Independence Day for the past few years has demonstrated what good advice it is to engage this fallen realm with the most modest of expectations. No worldly good thing, not even one of the two most special nations in human history, is going to provide any of us with unending blessings.
We still have the backdrop of material abundance that makes for counterarguments to the fact that America and the West generally are past the peak of their ability to enhance human life. It was the main counterargument put forth, usually by leftists but sometimes smart and principled people on the right who somehow amassed enough evidence to embrace a we've-never-had-it-so-good perspective, from the time that Western decline became obvious to all who chose to see. It was an argument that persisted during the Obama years, even as economic productivity ground to a halt, radical Islam rallied for a new era of menace, America's nation-state enemies, adversaries and rivals came to see it as an easy mark, and the culture's rot accelerated.
I didn't even bother to write a post explicitly reflecting on Independence Day last year. My posts from July 3 were entitled "They Smell Weakness - Today's Edition" (about a Russian frigate coming within 150 yards of the USS San Jacinto in the eastern Mediterranean) and "It's Because of Infantile Dweebs Like This That Jihadists Feel Emboldened" (about a collection of essays by Ohio State professors on that school's blog blaming the mass shooting at Orlando's Pulse nightclub on "toxic masculinity," ultranationalism" and "fetishization of weapons.") My July 4 entry was about Huma Abedin, who could well have been our current White House Chief of Staff, disposing of personal documents in a burn bag.
The fault lines are a little different now from a year ago, but not a great deal. The players are still the same. A hard left still pursuing the Great Leveling Project, a cadre of Donald Trump fans whose slavish devotion keeps them blind to his obvious unfitness for his position, a news, opinion and entertainment media world with its own culture of self-congratulation, a church seemingly unable to address any of this, and a handful of citizens preoccupied with the relationship between freedom and the need for God.
Yes, Donald Trump was elected president, giving the Republican Party control of the federal executive and legislative branches, as well as over half the nation's statehouses. Yes, Neil Gorsuch was appointed to the Supreme Court, and just this week it made a difference in two key decisions. Yes, the Keystone XL and Dakota access pipelines are going forward after years of obstruction for no reason rooted in reality, Nikki Haley is injecting urgently needed candor into proceedings at the UN, yes, Betsy DeVos is doing likewise at the Department of Education, and, yes, the employment picture is improving.
But none of this is sufficient to alter the conclusion that America has turned its back on God.
The notion that there can be anything other than two genders, a hard fact confirmed by everything from scripture to DNA tests, continues to gain ground. For all the positive official moves on the environmental front, such as pulling out of the Paris accord, municipal officials and scientific associations are determined to do all in their power to continue to abide by its utterly useless requirements. Universities continue their "privilege" indoctrination, even as they jettison the teaching of Milton and Shakespeare.
A few things are a little different this year. A media world and a president who deserve each other are locked in a cage match characterized by a mock beheading on one side, and a mock body slam on the other. The "Affordable" Care Act, which so entrenched the fiction that health care can somehow be a right that its repeal must be handled in such a way as to avoid forthrightly saying that it can't, may yet be dismantled. The ISIS caliphate is in its death throes, even as its outposts in lands far from the Euphrates Valley grow in number and strength.
But in most important ways, it's the same trajectory as it has been. There is nothing less coarse about the culture. There is nothing less violent about inner cities. The family is even more an object of hate for the arbiters of what is left of our social architecture.
Society is so fractured, Black Lives Matter and the LBGT activist community can't abide by each other staging events. And then there's the right side of the spectrum. We have the likes of Kurt Schlichter calling Ben Sasse a wimp for taking a principled stand against the cringe-inducing Twitter habit of the president. (Chalk up another name on the list of pundits I used to admire but for whom my respect is rapidly dwindling.)
I'll read the Declaration aloud to my wife tomorrow morning, as I have for twenty-seven years, but more with the sense that I'm reading a blueprint for what could be tried among some people somewhere if they ever felt compelled.
This big wide continent sure would make a nice place for somebody to start a country predicated on the primacy of human freedom and dignity.