Why Light a Candle When You Can Curse the Darkness?

A FB "friend" has declared his disillusionment with America and is upset to realize he is not patriotic. One of his FB friends (not mine) suggested his patriotism would be rekindled by reading a biography of the rabble-rouser Sam Adams. Alas, probably not. I don't think any life of Sam Adams would change anyone's mind about what is happening here and now. He lived in a different world, and, I am sorry to say, he was eager to get the colonies into a war with a far more benign government than we have had since the election of Dishonest Abe.
I am hearing the voice of despair ever more frequently in increasingly plangent tones.  An actual friend of mine has been filling Facebook with his complaints against everything that has gone wrong since 1965.   I tell him and everyone else, "Nil desperandum" and "aequam memento rebus in arduis"--Latin comes naturally when you are seeking self-control and sweet reason--but to no avail.
As Christians, we know that Paul instructed us to respect and fear and obey constituted authority. It is often said that he would have changed his mind after the persecutions began. Nonsense. That is a terrible way of misreading Scripture and untrue to an Apostle who was well aware of Pilate's complicity in the execution of Christ. I say complicity because he was bullied into it by others. But Paul did say the ruler's sword--that is the Roman legal and military system--was a terror to the guilty and not to the innocent. That is certainly not true today, when the government not only protects criminals, abortionists, and self-made freaks but subsidizes them.
The country is lost and the civilization is dead, but Christians and moral non-believers still have to accept the obligation to do no harm and to uphold what decent order there is. I would discourage young men from signing up for a military that is engaged in anti-Christian genocide in many countries, but I should also discourage any movement in the direction of contempt for order and authority. Stay out of trouble, fly under the radar, do what good you can for yourself, your own, your friends. America is like Italy and France after the barbarian occupation.  Our barbarians in the ruling class are more like Huns and Mongols than like Franks, Goths, and Lombards, but it is not as if this has been a free country at any point in my lifetime.
The reason so many people are falling into despair is that they have accepted the fatuous optimism of American exceptionalism. Once you get over the pernicious nonsense of "the city on a hill," you can get down to the practical business of muddling through a darkness that descended before WW I.  The second conservative delusion is their myth of how the decent and stable society of the 1950's has been destroyed by 60's radicals.
The 1950's were, comparatively speaking,  a good time, if we are limiting ourselves to the basics--higher public standards of civility, safety, and decency.  If we look closer, Eisenhower's America was largely a Potemkin village constructed by the same sorts of people who are now busily tearing it down--Henry Luce, Walt Disney, the leaders of both parties.  Even judged as a misconceived attempt at restoration, the 1950's was insubstantial.  The movement for equal civil rights, which had been conducted with dignity and a respect for law and order, turned to open rebellion under the corrupt and violent leadership of a pro-Communist philanderer who was above all criticism.
The revolutionary episode of the 1920's had been put on hold by the Depression and the War, and after the War, people wanted to get back to living, but private morality was only somewhat higher. The divorce revolution had been in place for several generations, pop music was mostly sexy schmaltz, Playboy was launched in 1953, and there was an atmosphere of stifling conventionality that could only encourage the little rebellions symbolized by the Beats and Rock music. Elvis cut his first records in 1953 and "Heartbreak Hotel" hit number one in 1955. Mailer's The Naked and the Dead was a big seller in 1948; On the Road was published in 1957. Rebel Without a Cause came out in 1955.
I have no animus against James Dean or Elvis, and can find good things to say about Kerouac but it was culturally vastly inferior to the period what Auden had called a "low dishonest decade."    Was Elvis really much worse than Perry Como or Vic Damone?  Was Kerouac a less interesting writer than Frank Yerby or John  Hersey?  The 60's were forged in the 1950's, and the failure to understand that very simple fact explains as much as anything does, the unbelievable and  inexcusable stupidity of American conservatism.
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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

6 Responses

  1. Patrick Kinnell says:

    Thanks for the welcome reminder Dr. Fleming

  2. Robert Reavis says:

    On Covid 19, peaceful protest and Making America Great Again (by Hilaire Belloc)

    Physicians of the Utmost Fame
    Were called at once; but when they came
    They answered, as they took their Fees,
    “There is no cure for this disease.”

  3. Allen Wilson says:

    Yesterday, I awoke to a FB notification from a Hot Springs related group that the city manager had announced his support for removing the Confederate monument downtown. This was followed quickly by a post from some group member who mouthed all the usual blather about treason, etc. This was the wrong thing to see first thing in the morning, so I went after her with both swords swinging, straight for the throat, and by the time it was over I had publicly called Lincoln a mass murderer, clobbered her with questions and truths she had obviously never heard of before, an had reduced this woman to childishly mocking what I said like some little girl, behaviour which would bring shame and embarrassment upon any decent grown adult. By that time I had grown bored of it all and never even bothered to look at her last response to me.

    What I could not help but notice was that she began to mock when I brought up civilian suffering and casualties. She rather callously and cold bloodedly dismissed this out of hand, and then mocked those who suffered. This brought to mind what Clyde Wilson said years ago on another blog. These people think only in abstractions and cannot or do not recognize the human realities of the world. They can justify anything no matter the suffering it inflicts on others. Nothing touches them. They will do anything without conscience.

    In any case, it is probably best to ignore any more such FB posts, and, like Dr Fleming says here, lay low, stay under the radar. This too shall pass.

  4. Vince Cornell says:

    I confess – the stupid got so stupid it riled be for about a day or two. I’m happy to say I’ve happily returned to my natural, cynical, resigned self. Anyone who puts their hopes in this world will be disappointed. I have also cut ties with anyone that’s blathered their submission to this new religion of worship centered around black thuggery, and that’s freed up time I have been stupidly wasting listening to various podcasts and whatnot. Thankfully, I don’t normally do much in the way of social media – I’m sticking with the old fashioned mentality of avoiding near occasions of sin.

  5. Jacob Johnson says:

    Having to see happy and calm people who can control themselves is the real oppression for these levee en masse types anyway.

  6. Clyde Wilson says:

    Of course, Sam Adams and his colleague John Hancock were slave-owners