The New America?

“Go see the new America,” I was advised by a not-altogether-well-meaning friend. “See how America has changed.” “America has changed a lot in the last nine years,” said another friend, “and not all for the better.” And yet again, “America is a different place,” coming this time closer from home.

So I decided to follow their advice. Now, I’m not some immigrant or some booze-soaked expatriate who has lost touch with the world – I have worked for America for twenty years, I have fought her wars, I have advanced her agendas, I have cajoled and pressured her enemies and I have fought in her own elections. Nevertheless, I have always been thoughtful – so I recently embarked upon a 2200 mile trek across America. Eight states, starting in the sun-drenched west (from whence I hail) and ending up in Washington D.C. Trump country, lots of it (and frankly by far the most pleasant). Because that is also God country (though naturally I am not conflating the two, don’t misunderstand).

“It’s gettin’ too busy here,” said an aged convenience store manager in Pine, AZ. “Now, you should see my 400 acres in Wyoming. That is freedom!” Pictures of hunting successes on the wall behind him. “And Phoenix – that is a disaster.” Pulled pork BBQ sandwiches along the back roads of Oklahoma; a catfish fisherman in the beautiful Ozark lakes beside a hollow which smelled of moonshine, a rusted double-wide on the lot adjacent to the mega-mansions of the rich, down from St. Louis perhaps for a week of fun in the sun.

And what did I see? I have no conclusions; America is a vast place and time moves about in waves ebbing and flowing and it’s sometimes best to let the tide carry you along though often life itself demands the full effort of paddling against currents destructive or counter-productive: and therein lies the art of living. In that spirit I do have some thoughts, of course. When have I not?

America is coming out of a once-in-a-century event. You could feel it everywhere, some places still panic stricken – New Mexico comes to mind; other places (Texas anyone?) finally releasing the facemask-dictatorship, defying the remaining vestiges of the managerial bureaucracy and emerging from a year of cringing to the glorious caress of spring winds in America. It will take a while for us to recover – this last year and a half was a singular life event, and the trauma of fear and uncertainty and stress will only be healed through time and reflection. Which doesn’t mean there won’t be trouble ahead – there is a reckoning coming. America did not do well in this trying season; not only did the administrative state fail us (Fauci emails anyone?) but it turns out that the tinfoil hat wearing conspiracy theorists were right – we did this too ourselves (please read Vanity Fair’s opus: “The Lab Leak Theory“). Hubris and stupidity and moral hazard meeting Chinese duplicity, a toxic mix indeed. What could go wrong? And then 10,000,000 people died while everybody else in the world was sent to sit in their underwear watching reruns of Friends and phoning in their work. If they were lucky. Yes, there will be a reckoning – for those who do not fear nature and consider themselves the masters of the universe but don’t know where water goes when you flush or how to change a tire, they have a lot for which they must answer.

But its not just a pandemic. America’s new aristocracy has settled upon a strategy to cement their perpetual power. The consolidation of the new economic model is complete, now the question becomes, ‘How to control the masses?’ The losers. Those who do not rule. Virtue signaling is the activity of the day; led by the aristocrats and their managed economic model, a revolving door of also-aristocrats who no longer need fear the consumer (name the last time a good boycott worked?) for America is no longer a capitalist nation (and has not been for a while) and therefore the corporations have other masters than ourselves. They take orders now not from the purchasing decisions of main street but instead from the aristocrats who control the capital and write the regulations. This virtue signaling is a modern manifestation of Mao Zedong’s ‘rectification’ ceremonies, breaking people into small groups (like Churches used to do in Bible study) to confess to each other their inherent biases and promise to do better. Sound familiar? Except that in modern America, you can’t be executed. De-platformed or harassed or fired, sure, but you’ll probably escape with your life.

The purpose of this Maoist Millenial onslaught is not a better life, a happier life, a life more abundant. Conflict is the root of the human experience. If they, through their sand-paper friction upon society can pit people against each other upon the streets of Seattle or down the National Mall, they can rule forever from their equestrian centers in Fauquier County (drove through there yesterday in my little used car – it’s lovely…) They don’t watch TV to see the commercials they are now ramming into our children’s minds. They don’t troll Facebook, comparing themselves to their betters. They are the ‘betters’ – best not advertise that too loudly.

And it is a great science fiction – like Fauci’s cancelled memoir or the story of the Wuhan Wet Market.

Because I did not see a racist nation. Of course I didn’t! A nation build on the Christian faith cannot be. In Tucumcari I watched news from Amarillo about a boys center giving a place to the disadvantaged, teaching them to balance a bank account and hold down a job. In Russellville it was stories about food drives. News-anchors from local stations as Tocquevillian members of their own communities, mouthpieces of monumental unsung efforts to improve the lives of those in their areas of influence who are having a rougher time of things than others. From the beaches of Maryland, where the Bachata music thumped over the evangelical sermon in Spanish; where the frat-boy and his polished girlfriend jogged, weaving around the woman in a full niqab wading through the salt-water after her son – to the Native American trucker from Gallup happy to be home after a long trip – this land is our land, all of us. The flow of commerce and do-gooderism unsung, the un-frayable fabric of America the final defense of those who always advise “Don’t bet against the United States!”

To be sure, there are pockets of tremendous wickedness, which ironically are some of the most homogenous places I saw (urban gentrified DC comes to mind, where I was two days ago). Places in that Tolkienien way which “Look fairer and feel fouler”; places where the aristocracy does not go, but nevertheless places that the administrative state has honed in on, to try and use their corporate bullying and their misplaced sense of guilt, using words like “diversity and inclusion” as a Maoist chant for a new utopia which replaces faith at the center of that massive hole where God and community used to be. The people in those places should go to a truck stop in Tennessee or a church service in Phoenix.

Jim Burnham used to enjoy most of all his trips in car across these great United States. Eschewing Lausanne or Munich he would drive with his family through Tulsa and Tucson; giving him the chance to take the temperature of the nation and get a feel for the direction things are going. I would recommend this to the aristocracy of America – because things are changing indeed, and fast. Their virus leak has seen to that. Best they rectify their rectifications, before their cultural bait-and-switch slips out of their control like a lab-cooked bug (too soon?) and they lose their privilege forever.

So has America changed? Of course. The world changed, why should America be any different? Like September 11th; like the fall of the Berlin Wall; like the civil war; like ‘I Have A Dream’ (incidentally I took my son to stand where Martin Luther King Jr. once stood) – post-pandemic America is a different place. But nihilist or cynical we are not, not through the lack of some trying to push us in that direction. But because America is a place of individual effort and responsibility and such, as always, America will be the land we make it.

Let’s get to work!!!

About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright. His most recently released work is "Dreams of the Defeated: A Play in Two Acts" about a political prisoner in a dystopian regime. His novels include "I, Charles, From the Camps" about the life of a young man in the African camps and "Lords of Misrule" about the making and unmaking of a jihadist in the Sahara. "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio" are about the rise and fall of socialist Venezuela (with magic).
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