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Saturday, October 24, 2020

A Time for Choosing

I have been hearing some common themes lately. Maybe you have been hearing them too. The themes I have been hearing run along the lines of: Has America reached its sell-by date? And: What does it mean to be an American in 2020? And: Maybe life in America should not return to normal. 

What I am getting at is, there is a feeling about that America as we know it is over. 
 
And even more curiously, I get the distinct feeling that many people are glad of this. 
 
I get this feeling every time someone gets angry about the very idea of "making America great again." I get this feeling every time someone objects to the very idea that "America should be colorblind," or complains that the statement “America is the land of opportunity" is a form of "hate speech." 
 
I also get this feeling every time someone gets angry about ending Covid quarantines -- as in, letting businesses open, letting children return to school, and generally ending the existence that quite possibly has led to more suicide and drug-overdose deaths than Covid deaths. Amazingly, 74% of Americans supported a national quarantine. And apparently, they still support them.
 
Why all this anger, and all this fear? Without a doubt, Americans are served up many arguments, regularly, and in generous helpings, why they should be angry and fearful. But, and also without a doubt, Americans also have good reasons not to be either angry or fearful. In the end, whether we are angry and fearful is up to us. Whether we are angry and fearful is our choice. As Samuel Johnson prayed, "withdraw my mind from unprofitable and dangerous enquiries, from difficulties vainly curious, and doubts impossible to be solved."

Here is what I mean when I saw we have good reasons not to be angry and fearful. Over four years under the banner of Making America Great Again, an unprecedented percentage of Americans, 56%, feel they have been made better off by America. Of course, there are also many people on television who say that Making America Great Again is racist and is the cause of race riots and fires and killings in the streets. But no one is holding a gun to your head to believe that. If you wish to be angry and fearful, you could believe that. But if you were open to the option of not being angry and fearful, the fact that an overwhelming number of Americans have seen their lives materially improved provides good cause. 

Here is another example how one could choose to be hopeful, instead of angry and fearful, if only one were not determined to remain angry and fearful. Over the same past four years, 55% of Americans think “life for young black Americans has gotten better since Trump’s election” or stayed the same. Compared to the Obama Administration, in July 2016 only 13% said “life for young black Americans got better since the election of the first black president.” Surely, if someone were open to the option of not being angry about race relations in America, this would give good cause for hope and optimism.
 
There is cause for hope and optimism on the Covid front, too -- if one is not already heavily invested in an anger and despair political portfolio. The WHO recently rejected lockdowns as a supported policy. Americans also exponentially overestimate the risk of death from Covid. President Trump had Covid. Given his age and comorbidities, he was at a heightened risk. He faced it bravely, and weathered it handily. A recovered and emboldened President Trump told America: "Don't let it dominate you. Don't be afraid of it.... Don't let it take over your lives. Don't let it happen....Don't let it dominate your lives."  

Surely, if someone were open to the option of not being angry and scared about Covid, they have cause for hope and optimism.

The past four years have delivered prosperity we were told was impossible, new peace in the Middle East we thought was hopeless, a respite from new American wars we figured were inevitable, and despite a terrible unprecedented virus inflicted on us by China, a light at the end of the tunnel. Four years of Trump have brought Americans peace and prosperity.

Yet, polls show that a majority of Americans are just not all that interested in peace and prosperity.

What is an American in 2020? An American in 2020 is the groundhog retiring to its burrow, regardless of the weather. 

A 2020 American is the person who has been made better off... and is mad as hell about it. 
 
This strikes me as an odd sort of malaise. Americans' 2020 malaise is not from external causes, though heaven knows such causes abound this year. No, Americans' 2020 malaise comes from within. Our malaise is by choice. 
 
Our responses are always a choice. Our response to a disease is a choice. In responding to the Wuhan virus, we now have several valid choices. We have an expert-supported recommendation to stop lockdowns. We also have an expert-supported recommendation to continue cowering. Likewise with our economy, we also have choices. We have expert-supported recommendations that offer greater prosperity by reopening our businesses. We also have expert-supported recommendations that urge austerity, by keeping our businesses closed and begging the government and banks for help.

Which of these paths America chooses will define who we are. America is made of those rare moments when its people commits to some belief. Americans can choose their own preferences, can choose policies that help their own businesses and lives. Or, as the New York Times urges, Americans can "choose the right side of history."
 
I am prepared for "History" to win the 2020 election, and for Trump -- and Americans' actual concrete interests and preferences -- to lose. Just as I was prepared for Trump to lose the 2016 election. Perhaps I will be surprised again. But whether in this election or the next one, the Trump era will come to an end. And I don't suspect four more years will make any real difference. We have already learned that Trumpism works: That globalism is a fraud on the American people. That new American military entanglements are not inevitable. That peace in the Middle East is possible. That foreign policy experts and military leaders might possibly, just maybe, sometimes, have no clue what they are talking about. That the criminal justice system can be reformed. That American blacks, contrary to the belief of American political elites (confirmed via Biden's revealing gaffe), are capable of thinking for themselves, capable of helping themselves. That third-trimester abortions, which the overwhelming majority of Americans abhor, are not inevitable. That ideology is a straitjacket, and if we can break free from it, our economy is not destiny. Policy is not destiny. They are choices. They ought to be our choices. Not the choices of commissions, or consultants, or committees, or conferences, of people whom we do not know, and who do not know us. And that "History" is not our judge: that there is, in the end, no "right side" or "wrong side" except for God -- or for those who would be God. For close to 9 million Obama voters who went for Trump in 2016, though assailed as racists and deplorables, that spell was broken. History is a false god invented by hack shamans who would put their own judgments in its mouth to shame and terrorize us.
 
Under Trump, for the past four years our country belonged to us, the Americans, again -- not to the globalists, the empire of the whole world. Our country having been returned to us, we were free, once again, for a brief shining moment, to belong to ourselves, to our families, and to God -- not to the world, not to the ages, and certainly not to the New York Times' vision of "History." 
 
That is the lesson of Trumpism. If we have not learned it in four years, we are not likely to learn it in eight. And those of us who have learned it must get ready. Because sooner or later, the empire strikes back. 

5 comments:

Heidi Staples said...

I could not love this more.

Gailg said...

Agreed, love this keeper article! Thank you.

Biff said...

Fair enough, though it is hard to shake the feeling that whether it is 2020 or 2024, after Trump comes the deluge. I hope I am wrong.

Tim Kowal said...

If Trumpism ends in 2024, the globalist empire will strike back, but we will have fought valiantly. And perhaps we will find a way to fight on.
If in 2020, we will have thrown in with the evil empire, meaning the fight in us is gone, probably forever.

Tom Van Dyke said...

"Yet, polls show that a majority of Americans are just not all that interested in peace and prosperity."


What else would any sane person reasonably ask from politics?

As Tom Sowell said, "Ours may become the first civilization destroyed, not by the power of our enemies, but by the ignorance of our teachers and the dangerous nonsense they are teaching our children. In an age of artificial intelligence, they are creating artificial stupidity."