Our short-lived ‘Morning in America ’ peeled away like a veneer. Society and politics thus exposed belie the subterranean chasm beneath our feet. It is high time we heed a siren, by listening to the warning for America given us by the late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Solzhenitsyn was perhaps the most famous and respected political dissident exiled from communist Russia . He lived and wrote for many years in the United States before moving back to his homeland. He died in Moscow in 2008 at the age of 89. A recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature, Solzhenitsyn is credited for having warned the West of the dangers of communism through his depiction of austere and oppressive realities inside Russia , and of implied Soviet design against American style freedoms. In addition to his many books, two of his greatest addresses were lectures given at Harvard in 1978 and London (‘Templeton Address’) in 1983. His voice was educated, clear and impassioned from first-hand experience. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union itself, he turned his keen intellect onto problems inherent in the West. His observations are ranked amongst the best in the world for their detail and rigor. In terms of what he said about this country, they rival those of Frenchman, Alexis de Tocqueville in the Nineteenth Century.
Whereas Tocqueville made observations and came away with admiration and optimism about America , Solzhenitsyn did likewise and left with fear and alarm for America ’s future. His could even be the same voice as Tocqueville in our day, for we are most certainly not in the same place we were. We may be inheritors of the same great traditions, but we are no longer following them—not in politics, economics or religion; and we have left our Constitution behind. Moreover, according to Solzhenitsyn the same metaphysical root cause for destruction of the Soviet Union will as surely eliminate the West if it prevails in us. That is to say that death is a foregone conclusion, whenever man shall have forgotten God.
Alexis de Tocqueville famously said, ‘ America is great because she is good…and if she ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.’ He theorized that, ‘ Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith’ and in so doing, he frankly stated the overwhelming presumption of Americans through our whole history—certainly prior to the War Between the States. As he described us then, ‘Americans combine the notion of religion and liberty so intimately in their minds, that it is impossible to conceive of one without the other.’ Indeed, it would be hard to conceive of a different opinion coming from a people, who would attribute national independence in their Declaration of Independence literally to ‘the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.’ As a corrosive, unhistorical interpretation of strict separation twixt church and state entered into the education system and the public realm after 1960, Solzhenitsyn came to believe that the United States risked eventual collapse from within. He said this could occur even in the absence of serious external strategic threat, but it appeared all the more likely if we did face such a threat, say, from something akin to militant Islam.
Tom Pauken cites Solzhenitsyn at length and examines a predictive ‘coarsening of the culture’ in Chapter 6 of his new book, Bringing America Home (Rockford, Illinois: Chronicles Press, 2010). Pauken asks rhetorically, ‘Can we still call ourselves a ‘good society’ when nearly 50 million unborn babies have been aborted since the infamous 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which wiped out all legal restraints on abortion in all fifty states?’ Pauken strongly implies that America cannot be ‘good,’ at least not as traditionally understood in Christian morality, when its best-known export is admittedly Hollywood sex, violence, crude language, and mindless hedonism. Pauken argues that the coarsening of the culture is inevitably symptomatic of what Solzhenitsyn refers to as a loss of religious essence in Western societies and corresponding deprivation of the divine dimension in human consciousness among our people. Solzhenitsyn believed the West had all but yielded up its young generations to atheism, and he believed this would spell disaster.
A related symptom of national decline, which Pauken draws from Solzhenitsyn’s work, is the loss of ‘civic courage’ particularly among the ruling and intellectual elites. By way of example, just look at Congress! T.R. Fehrenbach, the great Texas historian also compared America ’s early leaders to the modern crop of politicians and found the latter wanting: ‘We should wallow in political talent compared with colonial times…. [Instead,] the democratic process has boiled down to a choice between two disappointments. Is it not odd that the most productive and powerful nation on Earth seemingly cannot reproduce the intellectual and moral political giants of its first generations?’ Odd indeed. The majority of Americans do sense the absence of civic courage and a void of character in their leaders. Since choices seemed so limited, many however had until recently simply disengaged from the political process. Fortunately the warning for America that Solzhenitsyn sounded is starting to be heard, and many are now preparing for a political revolution to come. The hour is late, but time is at hand.
Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford . Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he ran for U.S. Congress (TX-District 31) in the 2004 Republican Primary. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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