The news in America is full of the recent ruling by the Supreme Court, which in a landmark decision, overturned the 50-year-old right of women to have an abortion. The ruling significantly increased the ongoing polarization of American society and of America itself. As America celebrates Independence Day on July 4th, it’s safe to say that for many, it will be a holiday full of doubt and uncertainty.
The subversion of American society began subtly in the latter half of the last century. It was a mere twenty years after President J.F. Kennedy famously declared “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” that Ronald Reagan inoculated Americans with the slogan “me first,” lifting the power and rights of the individual above those of a “bloated government.” The baby-boomer working class (the generation that bears the label “me first generation”) took the slogan at face value, and swung the pendulum from society’s priorities to their own.
The causes of the current disintegration of the American ideal have the distortion of ideals as their common denominator, specifically in the progressive deformation of the principle of “liberty” and “freedom.” These two words were prioritized by America’s Founding Fathers as being able to live in freedom and without tyranny. Today, they have come to mean unrestricted individual behavior, coupled the unrestricted ability to claim entitlement to everything that is available, and also to everything that is not. Ironically, it is the mutation of this founding principle that threatens today’s America the most. How did this happen in such a short period of time, and what are some of the specific factors?
The first factor, which affects not only America, but all modernized societies, is the unprecedented growth of opportunity and prosperity over the past 40 years. In a relatively short period of time, two processes have converged to reinforce each other in synergistic fashion: the rise of technology and the absence of real broad-based threats, such as plague or global war. In America, this resulted in steady growth and prosperity. But only for some. Beginning in 1980, the gap between the rich and poor in America has widened every year. Today, that gap is the largest of any developed country in the world: the richest 10% of Americans own nearly 70% of all American wealth, while the bottom 50% of Americans together own only 1.9%, while their share of wealth has fallen by half over the past 30 years (1)(2).
The same period witnessed increased activity of the Left – political, intellectual and societal – in pushing for increased protection of individual rights and empowerment. This led to the birth of “political correctness” and with it, “cancel culture,” both of which are now viewed as mandatory rules of conduct regarding all aspects of American behavior. The emergence of new anti-discrimination movements and initiatives, such as the “Black Lives Matter” and “Me Too” movements, are examples of this trend.
However, initiatives that center on blinding moral persuasiveness to redress social inequalities are always duplicitous, in that they neglect important dialogues and uncomfortable issues. For example, in the case of Black Lives Matter, while blacks make up 13% of the United States population, 55% of all homicide perpetrators are black; 91% of all black homicides are committed by a black person (3). These statistics understandably affect the instinctive reactions of police officers, black or white, when confronted by a person reaching into their pocket for a possible weapon. Many quietly ask questions such as: if (not only) black lives matter to black people, why don’t they mobilize among themselves to stop killing each other? The answers are understandably complex. But the questions can’t be asked, because they are considered illiberal and racist.
Paradoxically, the current mantra of “political correctness” and the growing rights of “victims” to be “entitled” to virtually everything, has become a chief polarizing factor in America today. The subjective feelings of all “victims” have risen above fact, practical reasoning, and debate. Examples include the right to compete in trans-gender sports (despite obvious physiological advantages), or the right to re-write and re-interpret history according to false standards, as evidenced by the ongoing frenzy to tear down statues of the Founders of the United States, because they, like virtually everyone else of the day, owned slaves. Students on campus are allowed to verbally and even physically attack professors (as per the recent case of Professor Nicholas Christakis (4) at Yale) who might express an opinion that the student audience, now resembling the back row of a Roman forum, finds disparaging. Doctors can’t use the word “obesity” in dealing with a morbidly overweight patient; patients may, on first meeting a doctor, hand him a printed card on which it is written that they do not wish to be confronted with this ugly word. The presumption of innocence may apply in a courtroom, but not in a society, where it is the duty of the state and overseeing organizations to ensure that all potential offenders are mandatorily informed in advance of how, when, where and whom they may inadvertently offend and harm. Nine states have enacted laws that make it mandatory for physicians to pass a sexual harassment exam every year. Should they not pass the test, their license to practice medicine is taken away, regardless of academic, clinical or professional experience.
It is the upper echelons of society, who in fact, bear the greatest burden in the new fanaticism of correctness, since that’s where the greatest “compensation” awards can be exacted. This creates a vicious cycle, with those affected not wanting to offend, be it student or patient, lest they lose income from exorbitant tuition or professional fees. The end-result is a vicious cycle that undermines the status quo and the strengthens primitive and selfish instincts on both sides.
The current state of moral bigotry is catalyzed by the greatest tragedy of modern times – the emergence of social networks, wherein every person can now trumpet their own knee-jerk wisdom and myopic views from the stage of their personally-directed theater. With the human brain evolutionarily biased to favor instinct and bad news over logic and good news, it’s no wonder that society’s ability to engage in constructive dialogue has gone into a spiral over a very short period of time, conspicuously worsening from generation to generation. One can only look at the youngest (“Z”) generation, raised by screens that their parents – seduced by the deception that technology is what kids really need, leaving them free to pursue the consumer mantra of “more,” to see the results: an inability to solve problems, communicate directly, and even write. It is a generation which, in the words of the president of the National Academy of Sciences, Peter Wood, “intoxicates itself with utopian fantasies and appeases itself with the pseudo-moral idea that everyone must be happy.”
While the facts and trends listed above contribute to America’s decay, there is a dominant, yet inconspicuous player, who is at the center of the disturbance, a member of a significant but ever-shrinking segment of America: the white, conservative, employed, lower and middle-class American. Of all Americans, he is the one who feels most deeply threatened as far as loss of identity and control over the future are concerned. It is precisely this fear, that Donald Trump capitalized upon, to win his presidency. Despite his impeachment by the US Congress and loss in the next election, Trump remains supported by a significant part of American society, because he represents their vision of America. One can only look to Trump’s supporters storming the Capitol on Jan 6 of last year, to see the level of support and blind fanaticism of their ranks. Even after the attack, which Trump himself supported, a whopping 25% of Americans still believe his psychopathic fabrications, that he didn’t lose the election. To this day, Trump functions as a significant contributing factor to the disintegration of America, while continuing to undermine the very foundations of its democracy (5). As long as Trump is in any picture, America can forget about healing.
Along with his subversive tactics, Trump has succeeded in something very substantial: by appointing three conservative Justices to the Supreme Court, he has completely transformed the Court from a balanced institution to one that is now purely conservative. The reversal of Roe vs. Wade, criticized around the world for abolishing a women’s right to abortion, is the proof. The Court justified its decision by stating, that since the U.S. Constitution does not deal with abortion, there is no reason to mandate to all of America how to treat it. In doing so, the court handed the issue over to individual states, thus strengthening the ongoing divisions not only in society, but among the states themselves. The subsequent reactions to the ruling of both sides are, and will be – to put it mildly, furious and dangerous (6).
Though the Founders of the United States surely meant otherwise, it is now apparent that the founding document of the United States, the Constitution, has now become one of the main causes of America’s fracture. Significant portions of the Constitution, written in a very different time and most of all, in a very different mind-set, are either impractical or dangerously misinterpreted. The prime example is the constitutional right to “keep and bear arms,” and the successful efforts of white and conservative America, along with their gun lobby, not to change it.
For America, the consequences are tragic and surreal: to date, more Americans have killed themselves with guns, than have died in all wars (since 1776) combined. There are more registered guns in America (never mind the unregistered), than there are citizens. Nobody cares about the proven facts, that studies clearly demonstrate, that more guns equal more murders. Instead, the focus is on finding the culprit in the “system,” and not in society itself. In America, one can walk into a store and buy a basket full of war machine-gun weaponry, then go for a short drive and shoot dozens of elementary school children as quickly as possible. Repeatedly. So far, in this year alone, there have been over 250 mass gun murders in America, 27 of them in schools. Today, more children in America are killed by guns (about 1,300 a year) than from any other cause. Since 2014, guns have killed and/or injured more than 34,500 children in America. Unlike any other civilized society, America still tolerates the murder not only of fellow citizens, but of its own children (7). Every school has become a fortress, where the salaries of hired police officers come from lowering the salaries of teachers. Instead of training children in how to escape from a fire, they are now taught how to lock themselves in a closet or dive under a desk. The gun craze has reached surreal proportions; last week, a restaurant worker was shot and killed by a customer in Atlanta for putting too much mayonnaise on her sandwich (8).
But it doesn’t stop there. More Americans now die from drug overdose than from gun homicides and car accidents combined. In addition to the standard causes of drug addiction, such as growing poverty and despair, there is a new one: unlimited prescriptions for pain killers by doctors to a pampered public that can’t suffer from any pain. The result is more than a million dead Americans from drug overdoses between 1999 and 2020; in 2021, the rate topped over 100,000 deaths/year, most of them due to the current opioid epidemic (9). In America, overdose or “misuse of drugs” has become the third leading cause of death, after heart attack and cancer. This, in a country that is the only developed country in the world, that still requires its citizens to pay for their own health insurance (which 16% of the population can’t afford at all), instead of having the government provide basic care to all its citizens. As a result, America has the worst health care system of any developed country, both in terms of efficiency (health care spending accounts for almost 20% of GDP), as well as in fundamental parameters, such as life expectancy, treatment of chronic diseases, rise in obesity (now 42% of the population), and access to care (10). This represents a significant ongoing stress, not only for the 16% of the population that’s uninsured, but everyone else as well – inability to pay medical bills is now the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in America today (11).
Also contributing to the decay of America is something, which used to be its greatest strength – immigrants. Unlike previous waves of immigrants, who contributed to the creation of a true “melting pot,”, today’s immigrants want to preserve their own identity, make as much money as possible, and ignore assimilation into any broader societal ideal. In America today, 22% of Americans do not speak English (12); the American “melting pot” is now a phenomenon of the past.
It’s no surprise then, that more than three-quarters of Americans believe that their country is headed in the wrong direction (13). The disintegration of American society has reached such a level, that in January of this year, The New York Times opined on the subject with the headline “Is Civil War Coming to America?” (14) At first glance, this may seem a bit surreal. But in a country, where one in three citizens owns a gun, and where according to a national survey, 46% believe that civil war will occur within five years, (15) the question becomes dangerously valid. In Texas, the Republican Party (which has a majority in Texas) has declared that it’s had enough, and is calling for a referendum in 2023 on Texas seceding from the United States (16). As absurd as this may seem, history has proven, that if the unthinkable is repeated enough, sooner or later it will be discussed, and eventually become reality. America is now in the process of reverting to its historical position in the 1800’s, with divided individual states and divided interests jockeying for position. America is going into its future by shifting into in reverse.
Finally, all of this is taking place within the current “reset,” with the world’s current reverting back into the standard peaks and troughs of our civilization’s history. The CoVid epidemic and the war in Ukraine have ended an era of unprecedented and unnatural growth and prosperity, with strain, both economic and psychological, returning to the picture. In America, the picture will be all that much grimmer, due to America’s massive and unprecedented budget deficit, which for the first time in history has reached $30 trillion – $91,000 for every citizen (17).
The causes of the decay of American society are, to some extent, purely American. But they are also global. The future of America will have direct consequences for the future of all free nations. As a result of the decline of America, the free nations of the world need to look to America, not for guidance, but as an abject source of trends and traps to avoid.
Translated from the Czech original version published at casopis Přitomnost, 4.7.2022.
published: 11. 7. 2022