I turned 60 last week, which got me thinking — not about myself and the many changes I have been through in six decades, but about the nation’s fundamental transformation in that same time span.
It does not shock me that younger people — let’s say those born after 1970 — do not share my nostalgia for a world gone by. Tantalized by a future that is beckoningly seductive — and about five seconds away — it is not surprising that they do not have time to absorb, analyze or appreciate the “distant past” of the 1940s and 1950s, let alone the five centuries from the dawn of the Renaissance to the rescue of Europe from the barbarism of the Nazis in the Second World War.
But what does surprise me is how easily members of my generation and those older than me have betrayed their own experience, their own history, and their own culture for the sake of instant gratification, avoidance of responsibility, and the exhilarating sense of belonging that come from joining the age-old rebellion against God.
How can you remember the era when Americans were proud of their country, when the melting pot made us stronger, when decency was not a bad word — how can you remember that era and yet celebrate the political, social and moral free-for-all that has supplanted it?
No one will probably ever be able to answer that question. It’s like asking how could the Germans have permitted their country to be perverted by the Nazi ideology of Hitler. No logical answer will suffice.
Clearly, people like me who champion the lost cause of “one nation under God” are a vanishing breed, yet I do still feel the need to explain myself, to rage against the dying of the light, to seek out other candles that are now sputtering but still burning with hope.
As I celebrated my birthday last week, it occurred to me that the most compelling argument for my point of view would be made by someone from the period 1955 to 1965 who was miraculously transported 50 to 60 years into the future and witnessed the changes brought about by either design, wickedness or simply ignorance. Call it the Rip Van Winkle effect. How horrorstruck any such time traveler would be!
Van Winkle, if you recall, is the legendary character created by Washington Irving in a 19th century short story that tells of a New Yorker who slept for 20 years and found a world that had passed him by. He left as a loyal subject of King George III and awoke to find himself a free citizen of the United States of America.
But truth be told there was little enough that had changed in the 20 years Rip Van Winkle got caught up in a temporal eddy while the steady stream of time rushed ahead. From 1770 or 1790 — what difference did it really make in the scheme of things for the average person? The difference from 1960 to 2015, however, was the difference between two alien worlds — between a world where John F. Kennedy vowed to fight communism in every form to a world where America has absorbed almost every principle of communism as its own: collectivism, economic equality, social justice and atheism.
Consider this. In 1960 when I started kindergarten, we prayed every day in school. Not just silently, or in secret, but aloud the way Daniel prayed to Jehovah when prayer was banned by the advisers to King Darius. We prayed proudly and we learned about the Christian heritage of our nation — how the Pilgrims had fled oppression to seek a land where they could worship God freely, how the Founding Fathers had enshrined that freedom in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, how we gave Thanksgiving to our Creator God for the blessings of liberty.
Today, in 2015, we have not only taken away prayer in schools — thanks to the 1962 Supreme Court ruling condemning the very prayer I recited in my New York state elementary school — but also suspend or expel individual students who exercise their constitutional rights to free speech and religious liberty by praying publicly. Even students who simply acknowledge God as the source of their strength, success and wisdom are vilified and persecuted, just as those Pilgrims were so many years before.
A decade later, in 1973, the same Supreme Court once again ruled against the supreme being — declaring that human life was not precious until five black-robed justices said it was so, thus legalizing abortion in all 50 states, and confounding one of the nation’s founding principles — that life is an unalienable right given to us not by our parents, nor the state, but by our Creator.
With the nation’s abandonment of its core Christian principles, is it any wonder that we have collapsed into mediocrity, mendacity and moral chaos? Again, the values that made our nation great did not come from our founders; they came from the Creator God celebrated by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. The values that have turned our country into a cesspool came from human beings who thought they were better off without a God. It is no accident that civics is no longer included in the curricula of our nation’s schools. You can’t teach civics without core values, and core values can’t be taught without a core source.
When I grew up, everything was different. We loved our country. We loved our God. We honored our country. We honored our God.
Was everything perfect in 1955? No, but it was more perfect than it is today because our society operated with the understanding that there were inherent values underlying our laws, our customs and our culture. We understood that if we did not live up to those standards that came from natural law that there would be a price to pay. A perfect example is race relations.
Author William Faulkner understood that slavery was a curse upon a nation that recognized that “all men are created equal,” and that a price had to be paid for the South’s “peculiar institution.” Martin Luther King Jr. led the nation towards reconciliation, bringing black and white together like never before and never since, because he forged a chain of justice on the anvil of God’s love.
The modern Rip Van Winkle will find no equivalent of William Faulkner alive today, no author who can plumb the soul of modern man and reckon it against the eternal verities, and he will find but poor shadows of Martin Luther King in the form of an Al Sharpton and a Barack Obama — men who have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof.
Sharpton and Obama take credit for the position of blacks in our contemporary society. Well, let them have the credit. They have turned minorities into a “protected class” instead of into “God’s children” as Martin Luther King envisioned them. The progress of the past 50 years in race relations has largely been illusory, as the recent urban riots have amply demonstrated.
Blacks may indeed be a “protected class” legally, but they are a “dependent class” in reality — left for the most part to suffer at the hands of the welfare state — isolated, patronized and taken for granted. Worst of all, they are now being victimized by the new liberal ideology of a borderless state — illegal immigrants are welcomed into our country to take jobs and opportunity from the long-suffering and deserving black community.
This is but one example, but rest assured: Everything in America today is upside down, or sideways, as you must expect from a system that has up-ended natural law and replaced it with human cussedness. Our visitor from 1955, transported violently to 2015 through the machinations of a deus ex machina, would no doubt be traumatized by the evil which men have done.
But there is an up side, of course — our modern Rip Van Winkle would no doubt qualify for long-term disability due to post-traumatic stress disorder, and as an illegal immigrant to the 21st century he would eventually be qualified for free college education, a driver’s license and Obamacare. Might even be enough to seduce him to acquiesce to the loss of his liberty. Three cheers for the new world order.
Hip hip hooray.
Frank Miele is managing editor of the Daily Inter Lake. If you don’t like his opinion, stop by the office and he will gladly refund your two cents. E-mail responses may be sent to email@example.com