutions!”
Well, I don’t have solutions. Not easy or definite ones. Who has ever been able to “solve” a societal implosion while in the midst of it? The Romans couldn’t manage it. Neither could the Mayans or the Mesopotamians. Could we be the first to make a U-turn and avert the cliff after we’ve already gone over it? Not as long as so many of us refuse to look reality in the face, clinging to silly slogans that nobody really believes. “Americans love freedom!” “Americans believe in equality!” You know that isn’t true. I just spent 1,000 words debunking an argument that everyone knows is nonsense, even if they’re too afraid to admit it.
Here’s what I can say: If there’s any chance at some kind of national revival, it’s only going to happen with God’s blessing. So, pray. And tend to your family. Hold your children close. That’s the best way to save a country from collapse and the best way to shield your children from the falling debris if the collapse cannot be stopped. Beyond that, be vigilant. I think there are tough times ahead.
If you believe everything is fine and all of the indicators I’ve cited here are really no big deal, good for you. I envy your delusion. I wish very much that I could live inside it. I’m afraid it won’t protect you or your children, though. Best to emerge from the bubble, then, and look around. We are in trouble. We are not united. We are states in America, but we are not united states. We are not one people, we are not one country, anymore.
But at least we still have football.
Oh, wait. Never mind.