I'm not talking about such alienist media figures as Peter Jennings, with his coyly contemptuous sneer toward all things American. No, what I'm talking about – what was truly new and strange – was the subdued, detached tone used by almost all TV commentators, administration spokesmen, and even President Bush.
The president himself set the softball mood. "There comes a point at which our relations with China could be damaged," he muttered after nine days during which U.S. service personnel had been held captive by a foreign power. In the passive construction of that sentence, you could not find any suggestion that a great nation was being sorely mistreated by another nation and was resolved to do something about it. There was only some undefined "point" where "relations" might be "damaged." Thus, while China was brimming over with righteous anger and uncompromising demands, America seemed amazingly mushy and unfocused.
It would be hard to imagine such a laid-back response during any previous – or rather any pre-Clinton – administration. Under Bush the Elder, certainly under Reagan, perhaps even under Carter, there would have been, both in the government and the national media, some appropriate recognition of the seriousness and urgency of the situation. Even if they weren't sure what to do about it, those earlier presidents would at the very least have presented the
The absence of such normal reactions by the current administration cannot be wholly explained by a desire to prevent an international crisis or even by some inordinate fear of China. The real explanation, I would suggest, goes deeper: It is that, on a fundamental level,
A nation is not just a collection of people, laws and institutions. It is a spiritual entity in which its members participate, generation after generation, and which they find worthy of an overriding loyalty because it somehow transcends them and their particular concerns. And
We can even pinpoint the precise moment in our recent history when this process of national destruction, which had been progressing and accelerating over the last 50 years, was completed: the Senate's acquittal of President Clinton in February 1999, followed six weeks later by the U.S.-provoked war in Kosovo.
These two cataclysmic events complemented each other. The nation's refusal to remove from office a depraved and criminal president consummated the decades-long destruction of America's
Our loss of national identity, and our loss of the will to make judgments about right and wrong, are symptoms of the same spiritual disease: the loss of the belief in objective truths larger than the self. Without a belief in the objective reality of the good, we have no wish to "impose our judgments on others," since, as we see it, our own judgments cannot be grounded in anything beyond our personal preferences. Similarly, without the instinctive faith that our nation possesses a transcendent character or value, we feel no urgency to defend and preserve our nation. The moral suicide and the national suicide proceed in tandem.
Thus, whether it is a truculent foreign government capturing our airmen and demanding apologies from our president, or a continuing tidal wave of legal and illegal immigrants transforming our society in undesired and irreversible ways, or white middle-class teenagers at Columbine High and elsewhere announcing their plans to slaughter their classmates, or an epidemic of
While this suicidal loss of moral and national will has been primarily the work of liberals, we need to understand that conservatives have also been involved in it.
Liberals, for their part, believe in two things: the individual's unrestrained right to define his own notion of truth (as the Supreme Court famously put it in Planned Parenthood v. Casey) and, in pursuit of this total freedom, the gradual elimination of all the larger moral and social wholes – marriage, family, church, community, ethnicity and nation – by which human beings have historically organized their existence. The logical end of the liberal vision is a borderless, Godless world consisting of nothing but radically free individuals. In reality, of course, such a global society won't be free at all, since, in the absence of all traditional forms of collective order such as the self-governing nation, order will inevitably be imposed by some tyrannical bureaucracy such as the one already taking shape in Europe.
In contrast to liberals, most mainstream American conservatives believe in some notion of transcendent truth higher than the self. The problem, however, is that modern conservatives define this transcendent truth solely in terms of
The only value they can fully embrace is the right of all people everywhere to make their own choices and advance their economic interests – even if those choices and economic interests are inimical to America. This is certainly the view of those Republicans who have embraced close relations with China despite its open desire to harm America.
And that is why America no longer exists. Liberals
The chief difference between liberals and these mainstream conservatives was shrewdly stated last year by the conservative activist Howard Phillips. The Democrats, said Phillips, will take us over the cliff at 80 miles an hour. The Republicans will stay within the speed limit, but they'll still take us over the cliff.
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