It all began about a half-century ago. The scene was set for the largest swap of political parties in the history of the United States of America, and the gradual decline of the American experiment.
A President from the second largest state in the Union signed Civil Rights legislation. He predicted “we have lost the South for a generation” to the Republican Party. He ran out his string of victories with a war in the Far East. He did not win. America loves winners.
A President from “The Golden State” ran aground when his cohorts bungled a “second-rate” burglary at a Washington, D.C. hotel. He flashed a double “V” for victory. Then Air Force One departed for the golden land.
A President from the South, with consummate drawl, was elected during the Centennial of the writing of the Declaration of Independence. He spoke of a “malaise,” something darkening the American spirit.
A Congressman came out of the South, without a trace of a southern accent. I doubt if he had ever said “Y’all.” It was rumored that he walked out on his wife while she was in the hospital. He tangled with the President from the same state. Wall Street trembled.
The Southern-born Baptist President did not appear strong enough. “I needed one more helicopter,” he said. The economy trembled. His co-religionists left him in droves.
Politics in the Deep and Upper Southland began to change. Citizens began to switch political parties, for good reasons and otherwise.
A mini-famous actor, turned politician, rode out of the West, saying, “government is the problem.” He appeared strong astride his mount; he had a loveable nickname. His wife read astrology. The signs must have been right. There were hints of scandal, but the mantle of the golden one was untarnished.
There continued to be “wars and rumors of war” (Matthew 24:6). The American thirst for oil outlasted its own resources.
Intrigues and mini-wars ensued. Another “Southern” President was elected, of the party represented by a mule. He appeared successful, but he seemed to “fiddle” with an intern with too much idle time on his hands. The Middle East seethed with tension.
The son of a President (the one who followed the actor), and grandson of a Senator, became President. He reacted as expected to a great tragedy on 9/11. Americans and their allies served valiantly in a long war that has lasted over two decades, longer than any other war in American history.
Then came an amazing moment: the election of an African American male to the presidency. Had peace and reconciliation been reached on January 20, 2009? Had the nation finally reached peace with, and within, itself?
Alas, no. In 2016, an apparently popular minor TV star, whom his father had blessed with one million smackers when he came of age, strode the stage with carefully coiffured mane, a bit of a belly (golf clubs and irons always at the ready in times of crisis), and bone spurs. He displayed in public a lovely foreign-born wife, and beautiful children from their own and previous marriages. His every venture, yea, even the presidency, was bankrolled by millionaires and billionaires, home and abroad, in their joint quest to control the destiny of the United States of America.
There came a Pandemic, unlike anything seen since the Great Influenza Epidemic of a century before. The funny-looking President said he took shots of a disinfectant as real experts shuttered. Many people took the vaccines, while others swore it was a fraud. Thousands died. Crazies communicated with the mysterious “Q” and other weird sources. Americans bought more guns, as if they did not have enough, stashed away ammo, and waited for the end of the world, the Armageddon mentioned in the Bible.
Then came January 6, 2021. A mob, an insurrection — in Washington! The nation quaked. The television audience could not believe their eyes. Politicians, from Blue and Red states alike ran for cover.
Was this our Capitol, the same building where strode the likes of Henry Clay, Abraham Lincoln, and Woodrow Wilson, where the wheelchair of FDR creaked along? Alas, it was true.
“Oh! It was nothing,” some said. “Just boisterous Americans having their fun.” A little defecating and urinating in the building, battered windows and doors, scattered papers, stolen property, a few dead – happens all the time in other places.
And Putin laughed, Russian oligarchs giggled, Chinese billionaires began hedging their bets, and our allies shook their heads. Was this the nation that had triumphed over totalitarianism in 1945 and led the world into the 21st century? Americans attacking Americans, not in the streets of just any city, but the hallowed city, the city of monuments to the mighty American spirit?
Fifty years. Half a century of presidencies, and where are we now? Where is the American experiment now?
A guest post by William E. Ellis