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Friday, May 19, 2006

America's Imminent Perfect Storm

As spring turns toward summer and the fall elections march ever nearer, winds of change are blowing across this nation, auguring a critical moment in American history. Once, this nation had farsighted leaders who could grasp the reins in a time of crisis and guide the country through its peril to a better, brighter future. The Founding Fathers led the newly independent nation through revolution and its first toddling steps. Though we may not agree with the means they used or the political perspectives they espoused, men like Jackson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, Wilson, and others brought the United States to prominence, power, and prosperity despite the doughty forces arrayed against it.

Is there a leader in the wings who will have the fortitude to face the coming crisis? Perhaps there is, though it appears that he has not shown his face in public. It is reminiscent of the prophetic thought in Isaiah 3:1-7, in which all the real leaders of the nation are gone, and of those who remain, no one wants to step forward and take responsibility to correct the sorry state of affairs. Verses 8-9 explain why they are in such a mess:

For Jerusalem stumbled, and Judah is fallen, because their tongue and their doings are against the LORD, to provoke the eyes of His glory. The look on their countenance witnesses against them, and they declare their sin as Sodom; they do not hide it. Woe to their soul! For they have brought evil upon themselves.

Over time, the cumulative sins of a nation's people pile so deep that their weight drags down the whole nation. Everyone becomes caught in the crisis, and the prudent person, seeing calamity on the horizon, hides himself (Proverbs 22:3; 27:12). This means a person takes precautions to survive the coming storm, yet the downside of this survival mentality is that few want to take on the additional burden of responsible, positive leadership. As the man in Isaiah 3:7 says, declining the offer of rulership, "I cannot cure your ills, for in my house is neither food nor clothing; do not make me a ruler of the people."

There is a perfect storm gathering strength and whirling into position over America. According to Wikipedia, "A perfect storm is any only-remotely-possible disastrous confluence of singly innocuous events. In such a situation, it is clear that if any one element had been displaced in time or space the result would have been far less powerful, but because just the right things were in the mix and with just the right timing, the situation ballooned." We are witnessing the thunderheads building on at least six fronts: cultural, social, religious, political, military, and economic. Any one of them is bad enough, but as a powerful, wealthy nation, we could probably handle it. However, the convergence of all these factors—and perhaps more—makes a truly successful outcome doubtful.

Culturally, this nation is wallowing in filth. We sell sex and its paraphernalia as if they were cars, furniture, or soap. Pornography is rampant in magazines, television, adult stores, and on the Internet, bringing its purveyors billions of dollars. Our streets are full of crime and drug use. We kill a million unborn children each year through abortion. Our music, language, fine art, and dance have degenerated into perverse imitations of their more beautiful ancestors.

Socially, we are on the brink of coming apart at the seams. The white majority is split along political and economic lines, while large numbers of Blacks and Hispanics are seething at their often-perceived and sometimes-real inequality. Allowing in millions more immigrants over the next several years will only exacerbate this growing divide.

Religiously, America is adrift. In fact, it is far more accurate to say that America is almost entirely secular and humanist, not religious. There is little religious conviction left in most people, and what is left cannot muster the energy to do more than mount a milquetoast protest.

Politically, the country is divided along partisan lines, while a few moderates or centrists swing back and forth to garner votes to ensure reelection. None of the major politicians in America has the intestinal fortitude to do what is right and good for the country because such solutions are difficult and may not produce visible results before the next election. Even when no-brainer legislation comes across their desks, they fail to act in the country's best interests (for example, yesterday's downing of legislation in the House to allow offshore drilling in order to become more energy-independent; Congressmen whined that it would scare away tourist dollars).

Militarily, America’s armed forces are too few, stretched thin, and exhausted. They may be doing a fine job, but the United States is not prepared to defend itself or its principles on another front. It is not clear how well-supplied our forces are with materiel, but the fact that up-armored vehicles and Kevlar vests are not ubiquitous among our frontline troops is troubling. Besides this, the latest sniping at the Commander-in-Chief by several retired general officers suggests a deep morale problem among its leadership.

Economically, we live in Bubble Land. We have enjoyed a sustained, positive economic wave for many years, and each year that it continues bodes darkly that the crash, when it comes, will be jarring. Debt, personal and public, is piling up as never before. The government runs continual deficits. The housing market is due for a downturn (though the Federal Reserve Chairman promises it will be a "soft landing"). Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlements are not going to be solvent much longer. Finally, we have lost much of our manufacturing base, which in the past has helped us through the hard times.

Sadly, few, if any, of these problems are being addressed, much less solved. Everyone moans that his hands are tied, which may be code for, "I'm not going to be the one who has to take the fall for this!" Many people are sniping and sneering at the other side, criticizing them for doing nothing and having no ideas, while doing nothing themselves. There are no leaders on the scene or on the horizon.

Perhaps I am just being overly pessimistic. I hope I am. Yet, I keep repeating in my mind the words of Thomas Jefferson, "Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that [H]is justice cannot sleep forever."