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State of The Republic: July 4, 2023

AP Photo/Aaron Doster
The State of the Republic – 2023

On this, the United States of America’s 247th birthday, I’d like to share a few thoughts on what the state of the Republic is and where we might be going. Being an optimistic sort, I’ll start with the good stuff. Fair warning: It goes downhill from there. But I’ll try to finish with one of my favorite things, a happy ending.

The Good

Much of the news cycle, for those of us who pay attention to such things, focuses on various levels of government and events in the major cities. That’s to be expected, I suppose, but if one wants a little more positive look at how things are going, get out of the cities.

I’m far from unbiased on this. I grew up in a rural setting, and while my wife and I spent years living in the Denver area and I have worked in major cities all over the world (Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tokyo, Kyoto, and Shanghai, among others), I have returned to my rural roots, living now in a house out in the woods in Alaska. And small towns, small communities, in my not-disinterested opinion, hold some of the best of what made America great.

Folks in small towns know each other. Many, if not most, of the denizens of a small community know each other. They talk to their neighbors. They gossip – sure, and that gossip serves as social lubricant. But the point is that people who live in small communities are tuned in to each other and to events that affect the community. If someone breaks down along the road, small-town folks stop and ask if they need help. Here in the Susitna Valley, if one of us kills a moose, we share moose meat with the neighbors, knowing that they’ll eventually reciprocate – maybe with salmon, maybe with halibut, maybe with fresh veggies, but it all balances out.

If someone dies, small-town folks still take casseroles, pies, and sandwiches to the family to help them get through the upcoming sad and busy days. We celebrate births, weddings, and graduations together. We do business with each other, we observe holidays together, we are involved with each other, often in ways people living in a huge, impersonal city often can’t understand.

People who are heavily involved in city life, in my experience, don’t experience this, and if the day comes when our major cities come apart, the folks out in the country will have to make some adjustments, but in the end, we’ll get along all right. The people in major cities? Things there will be much more difficult.

It’s increasingly likely that we’ll have to make some of those adjustments.

The Bad

Government at all levels has run out of control.

The news here hasn’t been all bad. There have been some interesting and positive Supreme Court decisions of late, including striking out forcing business owners to forgo their First Amendment rights, ending racial discrimination in college admissions, and slapping down President Biden’s impossible student loan wipeout. That’s encouraging, and it seems like SCOTUS is the only branch of the Federal government that’s doing its job right now.

At the Federal level, Ronald Reagan’s assessment has never been more relevant; if something is moving, the response of government is to tax it; if it keeps moving, to regulate it; if it stops moving, to subsidize it. Congress and the Executive Branch are both peopled with one of the biggest collections of con artists, mendicants, bunkum artists, fraudsters, money-launderers, and nincompoops in the history of politics. They and their family members are above the law, equal treatment under the law being, essentially, dead. Our military’s mission has apparently changed from “close with and destroy the enemy by fire maneuver and shock effect” to “provide jobs and benefits to the most neurotic and self-absorbed, and forget about mission-capability.”

State and city governments celebrate failure and punish success. Criminals are greeted in the courts with revolving doors. Honest citizens are jailed for defending themselves or others.

The country is increasingly polarized, largely due to these issues. People are voting with their feet, moving mostly from blue states to red ones. This is neither desirable nor sustainable. But, as a wise man once said, politics are downstream from culture, and our culture has some serious issues now.

The Ugly

There are some serious social pathologies rocking the country now.

When the gay rights movement first became a thing, lots of liberty-minded people supported it. People should, we thought, be able to marry whomever they please and live in a manner that makes them happy. File it under “minding your own business and expecting other people to mind theirs.” It is impossible, though, for the more radical members of any social movement to admit victory, and now we are faced with Pride Month.  (Veterans get a day; the LGBTQ2+++ community gets a month – does that seem right to you?) In Pride parades, naked men wag their genitals at children, and normal people are expected not only to accept this but to celebrate it.

Meanwhile, the transgender advocacy crowd is pushing to allow the genital mutilation of children. It’s one thing, of course, for a presumably competent adult to decide such things: But children? We don’t allow them to sign contracts, vote, join the military, or buy either a gun or a beer, but we must allow them to make permanent, life-altering medical decisions?

And if we oppose any of this, we normal folks are derided as “hateful” and “bigoted.”

American companies, even ones that depend heavily on the BroDude demographic, are inexplicably going all-in on supporting the “trans” community.

There is an oft-repeated cycle of societal evolution, which one can picture as sort of a sine wave; that cycle goes:

  • Hard times make tough people.
  • Tough people make good times.
  • Good times make weak people.
  • Weak people make hard times.

And, yes, we’re on the last phase of that.  It’s interesting because we only must go back to my parents’ generation to find the second: the children of the Great Depression, who lived through WW2 and turned the U.S. into a global powerhouse.  Their children, the Baby Boomers —my generation—were of the third phase, and now young people coming up in the world are pushing into the fourth phase.  (I proudly exempt my own kids from that.  They are all tough, productive, and proficient.) We have currently raised several generations of people who have never experienced any real hardship of any kind, and it shows. These kids are frantically inventing hardships—non-existent ones—to try to lend themselves some heroic aspect they haven’t earned. All the social pathologies described above are largely, to my thinking, due to this.

Even So:

I still retain some optimism. America, for all its trials and tribulations, remains America. We are a nation that is forever young, forever re-inventing itself, and we are a resilient people. We have been through all manner of silliness before (I remember the late 60s, after all) and come through it. There may be some troubling times ahead, perhaps even some more violent times, but in the end, we’ll come through. We may see some hard times ahead but look at that cycle; hard times do make tough people. And tough people make good times.

It’s these tough, capable, regular folks of America that will bring us through. You know who I mean: the folks who get up every morning, take care of their kids, go off to work, pay taxes, watch a little television in the evenings, and maybe have a beer or two on the weekend. When the craziness dies away, the regular folks will still be around and will go on doing what they do. In the cities, in the suburbs, in the small towns and rural communities, these are the folks that keep all the wheels spinning and the gears turning, and due to them—due to us—America will keep moving on.

Right now, yes, things are a little crazy. But to quote another little piece of wisdom: This too shall pass.

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