December 04, 2014
A seasoned soldier once told me that men older than 35 are no good for combat because “they think too much.” Order an 18-year-old to charge an enemy machine-gun nest and off he goes at a run, whooping and hollering and firing from the hip. Ask a 38-year-old to do that, he thinks about it and says: “Whoa, wait a minute …”
By that standard the U.S.A. is an old country, old and impotent. We can”t do anything. Speaking of erections: the Empire State Building went up in a year and a half; Freedom Tower, with the advantage of a lifetime’s progress in construction technology, took ten years.
This contradicts the popular conceit of ourselves as a newish nation, full of youthful pep. In fact, as I point out in Chapter 3 of We Are Doomed, politically speaking the U.S.A. is a geezer among nations, one of the oldest.
Senile decline has come upon us fast, I”ll allow. A mere half-century ago we could still do things”at any rate, technological things like moon landings. Nowadays we Twitter and Tweet, swoon at disagreeable realities, and vest our pride not in heroic national accomplishments but in being “gay” or “Latina” or “undocumented.”
Some 20th-century wit”probably Mencken“observed that the U.S.A. has been the first nation in history to go from barbarism to decadence without passing through an intermediate stage of civilization. I don”t know about that. The U.S.A. of 1950″or even, allowing for a few rough edges, of 1850″looks pretty civilized in retrospect.
“Decadence” is surely the right word for our current condition, though. Whatever we once were, we no longer are. Whatever vigor we once had now hangs limp and useless.
I am dreaming of a U.S.A. that can do things: deport illegals, shoot looters, win wars. It’s pure nostalgia, of course. We can”t do stuff like that today. We can”t do anything.