The changes sweeping across America are not, as some claim, the birth of a new ideology but only the death of an old irony. Our normal was abnormal, and having euthanized the irony that made us, we finally fall into line with the predictable, immutable, heartbreaking trajectory of nations.
There is nothing new happening in America, only a return to Earth’s sad and ancient normal. Here, as in most places and most times in human history, some people are not worth protecting.
Who those people are depends on the topic. Women, for example, are not protected if they wish to compete against other women or use a shower or restroom without male observers. Peaceful citizens are not protected if this might unfairly burden criminals. Business people are not protected if their property is burned or looted for a good cause. Children are not protected if they are unwanted, or wanted for the wrong reasons, or if their confusion can be made to serve a political end.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with such people and nothing unreasonable in their desires; they just find themselves on the wrong side of arguments that powerful people want to win.
And their misfortune is not surprising. It has always been that way on Earth, where some people matter more than others.
Which makes the American experiment all the more astonishing. Our nation started with a very unearthly idea, bucking the system, claiming that “all men are created equal” with “inalienable rights endowed by their Creator.”
Those who demand a separation between the state and religious expression want us to forget that the formation of America really was a religious expression – a dramatic reversal of human tradition, rooted in the otherworldly premise of God’s concern for every person.
This was the irony that made us: the conviction that power is given to protect the weak and authority is not a prize but a responsibility – an irony most clearly expressed when Jesus, a person of unlimited power, “laid down his life for his friends,” especially those friends whom important people considered “the least of these.”
The changes sweeping across America have a common effect and share a common aim. They narrow our vision and reduce our independence. They dictate our understanding of the world, often in contradiction to our own senses. They restore to its normal beneficiaries the sad and ancient use of power.
If the vision of citizens known and loved by God made us long to soar like the American eagle, the current vision would make us content to hover like drones, awaiting our controllers’ next instruction.
It will take some time to erase the old American vision because, of course, the vision is true. God loves people and made us to be free. God gave us reason. God gave us a sense of justice and morality. Our founders’ unearthly vision for a free society in which every person has great value turns out to be normal after all, though fatally inconvenient to those who love power.