Looking on as, all around us, the collapse accelerates.
In the distant future, as Gibbon did, some historian will stick his wrinkled finger on a calendar date and pronounce “and on this date, the United States of America fell.” If by some miracle I were to witness the event, I would not be surprised if that date was already in our past. Historians have the benefit of hindsight, but also of not living in the aquarium they spend their lives researching. Some say Rome fell in 476, as a puppet emperor was deposed and sent into retirement. Did Roman citizens know this was an ending of things? No. To them the real emperor resided in Constantinople. Since they had first drawn breath, all power resided there, in New Rome. Old Rome had been a shadow for generations, and even in Italy, rule had long been pronounced from Ravenna, itself far less important than the economically powerful East.
Justinian the Great thought himself the Emperor of the Romans and ruled over the Mediterranean shores as tightly as many of his predecessors, more than half a century after the fall. What changed, then, on that day historians marked? Symbols changed; I suppose. We see discontinuity, but there was none. We see change, but such change was gradual, the product of generations.
The point is essentially arbitrary. A finger found its way to a date on a calendar, one small event in a sequence of centuries, and thus was it pronounced: Rome has fallen.
Look out of your window and see urban gentrification, perhaps. Or peaceful suburbia. Perhaps you see farm fields, forests, or the unbroken concrete towers of the projects – those never particularly peaceful, but no worse, perhaps, than you recall in your youth. America outwardly looks like America.
On the Internet, however, it is every cyberpunk dystopian hellhole ever conceived. And worse, perhaps. The things that lie beneath on Twitter should scare anybody.
A video was posted the other day of two thieves conducting an armed robbery. One of the victims pulled out a handgun and shot one of the thieves. You could tell the affiliation of every commenter. Their cultural and moral values were so diametrically opposed that nothing could unite them. To the Leftist, this was a great tragedy, and the victim was evil for killing some presumably poor person for the crime of attempting to feed themselves and resist systemic oppression. To the Rightist, the armed robber had forfeited his life the moment he drew that weapon and attempted to steal someone else’s possessions. The shooter was to be commended for eliminating such a clearly deficient specimen.
In a way, it does not even matter which one was right, though I suspect my readers would have a strong opinion. What matters is the diametrically opposed viewpoints, the hatred and vitriol thrown back and forth between people who are theoretically of the same nation, the same cultural stew. Of course, they are not of the same milieu, not truly. We know that now. Was it always this way, and the Internet just exposed it? I do not know. Maybe.
Regardless, there is no peace beyond the wifi.
Yet the fragile peace – with its occasional flare-ups – that holds in the real world cannot hold forever. What will happen if that dam ever bursts? If all the animus, hatred, and vitriol of social media crosses into reality?
Driving down the street, look at the signs. MAGA signs never taken down. Declarations that this house or that house believes in the core tenets of Progressive Faith. Screaming matches over mask and vaccination policies. The peace in the real world stands on the edge of a knife. Everyone fears to cross the line, to admit openly what they know privately: these are not my countrymen. These are not my people. I do not like them, and they never liked me. They do not share my values, and I do not share theirs. We have nothing in common.
What happens when all pretenses are stripped away?
Someday, the historians will look back on our history, and they will find a moment – perhaps one as seemingly-insignificant as the deposition of a minor puppet ruler in Italy was to the story of Rome – and they will say “this is the day America was cleaved in two.”
Perhaps those same historians will say of the Cold War that both the USSR and the USA fell, the former due to economics and the latter due to cultural infighting. Perhaps like the ancient fall of Sassanid Persia and the diminishing of Byzantium. Or perhaps it will be seen as something entirely different. We live in the aquarium they will someday comment on. None of us will live to know.
Regardless, there is no singular America, not anymore. Only the outward appearance still exists – and only so long as the waning pretenses of peace last in the real world. Not forever, I imagine. Perhaps not even very long.
Those “waning pretenses of peace” hold solely because Real Americans, some unknown percentage of them at any rate, still want it to. It will last not one minute past the moment when the last thread of their patience has snapped, the last tatterdemalion remnant of their natural optimism and restraint has been ripped to pieces. And then, it’s Katy bar the door: open season on shitlibs, no bag limit, no ammo restrictions. Weapons free, and happy hunting!
The really remarkable thing to me is how the Collectivists, whether from arrogance or blind stupidity, insist so mulishly on keeping the pedal firmly to the metal in spite of absolutely everything. It’s as if they’re completely unaware of Dead Man’s Curve looming closer and closer just down the road, and that they’re already going much too fast to negotiate it safely and avoid a horrific crash. Human civilization has traveled this same road many times before; its hazards are known, the roadmap accurate, specific, and crystal clear. They KNOW what comes next, what has always come next. Yet still, they persist. It’s mind-blowing, is what it is.