Maybe it really is too late.
Classical empires lasted centuries: the Han Dynasty held sway for 400 years, barring that brief unpleasantness with Wang Mang. The Romans had a similar run, depending on how you choose to bracket the rise and fall. The Mongols were a little less permanent, but for all their brutal kin-slaughter approach to succession, they still managed to dominate Eurasia for a century and a half. That empire on which the sun never set rose twice, in the eighteenth century, with British imperial ambition centered on North America, and then again in South Asia, the Pacific, and Africa from the latter half of the 1700s onwards, for quite a run.
The American Imperium? Well if you count the continental expansion from Plymouth Rock and the Chesapeake west to San Francisco and the northwest rain belt — that’ll stick around for a while, I’m sure. But our 100 years as the global power? I’ve got no good feelings there.
That may not be so terrible. Empires are not what you’d call friendly institutions. But what depresses me even from within the comfort of my luxe corner of Faux America is the way the Wormtongues of our modern media village are working so hard to persuade us just to give up, to accept a world in which Mitt Romney is plausibly a President.
Others here and amongst our friends have written about just about everything that’s caught my horror-and-despair sensor in just the last 24 hours. Brooks’ call for the running dogs of liberalism to take their turn growing turnips in the camps. A breast cancer advocacy group choosing to kill women (welcome back ABL!) rather than suffer the taint of some of their dollars rubbing shoulders with other dollars that might pay for an abortion. Theocrats with bully pulpits screaming victimhood unless the rest of us keep giving them tax breaks to discriminate.* I’m exhausted by the very existence of Mitt Romney, and the fact that his whole candidacy is premised on the relentless repetition of the whatever distortion of the fabric of reality seems to play best at the moment.
But, as I say, the good folks that write this blog have been on the case — which is great, as it leaves me for now with just this little bit to add.
That would be that for all the willed and conscious bad faith that folks like Brooks sling so readily and so constantly; for all the sense that there was indeed something of an American promise, now betrayed by the figures celebrated and defended by our Village idiots; for all the three a.m. night-terrors at the thought of the world my son may inherit…for all of that, the real world of fact and reasoning can still rise up to bite the bozos in the ass.
Recall that Brooks called Murray’s book an account of “the most important trends in American society.”
And yet, strangely, that society for Murray, and hence for Brooks, includes only White Americans. Which vision, if you are trying to study trends of significance for the next few decades, poses just a wee difficulty. As I’m sure readers of this blog know, the numbers about these matters ain’t what they used to be, demographically speaking.
Via the US Census Bureau, we find that right now, the White non-Hispanic fraction of the US population comes in at roughly two thirds of the total. You’d think that number counts as a datum in an important trend given that the proportion was around 88% in 1900, and remained as high as 75% in 1990. Already, California is majority-minority, as are Texas, Hawaii and New Mexico — and most important, the entire nation will achieve that status sometime between 2040 and 2050. And behind those blunt numbers lies a wealth of particular ways in which different people have figured out how to make it through each day; to take pleasure in life; to cook this or that flavor that would never have made it across the border when I was my son’s age; to make cultures that we may, if we’re far luckier than we seem at present to deserve, continue to weave into what we call American culture.
All of which is to say that daily, we live in a different country. That’s more or less how I think of the current election: either we try to work with that country as it continuously rearranges itself — or we live with the delusions of folks like Brooks who want to pretend that the last 50 years didn’t happen and the next 50 won’t.
In my better moments, I can see past the bluster and the facile assertions of this or that immutable trend — and smell the fear lies behind every word. I have no idea what the United States of my dotage will be like; I do know that it will not resemble whatever fantasy tthat Brooks uses to sent himself off to sleep each night.
Which, amidst all the mounds of steaming horsesh*t that we mush navigate each day, still gives me hope. And schadenfreude.
*Why yes. I am trawling for a Moore Award. Why do you ask?
Image: Albrecht Dürer, Emperor Maximillian I, 1519