The Labor for True Greatness
I don’t know if America is “the greatest nation in human history.” By many measures – military power, global cultural influence, GNP, a large middle class, extensive governmental provisions for the poor, personal liberties, basic equality before the law, religious and ethnic tolerance (at least until recently), a welcoming of immigrants (around 1 million legal immigrants yearly), the orderly transfer of power over centuries (America remains the oldest continuous modern democracy), and the ability to correct itself, even go to war, over large evils like racism and slavery – the evidence certainly points that way. And it’s something to be deeply grateful for, especially given the “butcher’s block” of history. How this counts as greatness, however, depends on what you think greatness means. Of which more below.
But I also don’t know that “America is in obvious decline.” You hear this often these days – particularly since the Afghanistan fiasco, which revealed shocking incompetence and nincompoopery in our politics and the military, with the media a close third. I hear veterans wonder whether it’s worth sacrificing for a country hell-bent on transgender totalitarianism, “defunding the police,” anti-racist racism, woke cancellations.
And I hear Catholic Americans similarly dismayed about the Church, and wondering if it’s worth defending her given the sex abuse, financial corruption, and the weakness of our bishops on many matters, particularly scandalous public figures like a “Catholic” president who is “personally opposed,” but in the wake of Texas’ strict abortion laws has called for “whole of government” defense of abortion.
Our best religious and civic traditions say nothing is inevitable, given human freedom to choose different futures.