Actually I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’— though it contains (and in legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.J.R.R. Tolkien
The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.George Orwell
Perception is more important than reality. If someone perceives something to be true, it is more important than if it is in fact true.Ivanka Trump
The only idea they have ever manifested as to what is a government of consent, is this–that it is one to which everybody must consent, or be shot.Lysander Spooner
JRR Tolkien had a notion of something called “the long defeat”. If you’ve read The Lord of the Rings, you’ve seen this exemplified (to a much lesser degree if you’ve only seen the films, but it’s there). You get the sense that the greatest days are behind these people – the world is on the decline. It can also be looked at on the individual scale – one’s whole life is a long defeat. Fight as hard as you can, you are going to die eventually. Yet it is a fight worth fighting.
You may recall that the end of Lord of the Rings was not quite as depressing as all that, which is true, but there’s a reason for that, which I’ll get to, eventually.
The national dialogue (if you can call it dialogue) seems to be pushing everyone to choose a side. Whose side am I on? I feel it’s best summed up by Treebeard in the video above.
This is a difficult time, and I have remained largely silent on my thoughts. I’ve occasionally posted links or videos onto Facebook that I think are interesting in some way. Despite remaining what I felt was fairly neutral, at least one of those generated some volatile pushback – from someone that I genuinely like as a person – and that as far as I know likes me. Why the pushback? Well, I think simply that it went against his side caused me to be lumped into the worst of the “other” side. He did apologize for the reaction, and I absolutely do not hold it against him, but I mention it here because I think it’s an important example and is something that happens a lot – and it would happen more if I was more vocal. I expect that if anyone takes the trouble to read this, I am going to get some negative reactions here.
People oversimplify. Life is complicated. History is complicated. How we got to where we are now is very complex, and how we get out of it isn’t straight forward. It would be helpful if we could have a straight forward conversation… but we can’t. Why can’t we? Because amidst people who have honest and true concerns, we have many people being disingenuous in what they are trying to do.
We are making terrible assumptions.
We are making the wrong diagnoses.
We are applying bad solutions.
The very notion of “sides” here is a major problem. In one sense, we are all individuals, and as such there are so many sides so as to make the notion of sides a useless one. On the other, we are all Americans, and beyond that, all humans created in the image of God, and ought to be united in our desire for the good of each other in that way. Even if we disagree with what the solutions are, we should acknowledge that we are part of the same team and treat each other charitably. Good people can disagree with me, and they should be able to still see me as a good person, and I them.
I fear that will not be the case though. I fear that in writing these posts I am going to lose friends who, though I believe they are misguided, I believe are good people. Why will I lose them? Well, I fear they will think me not a good person – because they have embraced ideology that says that good people cannot disagree with them, ergo, I must not be a good person.
What I see right now is a society in decay. Now, please understand that I get that not every individual’s experience of our society is the same, but judging America against America’s entire history, it seems to me that it is objectively true that overall the BEST version of America is, essentially now. I say essentially because I think there’s an argument to be made that in the recent past we reached the pinnacle and started a decline. I would in fact make that argument myself. Can I pinpoint exactly when we reached that pinnacle? Not really. I’d bet a lot of people would say Trump’s election, but, I don’t think that’s right. But it’s really difficult to say, because I could point to things and say “this is something that is contributing to the decline, and it started at X point”, but that doesn’t mean we were IN decline when that thing originated. I would say Trump’s election was more a result of people sensing the decay than it was anything else. As Jordan Peterson has imagined aloud on a few occasions, many people simply said “to hell with it,” and voted for Trump.
It’s worth noting that apart from a handful of edits, everything above this point was written months ago. If you’re reading this near to this post, you are very aware that Biden very recently entered the office of the Presidency. Perhaps you think this is going to turn things around. I am certain that you’re wrong. If anything, things have only gotten worse from when I began writing this post. I never came back to it until now because I doubt that I can really impact anyone’s opinion, and I fear losing a friend. But ultimately I have to say what I think. So I’ll just pretend that since I’m not going to post this on Facebook, and within 24 hours from now my Facebook account will be deleted, that means that no one is going to read this anyway.
Things are not getting better. Censorship is increasing. Even if you are sure that someone is wrong, they have the right to be wrong, and to try to convince other people of their ideas. I think people who believe the earth is flat, or that the moon landings were faked, are crazy, but, I also don’t think they should be silenced. I don’t really make any effort to follow the Q stuff – certainly a lot of what people have told me about it sounds crazy, but again, they have the right to believe it and say it.
Silencing voices is not how we’re going to heal anything – that’s how you’re going to drive people to extremism. Big tech colluding to nuke Parler is bad news, no matter how you feel about Parler. Twitter is obvious in their bias in how they enforce rules, and they allow abhorrent things to remain on their network while banning Trump for fairly innocuous tweets. Now people in Congress are urging the FBI to investigate Parler and for YouTube to increase censorship. The Russians continue to be the big bad. Oooh… Scary Russians are coming to get you, so we must give up freedom of speech.
I’ll be honest, things are starting to feel pretty hopeless. Ideological differences with fellow Americans are getting to the point where I almost feel like they are irreconcilable. And if that is truly the case, then division is inevitable. Does that mean civil war? I don’t know, maybe. I guess it depends on whether or not the powers that be allow for a split to happen peacefully or not.
But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps we’ll be saved via eucatastrophe. Our doom is certainly quite probable, and feels quite immanent – but I will not say some sudden and unexpected turn of events could not save us.
If you think that Trump was a tyrant, I can only say that he was the most ineffective tyrant in history. If you think Biden is going to be a great President, I invite you to wait and see what the reality turns out to be. He’s already admitted he’s not going to do any better than Trump on Covid… not to mention implementing his mask mandate and then failing to abide by it only hours later. Imagine the media reaction if Trump had done such a thing. I don’t argue that Trump was some sort of savior, only that he was not uniquely terrible – and certainly not a tyrant or fascist.
I have a feeling things are going to get interesting… if it is to be a defeat, may it be long indeed… and truly I hope for some unexpected salvation to come.