And yet there are signals of personal defeat which are like red lamps on broken roads, to these we must pay heed. I grew anxious when a man’s speech began to betray him; when he was full of windy talk of what the Boche had done in the new sector the battalion was taking over, of some new gas. It was always about something which was going to happen; the wretched fellow must have known the mess would muzzle him if it could, but he seemed driven by some inner force to chatter incessantly of every calamity that could conceivably come to pass. It was as if he had come to terms with the devil himself, that if he could make others as windy, his life would be spared. How full of apprehension the fellow was; death came to him daily in a hundred shapes. This was fear in its infancy. It was a bad sign, for when a man talked like that, his self-respect was going, and the battle was already half lost. It was just a matter of time. Such a man did the battalion no good for the disease was infectious; I was glad to get him away.
– Lord Moran, The Anatomy of Courage
[Readers needing background may refer to the earlier members of this series, Don’t Panic: Against the Spirit of the Age; Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series; Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series – Ebola or Black Heva?; and Don’t Panic: A Continuing Series – Ebola Realities and the True Test.]
Not everyone is helpful in what Strauss and Howe call a Crisis Era. This is not a matter of ability or resources, but of attitude. I have recently encountered numerous highly intelligent, capable, and often firmly upper-middle class men who at the slightest provocation vehemently insist that the United States is doomed. This year alone, they have predicted at least three of the last zero national calamities. Repeatedly failed scenarios make no impression on them. Some of these people are actually planning to run and hide somewhere.
There is a touch of irony in my advice in this series. I still counsel good management of our inevitable fears, but I do not deny that there will be those among our countrymen who become net liabilities, and some of them will be feigning constructive criticism even as they utter every discouraging word they can devise.
Beyond the nattering nabobs of negativism, what types will constitute the enemy within? World War II was exceptional among Crisis Eras in American history in that there was no substantial domestic opposition. The Civil War had – besides the quarter of the population in outright rebellion – the Copperhead Democrats; the Revolution had Tories, constituting about a fifth of the population which fled the country afterward; and what Strauss and Howe call the Glorious Revolution Crisis of the late 1600s had a variety of antagonists, including most of the indigenous population of New England.
We got lucky in World War II largely because Hitler remained in alignment with the pre-existing German obsession with depopulating and recolonizing Eastern Europe, and therefore invaded the Soviet Union. Communist sympathizers in the US, and there were plenty of them, thereby became effectively loyal for the duration of the conflict.
The geopolitical alignment of the “Crisis of 2020” has, of course, not yet been fully determined, but given who we have been fighting, and who has attacked us, in recent decades, it seems altogether likely that we will be opposed by much of the Muslim world. That said, I am not convinced that American Muslims will be especially disloyal – they immigrated for a reason. Some second-generation Muslims might be problematic, but unless they are somehow able to form networks secured against their more loyal fellow believers, which will not be easy, they should be readily monitored.
Far larger sources of disloyal Americans may be expected to arise among those whose ancestors have been here for centuries, including:
- The “vast, useless force” (phrase not original with me) of trendy political correctness, most obviously but not exclusively in academia. This subculture already has a wretched tendency to ignore, downplay, or even excuse savagery in Islamist or secular dictatorial regimes in Dar al-Islam, and of course to characterize Israel as the villain in every possible situation.
- Anyone subscribing to any notion of moral equivalence between the West in general, and the US in particular, and the worst elements of our opponents. If you’ve ever seen an explicit expression of the sentiment that “we’re no better than ISIS,” you know what I’m talking about. This may take a variety of forms. I have so far encountered it only among spectacularly strident opponents of abortion, but it is easy enough to imagine someone invoking, say, CAGW to justify ostensible neutrality.
- The preachers of doom, as noted by Lord Moran in the quote above, who besides voicing their own terrors are trying to gain as many converts as possible.
Note that the left has no monopoly on much of the above. Indeed, we may face a sizeable homegrown right/isolationist element whose holier-than-thou impulses get the better of them. And they might be a much bigger problem, being comfortable with firearms.
As always, “I do not bid you despair … but to ponder the truth in these words.” Who among our fellow Americans might, conversely, prove to be exceptionally reliable, irrespective of their political or religious self-identification? I have some nominees, to which commenters are encouraged to add:
- Jews, especially in the Midwest and South, who have imbibed a Jacksonian attitude while retaining a commitment to Jeremiah 29:7.
- Gays, analogous to WH Auden, fully cognizant of what would happen to them in a world where the other side wins.
- As mentioned above, first-generation Muslim immigrants, who know what they want, and don’t want.
- For that matter, any other recent immigrants, who are likely to have a greater appreciation for American exceptionalism than most people born in this country.
- Anyone capable, in the crunch, of retracting or at least silencing their earlier condemnation of American society over its supposed destruction of the unborn, or the biosphere, or whatever shibboleth they felt compelled to signal with.
The internet’s instantiation of Matthew 12:36 could make things rather more complicated for people in that last category. If you have a track record of statements to the effect that we deserve some kind of disaster, or have overindulged in confident predictions of lurid misfortunes, especially if you have tried to persuade others to regard American decline and defeat as an inevitable result of our moral blameworthiness, then in the event of a WMD attack, things may get … awkward; there will be plenty of people searching for the enemy within (and plenty of technology to do it; pseudonymous, sniping commenters will be swiftly unmasked). You would be well advised to begin taking a more constructive tone in advance, which if we are recapitulating the mid-1930s means very, very soon.