THE SHAPING OF OUR DESTINY
Solway is a Canadian poet and essayist (Random Walks)
and author of The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and
Identity and Hear, O Israel! (Mantua Books). His
editorials appear regularly in PJ
Media. His monograph, Global Warning: The Trials of
an Unsettled Science (Freedom Press Canada) was launched
at the National Archives in Ottawa in September, 2012. His debut
Guitar, is now available, as is his latest
on Music, Poetry and Politics.
Nothing beside remains. Round
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
not a believing man – or certainly not in the traditional
sense of attending religious services, observing the holy days,
studying theological texts (except for research purposes –
I have a decent knowledge of the Bible, the Talmud, and the
Koran), saying grace at table, or praying before bed. When it
comes to a divinely ordained plan for the human drama, I recall
Nobel physicist Richard Feynman's remark that the stage is too
big for the play. The human presence on the planet strikes me
as an evolutionary hiccup.
when I regard the condition of the American Republic, it is
hard not to believe that something like divine retribution,
a force of cosmic or spiritual justice, has been slowly at work
throughout its history, or at the very least since the middle
of the last century. This is Jonathan Cahn's argument in his
troubling volume treating the nature of the Shemitah,
or sabbatical judgment (which I considered at length in a 2015
whose leaders, whose cultural elite, and a moiety of whose people
have given themselves over to every conceivable form of corruption
has been demonstrably faltering, its greatness, Ozymandias-like,
a thing of the past. It is a nation that slaughters its unborn
in an orgy of indifferent cruelty; that mercilessly extorts
the living substance from those of its citizens who still struggle
toward decency and the values of community; that sets bread
and circuses over justice; that has invested its energies in
raising a Tower of Babel rather than a Temple of Gratefulness;
and that pays no heed to the noble intentions of its Founding
Fathers. In his aptly titled book Coming Apart, Charles
Murray concludes that "the American project is disintegrating."
The four domains of happiness he identifies – family,
vocation, community, and faith – "have all been enfeebled."
this plunge into the abyss merely a function of historical inevitability
– all things human, great and small, must eventually decline?
Or are Jonathan Cahn and those who share his thesis right? Is
a devastating punishment being levied on a nation that has sold
its soul, that has lost its way, that refuses to recognize an
authority superior to itself and has sunk into a morass of pervasive
immorality? What reasonable person cannot be troubled by the
spectacle of shallowness, self-aggrandizement, utter ignorance,
and sanctioned immorality that confronts and embraces us? These
sound like quant notions that can appeal only to the naïve
and the zealots. And yet what conscientious person can say with
absolute assurance that such is not the case?
speaking, these two explanations for cultural, national, and
civilizational decline – the evolutionary-historical and
the moral-theological – are similar in the effects they
postulate, but they differ insofar as the latter allows for
the tempering of justice with mercy – that is, for the
mollification of a vengeful deity. The reversal of decline,
a stay of execution, remains possible, assuming a people rethinks
itself at the eleventh hour, repudiating its penchant for pandemic
depravity, and seeks to restore a lost courage, honour, humility,
and fundamental decency. The downward path is effortless, a
law of cultural gravity; the upward path is arduous and against
the national grain but theoretically possible. In secular terms,
following the upward path is called wisdom or prudence; in religious
terms, it is known as grace or salvation, the gift of divine
concern. True, Abraham may have lost his bargain, but God was
willing to listen. And perhaps still is.
is always tempting for those of a certain cast of mind to discern
the hand of God operating in human affairs. "There's a
divinity that shapes our ends / Rough-hew them how we will,"
says Hamlet. If an eminent thinker like Adam Smith can propose
an "invisible hand" operating in the economic realm,
can we not say the same of the improbable ascent and unique
political character of the American republic in the history
of the world? Perhaps the two domains of the empirical and the
spiritual are not as distinct as we have been led to believe.
May not the election of Donald Trump, coupled with the defeat
of the most corrupt and vindictive political figure in the country,
represent the intervention of the numinous in the life of a
once-great nation that can be made great again? Who can say?
questions we now face are crucial. Has America truly changed
course at the pivotal moment, whether by sheer accident or transcendent
guidance? Will it last? The Edomites are still swarming, and
the rift between a part of the nation committed to the values
of work, family, and creative expenditure and a part of the
nation mired in ignorance, pride, and destructive sentimentality
– in effect, between heartland and coast, rural and urban,
conservative and left-liberal – is permanent. The attempt
to heal the chasm, however laudable, is doomed to fail.
hope is that the best part of the nation can survive the burden
of its parasites and drones and still manage to prosper. Yuval
Levin in The Fractured Republic sees America as essentially
a "creedal nation" animated by "a love of the
ideal that we have always held out before ourselves as the American
possibility . . . put forward in the Declaration of Independence,"
a nation "built up out of communities." Similarly,
James Piereson in Shattered Consensus, though agreeing
with Charles Murray that America is in "a process of unravelling,"
remains hopeful of a future trajectory opening the way "for
a new chapter in the unfolding history of the American idea."
the totally implausible result of the recent election, and assuming
that the worrisome events mentioned above fail to materialize,
may we not suggest that there were a sufficient number of the
just and deserving, a saving remnant, for a "new chapter"
to be opened in the history of the republic, or to put it another
way, for the Abrahamic bargain to be won? Is there more to this
election than meets the skeptical eye?
speculation, of course.