Archive for the ‘death of a nation’ Tag

On Killing A Society   2 comments

Writers spend a lot of time thinking about how to bump people off. Writers of dystopian fiction place that on a grander scale — figuring out how to kill the world as we know it.

Murder of individuals comes in many varieties. There’s the proverbial blunt object, a push off a cliff, the brake line “malfunction”. Murder of societies comes in varieties as well – nuclear holocaust, alien invasion, economic collapse. There are many ways to murder because depravity comes in many designs.

I remember reading a novel where a trusted spouse slowly poisoned her previously hale husband. Nobody suspected poison as the victim slowly withered and when eventually consumed, an unsuspecting coroner closed the case, listing the official cause of death as a long illness. The story in the book surrounded his niece asking questions and exposing the homicide.

In Life As We Knew It, I described the mortal wounding of America by nuclear terrorism. I don’t actually believe and therefore would not find it believable that there are foreign terrorists just planning to destroy the country for no reason. My brain keeps circling that central fact. Why would this happen? And I settled in part on poison because I see evidence for that in the world in which we live. You always wrap fiction round a grain of reality.

Fact. In its prime, the United States of America met every challenge. The Civil War devastated large parts of the nation and sucked the national soul dry, but America rebuilt into the world’s most prosperous economy, providing opportunities and better lives for millions. It was the sort of place where my great-grandpa Elmer could come from Ireland flat-broke, dodge the Civil War draft, and build a small fortune as a businessman afterward. It was a place where my husband’s great-grandfather Leo could also come from Ireland, get turned away from Ellis Island, go into Nova Scotia and enter the United States more or less illegally through the St. Lawrence smuggler’s boat and 20 years later be mayor of a New England town and a prosperous farmer. Full of ambition and energy, America became an industrial powerhouse powered by innovation that coined the terms “work ethic” and its derivatives “consumer,” and “middle class.”

Like the husband above, we drank deeply from life and enjoyed it immensely.

Then a generation arose that saw exuberance and activity as a negative. Theodore Roosevelt claimed that peace and prosperity were actually signs of incapacitation. We really needed to be involved in world affairs to be a truly grownup nation. JP Morgan and a host of well-bred businessmen insisted that America needed a central bank, elastic money, and an income tax in order to be fiscal sound. Woodrow Wilson said that the people shouldn’t have to worry our pretty little heads about governance. We could just let the “experts” handle it and go enjoy our lives. The administrative state could handle it all and Congress need not even be bothered by the mundane tasks of oversight. And while he was at it, we needed to involve ourselves in a European war. If someone disagreed with his diagnosis that the country needed these things, he threw them in jail.

The government refused to accept that the world’s healthiest and most robust economy could recover from the Depression of 1929 on its own, so Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt imposed higher taxes, deficit spending, unprecedented expansion of the regulatory state and crony capitalism, creating the Great Depression. Nowhere else in the industrialized world (Germany excepted) did the Depression of 1929 last longer than 18 months, because — for the most part — other countries allowed the economy to recover on its own, but the United States swallowed the elixir of Keynesian economic quackery, so suffered for 12 years.

World War 2 required still higher taxes, more debt and the government’s centralized control of the economy. In the 1950s and forward, every economic hiccup had to be tended to by our care-giving government, now grown to preeminent empire following the deadliest war in history. People called for a return of peace and prosperity, but the Military Industrial Complex and the intelligence-gathering arm of the government couldn’t allow that. We were told we needed continuous intervention around the globe and growing surveillance at home to keep us safe and “healthy.”

The vitality, risk-taking, ingenuity, individuality, integrity, and innovation that powered American greatness has been replaced with a desire for comfort, safety, and security without effort. There is no longer a connection between what we produce and what we receive. The dwindling few who work are duty-bound to support the rest of us. Coerced altruism is the requirement of the day according to the government, media, and academia.

Freedom is now seen as a danger to our society. More taxes, more regulation, more intrusion are seen as signs of health. We’re expected to give up our notions of honor and decency, control of our lives, our children’s educations, and anything else we cherish. We should care more about what we stare at on electronic screens than what we believe in our hearts to be true. Just do what the government says and everything will be great.

It’s hard to know when that last dose of poison will be administered. The country was already staggering when George W. Bush was president. President Obama may represent the fatal dose. Maybe the current election cycle madness is a symptom of collective insanity brought on by a century of political poison. It appears the patient realizes what is about to befall us, but do we have the strength to push the dram away?

With every election, government promises to change the dose of our poison by some degree or another, perhaps to prolong our death a little longer. And every time for decades now, we have fallen for that promise, never seeming to realize that we are ingesting poison.

This nation was born from a revolution for its freedom that initiated a dramatic experiment in representative and limited government, the protection of individual rights, and equality before the law. Yes, it took us a while to eliminate slavery and give women a voice, and for the economy to reach a point where the Industrial Revolution’s explosion of innovation and progress could free people from the drudgery of poverty, but the fact is we overcame those obstacles on our own, without the government’s all-caring, all-powerful strength. The government was small and incapable back when America was healthy and strong. In fact, those long ago Americans would have found such a government as we have today to be malignant and loathsome.

In my book, Americans don’t wake up soon enough, but here in the real world, it may not be too late. There are obvious stirrings against our oppressors. The Tea Party was a recognition by some of us that the government is poisoning us. Occupy Wallstreet was a glimmering that our economy is controlled by someone other than ourselves. Most people in the United States don’t realize we’re being poisoned and they certainly would be amazed to discover that the government is the poisoner, but we’re not dead yet either.

Some of us are waking up earlier than the rest and are sounding the alarm. Maybe it’s not too late. Waking up means realizing there is a big job ahead of us to clean up the mess we created, but it’s not beyond our powers to correct course … if we’re willing.

 

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