Elective Decadence - Intercollegiate Studies Institute

Elective Decadence

The shutdown of the federal government’s non-essential functions in the wee hours of this morning seems almost inevitable. I’m tempted to respond with apathy to yet another twist in the predictable plot of Washington’s decadence. Along with our nation’s inability to find a internally consistent or morally coherent stance on Syria, it seems like yet another step on the path to becoming an irrelevant America. As Stephen Masty points out over at The Imaginative Conservative, national and personal decrepitude tends to come with increasing self-obsession:

My elderly relatives become exclusively self-interested as they fall apart and draw nearer to death. Their conversation shifts to aches and pains, the shortcomings of their armies of doctors, and which old friends have croaked and which are expecting the Grim Reaper immanently. This is particularly true in the West and, though less common in cultures with larger and tighter extended families, it may be generally true among old folks overall. Among nations and empires too, methinks; and the bigger the empire, the more far-reaching the consequences.

My dear friend John Aroutiounian pointed out this weekend, in reference to Washington’s ongoing paralysis, “These ideological battles are really smaller than they’ve ever been before. Existential threats are gone. Communism is gone. Segregation is gone. But it seems like our battles are larger than they’ve ever been before.” Watch his full talk here:

In 1938, Great Britain too had abdicated responsibility and avoided the hard questions for years. But Sir Winston Churchill arose in the House of Commons to stir his countrymen to new heroism after the deep crisis of the Munich Agreement:

There can never be friendship between the British democracy and the Nazi power, that power which spurns Christian ethics, which cheers its onward course by a barbarous paganism, which vaunts the spirit of aggression and conquest, which derives strength and perverted pleasure from persecution, and uses, as we have seen, with pitiless brutality the threat of murderous force. That power cannot ever be the trusted friend of the British democracy.

Ultimately, we, the American people, are responsible for what goes on in Washington. But it would certainly help to have a statesman as deeply in love with his country and as deeply sensitive to the lessons of history as Churchill.

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