More and more people, on both sides of the political divide, are waking up to reality


I was pleased to see this article at Quillette.  The author, Jonathan Kay, is clearly of mid-left-wing political sympathies, but he’s also clearly a thinking man, who’s realized that we’re headed like lemmings towards a cliff from which there’s no return.  I can only wish more people of good will, on both sides, could realize this, and do something about it before it’s too late.  The former is happening.  The latter . . . not so much.

When you have lived long enough in a foreign country, you eventually begin to realize that the one you left behind, once accepted as utterly unique since it was all you knew, is not particularly different from anywhere else. One can call this perspective, but it is more a recognition of the essential contingency of any nation.

This is especially true when observing a country like the United States, which raises its children to believe that it is exceptional and, being exceptional, also immortal. Indeed, living in a country like Israel, which must be ever-vigilant about existential danger, I am struck by America’s extraordinary sense of invulnerability. An unthinkably bloody civil war did not break it, nor did Pearl Harbor or even 9/11. America and Americans, by and large, think they are going to live forever. Like most Americans, I grew up reflexively believing this. It was never said or taught outright, but it was a kind of cultural assumption. America was born of the virgin Liberty, and like the son of God in which it still largely believes, will always rise from the dead.

From afar, however, you eventually realize that, just as no man is immortal, nor is any nation. It is possible, of course, that it may survive for a very long time—much longer than the lifespan of any individual citizen. But even Rome fell, and while the Jews and perhaps India and China appear to prove the possibility of perpetual existence, it is in the nature of existence itself that survival is by no means inevitable.

This disillusion has been much on my mind lately, as I gaze from this great distance at the country of my birth. Because … it looks like America is in the midst of a crack-up.

I doubt that it is necessary to present a complete list of the symptoms of this collective nervous breakdown, but there were certain inflection points that seem important in retrospect. Over the past 20 years, America threw itself into two wars, one necessary and the other wholly not. It saw the rise of an anti-war movement that asserted, quite stridently, that a relatively innocuous president was the equivalent of Hitler. It watched as its overclass, through greed and short-sighted pursuit of profits, nearly destroyed the economy. It elected a messianic leader who proved all too human and followed him with a narcissistic, bloviating, entirely unscrupulous incompetent who was indifferent to the basic conduct required to sustain a democracy. It witnessed a direct attack on one of the great institutions of that democracy, now defended by a great many who ought to know better. It fostered an opposition composed of radicals prone to censorship and street violence. It has been riven by racial divisions that appear to admit of no obvious solution. And now it must contend with the fact that approximately half the country believes that a presidential election was stolen because their mendacious leader told them so.

The results of all this are not too difficult to discern: A significant segment of the American Left and Right have both, to a great extent, given up on the republic and its institutions. Something like a low-intensity race war has broken out both on the streets and in rarified cultural and academic institutions. Half the country considers their opponents godless, pagan heathens who are—at times literally—in league with Satan. The other half considers their opponents Nazis who are seeking to rebuild and re-enforce a white-dominated racial hierarchy. Both believe, quite sincerely, that the victory of the other side will mean the triumph of evil and therefore must be prevented at (almost) any cost.

All of this has led me to contemplate a depressing but perhaps inevitable possibility: I don’t see how America gets out of this. I had hoped that the Capitol attack might finally break the fever, and that some measure of sanity might prevail. But the opposite happened, and the Right has, with some noble exceptions, doubled down, proclaiming that the mob were peaceful protesters and Ashli Babbitt is the new John Birch. The Left, meanwhile, has gone about gutting the right to free speech and destroying the lives and reputations of anyone who ventures that there are, for example, only two sexes. Neither side, then, is willing to admit the obvious, and is determined to impose an alternative truth—that is, lies—by coercive means, if necessary.

This all seems to add up to something like a sign of the end. Republics, and especially democratic republics, rest not only on the written law but also on an unwritten law: “Thou shalt submit to reality.” This brand of Enlightenment-born politics requires citizens to assent to the laws of the republic, the institutions of the republic, and the results of its regular elections, secure in the knowledge that there will always be another one. In other words, citizens are expected to conduct themselves as reasonable human beings. No one, however, appears to be reasonable anymore. One side believes that the moral imperative of equity overrides all other values and considerations, including the Bill of Rights; the other side submits to nothing but the dictates of its spiteful demagogue. This is unsustainable.

There’s much more at the link.  Recommended reading.

I don’t see how America gets out of this, either.  It’s still possible for rational, reasonable people to find a way;  but rational, reasonable people are not in charge right now, and are not leading either wing of US politics.  It’s become a tired old cliche to quote Yeats, but sadly his words are no less accurate for that:

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

What Mr. Kay fails to realize (or, at least, to acknowledge) is that the individual leaders involved – President Obama, of whom he clearly approves, or President Trump, of whom the opposite is clearly true – are not the “leaders” of their respective “sides”.  The two are merely figureheads for their followers, giving a human face to a fundamental dissonance in US society.  The extremists on either side appear unwilling to regard the other as “human”.  Instead, they’re “things” – “Rethuglicans” or “Democraps”, leftists or rightists, conservatives or progressives, enemies or friends.  There’s no longer any recognition of the essential humanity and shared national heritage that should unite us.  I’ve written many times about that dissonance and its effect on societies.  See, for example, what I said about the Paris terror attacks in 2015, and apply that to US society today.  There’s an awful lot in common.

I did not like and still do not like President Trump’s arrogant, abrasive style, and did not and do not support him because of it.  I did so because his policies to put America first and restore the balance between Wall Street and Main Street were and are, to me, so self-evidently correct.  Others will, of course, disagree with that perspective, as is their right.  That’s the beauty of freedom;  one is free to choose.  I disagree profoundly with those who hold that President Obama’s policies were right;  but I grant that if he won a free, fair, democratic election and proceeded to implement those policies, he had the same right to do so as President Trump had to do the same when he won election.

Sadly, neither side is willing to extend such tolerance to the other any longer.  We are no longer the “United” States, whether we like it or not.  Instead, we no longer trust each other, and we no longer trust the organs and institutions that run our country.  That way lies dissolution.  As economist Herbert Stein said, “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop”.  That seems to be happening right now to our country in its present form.

Charles Lipson sums it up.

Sometimes, stories that appear unrelated share common foundations and have cumulative effects, far more serious than any one does individually. Highlighting these common features tells us something profound about our society and its troubles.

. . .

The problem we face, beyond the specifics about crime, COVID, duplicity, and social division, is a palpable breakdown in public order at the same time the public has lost confidence in our government officials and the institutions they lead. The two meta-problems—the breakdown of order and erosion of public confidence—are deeply intertwined because we count on our leaders and institutions to give us reliable information, provide a stable environment (so each of us can go about our lives), and abide by the same rules we all do. Those are foundational elements of a peaceful, liberal, democratic society. Their attrition imperils that society and its governance.

. . .

The danger and dishonesty come after decades of eroding trust in public officials and the institutions they lead. Polls in the early 1960s showed over 70% of the public believed public officials were telling the truth. Those numbers have declined steadily to less than 20%. Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon got that ball rolling downhill, but it hasn’t stopped. The mistrust goes beyond public officials to include news media, social media, universities, corporations, unions, churches, and even civic organizations such as the Boy Scouts.

The public put aside those doubts, at least temporarily, when the COVID pandemic struck in February and March 2020. Almost everyone was willing to follow mask mandates and business closures. They were willing to let small children skip in-person learning and use their computers. But after more than a year of self-confinement and school closures, the public’s patience has run out.

So has the public’s confidence that health officials know what they are doing and are telling us the truth.

. . .

The public’s growing mistrust of senior officials, elected and appointed, overlaps with widespread doubts that those officials must follow the same rules as the rest of us. This common standard, and public confidence in it, is foundational to our constitutional democracy. Politicians, billionaires, and celebrities may be able to hire the best lawyers, but they are not supposed to be above the law itself.

. . .

The key point here is that these problems—and they are serious—occur amid a long-term decline of trust in all our institutions, public and private. That problem goes well beyond the FBI’s bias, the hypocrisy by Muriel Bowser or Gavin Newsom, or the public mistrust in Anthony Fauci’s pronouncements and the CDC’s guidance. It goes beyond Trump’s dangerous game in questioning the election, and beyond surging crime and illegal immigration. Serious as those problems are, an even larger problem encompasses them: threats to our country’s stability are cumulating when the public no longer has confidence in the institutions meant to cope with them.

Again, more at the link.

That’s the problem, right there.  We no longer have faith in each other as fellow citizens.  We no longer have faith in our society and its institutions.  We have lost faith, not just in our common, shared humanity, but in the various and sundry faiths that helped us look beyond the obvious, to perceive the natural in terms of eternal truths and the supernatural.

President Adams pointed out, more than two centuries ago:

Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

I think he was absolutely right – and we are no longer either a moral or religious people.  Thus, our Constitution is proving inadequate to bind us together.  Sadly, there is nothing else to do so . . . and thus, as Yeats put it, “things fall apart;  the center cannot hold”.

I see no way out of this dilemma except separation;  the breakup of our Union into two or more separate polities.  If anyone thinks that’s going to be an easy or peaceful process, there’s a bridge in Brooklyn, NYC I’d like to sell you.  Cash only, please, and in small bills.



  1. "There's no longer any recognition of the essential humanity and shared national heritage that should unite us."

    The Left has explicitly rejected that shared national heritage, attempted to smear and dishonor parts of it they don't like, and tried to force a distorted and eventually untrue version of it onto the entire country. They are completely unable to, even incapable of, leaving the rest of us alone. That leaves no room for peace or reconciliation.

  2. "I can only wish more people of good will, on both sides"…

    There are no people of good will on the Left. If they were of good will, they wouldn't be Leftists. QED

  3. Sounds like it was written by a parent who just cannot blame one kid no matter how at fault or vicious they act. Praising this type of mushy logic framed as the virtuous center is well below your intellect. We all know who is tearing America down and why, it's been admitted about 10K times.

    Some men get very sentimental and too understanding in their later years.

  4. I've recognized for over a decade now that most leftist are sub human filth that need to be purged from society. I've worked for such human garbage at public university. They are moral degenerates, usually physically repulsive, and liars and thieves.

    Conservatards are also a problem with their love of America's most worthless ally, 'muh Israel', but at least they will leave you alone if you disagree with them.

  5. " We no longer have faith in each other as fellow citizens. We no longer have faith in our society and its institutions." You make it sound as if that's OUR fault. It is not, it is a natural reaction to being LIED to, over and over again.

  6. "Sadly, neither side is willing to extend such tolerance to the other any longer."

    Well, the "left" side of American polity dropped any pretense of "tolerance" for the right some time ago.

    Since the demonization and co-opting of the Tea Party, what I've seen is the moderate right adopting the lefts tactics.

    Sadly, neither "side" is willing to acknowledge that the true issue is with out "betters" in power, whether that's media, corporations or government.

    We are divided by the powers that be, so as not to upset the cart we plebes are pulling.

  7. Try to convince a true leftist to point the blame at his rulers, the rulers who are actively subjugating his perceived enemies, tis' but a dream that a leftist will turn on the hand of his master, they need and desire a master as they are herd animals. Were it otherwise, the Mensheviks would still be around.

  8. "the Right has, with some noble exceptions, doubled down, proclaiming that the mob were peaceful protesters "

    Words have meaning. The Right was merely using those words as commonly defined. I don't agree with what the protesters did but anyone who seriously thinks this was an insurrection versus a bunch of frustrated people acting out is delusional, especially given the number who just wandered in and took selfies with polite Capitol Police Officers.

    I routinely see this division on local neighborhood social media where anyone who dares to suggest that vaccinations might not be safe is told that they are evil, that they are endangering the lives of everyone else, and that they don't deserve to have a job or be out in public. I have even seen comments along the lines of "I hope you die" although it is generally couched in softer terms.

    Perhaps it is time for some Augustinian Reforms to our country.

  9. I disagree.

    The Left has been othering anyone who isn't Left (and a number who mostly are but have failed to pass one purity test or another) for decades. Othering is the first step toward war, and they have taken most of the ones that come after as well. What they plan is obvious, you just have to listen to them. They're serious about this. Deadly serious.

    The time for men of good faith to come together is likely past. What we're headed toward-war, breakup, partition or some other resolution-will have to act itself out before any sort of stability have a chance to assert itself.

    Harden your hearts, boys.

  10. The work portion of the great split will be the hard part. Our elite will do anything to just stay in power a little longer and will act without honor, morals or dignity much like the Left.

    Once its done life will gradually get better for Conservative people , bit by bit, bob by bob. There will still be work to be done, enforcing populist economic nationalism and curtailing country club types an money boys but beyond that?

    It will in time be a goo place to have a family and raise some kids which is all anyone can ask for.

  11. We’ve been demonized out of the body politic, banned from public discourse, driven out of the media, academe and the schools. It’s impossible to hold a dialog under these circumstances and most of us have woken up to the new reality. Soon the talk of succession will go beyond mere words and what the black panthers and the weather underground and SDS were to the left wing assault on America will find counterparts from the right. It doesn’t help when Americans who simply favor defending our Constitution are referred to as “extreme right wing “ extremists.

  12. Peter,

    My initial summary of Lipson's codswallop I edited out, solely for respect of your blog and your preferences, but suffice it so say it's something found in the former Augean Stables by the metric ton.

    Lipson is an apologist for the pretended Oh-So-Reasonable-Leftards, who still, after gaslighting the country and its elections 24/76/365 for five years up to one second ago and on into infinity, want to pretend that they're the calm, rational ones, whereas the Right is the frothing moonbats, rather than the other way around, and this after they threw jet fuel on the fires they ignited to quite literally burn the republic down and destroy it utterly.

    "A man who lies knows where the Truth is; but a man who tells half-lies has forgotten where he put It." – Mr. Dryden, Lawrence Of Arabia

    Lipson is on the short list of those who should suffer ritual disembowelling while alive, rather than a simple rope or bullet, for the preponderance and propagation of such volume of the utter well-known substance they've spent their entire adult lives pumping up and spewing on everyone within range.

    Some crimes merit old time torture, not mere execution.
    His nonsense qualifies, ad extremis.

  13. We no longer trust each other because there is no basis for trust.

    I note in passing – at least in the excerpts – that the author pointedly fails to discuss the urban unrest perpetrated last year, largely by members of his self- acknowledged belief system. The only unrest he can point to that he hoped would "break the fever" are the events of 06 January.

    And that is a problem, at least from my perspective. Until we can find a common ground of right and wrong, there is no "trust" to be rebuilt – after all, why extend to someone who in every way acts as an opponent courtesy or understanding when the only return is opposition?

  14. Peter, you yourself said yesterday " After 2020, what makes you THINK they'll allow a fair election" that still feels true, to me. I'm no fan of this conflict, seeing as it's meant to destroy the country I grew up in….

  15. This post bothered me. One side is fighting a culture war with the ends justifies the means. And the rest just want to be left alone. Trump actually counter punched a bit, which United the elites against him.

    False Equivalence: The Problem with Unreasonable Comparisons

    False equivalence is a logical fallacy that occurs when someone incorrectly asserts that two or more things are equivalent, simply because they share some characteristics, despite the fact that there are also notable differences between them.

  16. Peter, this article you have copied isn't even bovine excrement, it's nightsoil, and a wast of time and electrons. I can look anywhere on the web to find the same sort of crap, I really don't want to find it on your blog. I got as far as his comment about the Capitol on 1/06, and that was confirmation he is not someone worthy of my time, or yours, I expect.

  17. Johnathan Kay might not like Trump but you do not have to like the man personally. Trump is a true American and has put the American People First and his politics are what count he did a great job….75 million people think so. Biden on the other hand has been in politics they say 40yrs and has run for President before he is the one that is narcissistic, mean tempered, bloviating entirely unscrupulous incompetent person. Biden is the most abhorrent person in America.

  18. There is no equivalence between the left and right. The difference? The right wants to be left alone, and the left refuses to leave anyone alone. People on the right are (generally speaking) perfectly fine with leftists living their lives as they see fit. Smoke weed? Guys wear dresses? Live in a commune? Fine by me, go for it, but don't force me to agree to the same! The left wants EVERYONE to do it their way. You must use my chosen pronouns. You must not fly THAT flag! You must pay for my health care. I demand that you respect my choice of sexual partners.

    The right has backpedaled and acquiesced. I think that time is at an end. The right is starting to speak out and stand up. Remember: If the right were a minority, the left wouldn't have needed to steal the election.

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