America is teetering on radical change in all it stands for. This can become either a national catastrophe or a magnificent resurgence of national values.
To see what’s taking place, step back and regard things in terms of societal evolution, ignoring for the moment the relatively picayune distractions such as climate change, medical care, education, press freedom and responsibility, unemployment, national bankruptcy, or what to watch on late-night television.
The background setting that matters most is the gathering crises in the long, evolutionary death struggle between tyrannical Islamist extremism and what’s left of Western civilization, once personified by representative constitutional governance and economic freedom found only in the United States.
A good way to gain this perspective is to pick up a remarkable book, “Arctic Dreams,” by Barry Lopez, a field biologist. Just hang on a minute or two.
It turned out to be a fascinating summer’s reading, recommended by an ear, nose, and throat specialist who not only reads but also reads to his children.
Lopez is a renowned scientist in his select field, the Arctic Circle, where you don’t bump into a lot of distractions. He also writes, as the ENT friend predicted, “like a poet.” Lopez is the literary Claude Monet of the Arctic.
He begins by describing this tilted planet’s gyroscopic revolutions around its polar axis, and how the exaggerated winter and summer seasons follow, along with prevailing wind and sea currents, crunching ice floes, and inching glaciers.
Then he introduces the land beneath the snow and ice, its soil and microscopic plants, and how the food chain there and in adjacent seas ascends from tiniest living forms up through the fish, puffins, snow geese, lemmings, seals, foxes, walrus, muskoxen, caribou, polar bears, narwhals, and mighty bowhead whales.
He ushers you into an endlessly changing, interrelated ebb-and-flow of evolutions that weeds out failed species, rewards adaptive ones, and keeps all constantly devising, clawing, and fighting to spare their progeny from extinction.
Punctuated by painful, bloody deaths, it is not a heartwarming saga. When laid out on the blinding-white Arctic canvass, it hits you right between the eyes.
Lopez documents how those species, great and miniscule, are not devoid of intellect. They, too, have to invent and modify, change and adapt, and some are downright brilliant in how they go about this dicey danse macabre.
Yet, there is no question that of all the living species, the one known as the human race possesses the awesome abundance of intellect.
Denizens of the Arctic survive or perish over centuries of adaptive ability or disability. But humans, also conditioned and molded by environmental forces beyond their ken or ability to affect, do their surviving or perishing by using, or abusing, their intellect to make complex and well- or ill-informed decisions.
Pull back from the Arctic Circle and regard the mess humanity has made, and is continuing to make at accelerated pace: A few more bone-headed decisions at home and in dealing with America’s enemies abroad, and Western civilization could go gurgling down history’s drain — or, more aptly, up in radioactive dust.
That portion of humanity within this democratic republic, founded on certain constitutional principles that have been the envy of the rest of the world, is at an evolutionary tipping point: All those gains could be wiped out. Or a re-flowering of America could emerge — and prevail, greater than ever before.
Barack Obama brought this carbuncle to a head, squeezing it by springing a radical-left domestic and foreign agenda on this country. A crucial test looms in the 2010 congressional elections. Positioning skirmishes are already under way.
Americans are not, like Arctic creatures, prisoners of inexorable evolutionary change. It is not too late to exercise the unique intellect God gave every human.
But, by succumbing to indifference and self-indulgence, Americans have the numbing, mindless power to plunge their beloved land into a long, dark Arctic winter of political, economic, and social retrogression, followed by weakness, isolation, vulnerability, and historic extinction. Even Arctic lemmings do better.
John L. Perry, a prize-winning newspaper editor and writer who served on White House staffs of two presidents, is a regular columnist for Newsmax.com. Read John Perry's columns here.
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