Friday, February 7, 2020

Normalities Are Not Permanencies

     In a recent article on the Trump Administration’s foreign policy strokes, Victor Davis Hanson comments as follows:

     NATO will now only survive if its members keep their word and meet their spending promises. An economically stagnant, oil-hungry, and top-heavy EU will have to make radical changes, or it will sink into irrelevance and eventually break apart.

     Trump got little credit for these revolutionary changes because he is, after all, Trump — a wheeler-dealer, an ostentatious outsider, unpredictable in action, and not shy about rude talk.

     But his paradoxical and successful policies — the product of conservative, anti-war, and pro-worker agendas — are gradually winning supporters and uniting disparate groups....

     For Trump the ex-television star, wars translate into bad ratings and worse optics. As a businessman, he believes needless conflicts get in the way of money-making and win-win deals.

     All right, there’s a small dig at President Trump for his dabbling in reality television. I suppose a “serious” opinion-monger has to work at least one into a column about the Trump Administration. But note the conclusion Hanson draws: The Trump approach is working to America’s benefit. Contrast the gains of the Trump years with the steady loss of influence and concessions to the Eurocratic world view of previous administrations. For most Americans, the choice is a simple one.

     Hanson’s theme in the above is that success is a powerful solvent for the prevailing orthodoxy – and President Trump has racked up success after success. He’s left his critics without any objective ammunition. All they have left is supercilious carping of his style.

     Among the reasons for the intensifying animosity of the politicians and media figures of the Establishment, this one stands out sharply: Their orthodoxy has collapsed. They have no argument for their demand that America return to their hegemony. By putting America first, President Trump has defeated all their premises and policy prescriptions, not just their notions about how a president “should” behave.

     I’ve told the following story before. It isn’t mine, of course. Indeed, it might be the oldest story ever told, as it originates in Imperial China, possibly long before the birth of Christ. Yet, as is the case with all great stories, it tells us a mighty truth: one that makes life comprehensible...and livable.

     The Emperor was troubled. His realm’s difficulties seemed to multiply and ramify with each passing day. His subjects automatically looked to him for succor. Yet there was seldom anything he could do to lighten their burdens. Worse still, knowledge of the misery and suffering that pervaded his nation was with him always, denying him any interval of peace.

     He became desperate for relief of some kind. Yet what form might it take? He could not hide from his people’s difficulties. He could not forget them, even for a little while. Nor could he pretend that he possessed even a fraction of the power he would need to lessen them, much less to banish them.

     He called to his throne the four greatest philosophers of his realm and pleaded for their aid. He described his anguish, laid bare its effects on him, and asked if any bit of wisdom they had unearthed in their lives of study and thought that might help him to meet his responsibilities. They agreed to confer over the matter, and to report back to him when they had reached a conclusion.

     Weeks passed, and the Emperor’s agonies continued. Strive as he might, he could not make significant headway against the ailments his subjects laid before him. His anguish often threatened to cost him his life. He struggled on by sheer force of will.

     But then there came to his palace a messenger with a hopeful message: The philosophers had reached the hoped-for conclusion. They had found the eternal truth in which the Emperor could find rest and peace. More, they had prepared from it an analgesic for his agonies of soul, and were transporting it to the palace at that very moment.

     The Emperor’s heart leaped at the news. Had the wise men succeeded at last? Was there a bit of wisdom knowledge of which would renew his energies and refresh his soul? He could hardly wait for the philosophers to present him with their discovery.

     On the next day the philosophers arrived with their gift to the Emperor: an obelisk of carved granite. They wheeled it into his throne room under a heavy cloth, and positioned it so that he could gaze upon it whenever he felt a need. When it was positioned just so, they pulled away the cloth, and the Emperor saw carved into the stone four ideograms that expressed the truth they had found:

And this, too, shall pass away.

     And the Emperor, reminded of what he had always known yet had somehow forgotten, smiled, thanked the four thinkers, and resumed his labors for his people once more.

     While we enjoy this new normality, it is vital that we remember that of which the Emperor above needed to be reminded: Nothing is permanent. Indeed, there are already forces at work striving to undermine America’s renewed strength, prosperity, and security. They hate those things and want to see them destroyed. Many of them walk among us.

     Can we resist them? I certainly hope so, and for many years to come. Yet it is certain that at some future time that we cannot predict, they or their ideological and emotional descendants will succeed. Their ascendancy will wreck what we enjoy today. And it is quite possible that the only salve for the suffering of their subjects will be the one the philosophers presented to the Emperor: “This, too, shall pass away.”

     Nothing is permanent. All we can do is to protect what we love as fiercely and resolutely as possible, and to impress the importance of that effort upon our inheritors as indelibly as possible. But what we have, strictly speaking, is today. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. No one is.

     Ask the Establishmentarians who’ve been so vituperatively certain that Donald Trump, with all his bombast, would never make significant inroads into The Way Things Are And Must Be. I’m sure they’ll give you an earful. After all, it’s what they do. Happily, for today it’s all they can do. But no one can be certain who will prevail tomorrow.

     Have a nice day.


Linda Fox said...

It's what has kept generations of contrary, opinionated hillbillies in my family living so long. We, in our stubborn, ornery way, plan to outlive our enemies.

It must be working - if someone in my family dies before their late 80's, we say, "They died so YOUNG!"

mobius said...

Heh! That was my hs yearbook quote, in 1977.