I can’t help but notice it here, notice it there, notice it everywhere. A few days ago, I read Steve Hayward, on Powerline, asking, “So When Can We Expect Obama’s Malaise Speech?“ This does feel familiar, a sense of dread, a hopelessness. Well, in the earthly things at any rate, as in the things of the nation, from the disasters of our foreign policy, to the looming health care crisis that looks likely to put all previous versions of “health crisis” to shame, to violence that incites another round of arguments about making individuals helpless through gun control, to staggering government spending to which nation’s executive says “So what?” – to … you know, to all of it. What’s to be done?
We look the other way, at least for a while. Who can help it? And life, personal life, the intellectual life, even entertainment, offers much more satisfaction. These are even things to cling to as we feel the America we know transforming or transitioning into something we are not sure we will like to live with. Maybe it is just me, but American politics irks me like an uncomfortable shoe; I want to take it off and shake it or stretch it or something. I am not the only one. I read people saying it is time to get rid of the government we have, because it pinches and doesn’t suit us anymore.
I don’t want to think about that either, though our Constitution does seem overburdened, and the Bill of Rights has taken over the basic document to a shocking degree. The shoe metaphor doesn’t work here, so I’ll switch to a ship of state. I mean the old fashioned kind of ship with sails flapping and the sails are made of the Bill of Rights, billowing with the winds of the Declaration, but we have too much canvas up and the whole things seems likely to tip …. Which just goes to show that I’d rather put my mind to anything but events of the day.
What brought me to write at all was reading Michael Medved, “Countdown to GOP Self-Destruction: On immigration reform and ObamaCare, the ‘party of no’ confirms its reputation—and courts long-term devastation” wherein he says that all hope is lost, the GOP might as well quit fighting if they are not going to win the political battles that confront us, and they cannot win since they are not in a position to implement any of their ideas. Except he suggests, too, that they have no ideas.
No, maybe the inclination to write about this came with Peggy Noonan the other day and “A New Kind of ‘Credibility’ Gap” wherein she says, “They can argue for any foreign military action they think necessary, but the American people will not be of a mind to support it until they think someone is really trying to clean up America.” That left me not thinking about the Syria fiasco, but about the national mess and the likelihood that the president doesn’t much want to think about it either.
Or maybe the topical depression came with the Roger Kimball piece I read before that, “Obama Then and Now: the Rashomon Effect” (Oh, there’s a ship image in that, too.)
Now that the transformation is well underway, there are fewer if any cheers. The economy is moribund. Obamacare is more unpopular than ever. Racial tensions are far worse now than when Obama came to office. Everywhere one looks, Obama’s domestic agenda is in shambles. And when it comes to international affairs — well, let’s just say that Obama must be rueing the day he drew that red line about Syria or heard the name Vladimir Putin. Has there ever been a more cringe-making presidential speech than the incoherent bilge that oozed out of Obama’s mouth last Tuesday?
Too right, that, and the knowledge that we will be living with the consequences of all of this brings a kind of horror and “Oh, I can’t stand to look!” Because the world has been in a similar position before and America has been a mess before, which brings me back to the Hayward piece I started with and his colleague Scott Johnson’s quote from Winston Churchill’s “Gathering Storm” of 1936,
If we look back only across the year that has nearly passed since the General Election, the most thoughtless person will be shocked at the ceaseless degeneration abroad, and also of our own interests on the Continent. The League of Nations and all that it stands for is grievously stricken. The old friendship between Great Britain and Italy is sundered. In its place there has arisen a dangerous association between the martial dictators. France is passing through a phase of apparent weakness and acute anxiety. Upon all this there has been superimposed the hideous Spanish Civil War, now raging towards its climax.
Meanwhile, Germany, whose annual quota of manhood reaching the military age is already double that of France, has increased her period of service from one year to two. She has taken armed possession of the demilitarized zone in the Rhineland. Her fortification of it is far advanced and growing every week. Her armored divisions, each comprising thousands of vehicles, present themselves as a definite source of aggressive strength. Her terrific expenditure upon war preparations goes forward to the full limit of national capacity and regardless of financial embarrassment and food stringency….What a catalogue of disaster for all of those who wish to see the reign of Law in Europe supported by overwhelming force and the prevention of war by concerted resistance to the potential aggressor!
All the while Great Britain has drifted along her fatuous and feckless course, the sport of every wind that blows….But why worry? The Ministers have had good holidays. Except for the derelict areas, the country is fat and contented…
No wonder we write about other things, about any other thing, because these things we see before us are awful things. “Why aren’t you writing?” someone asked me. “Too much life.” but that wasn’t really it. I would rather not look, would rather escape into other things, apparently like other folks would. It’s all too much.
So here is my bit of silliness to contribute, just to cheer you up. Looking to the future, a debate about the Millennials:
(but we blame the Baby Boom)