Writing the obituary of a mortal enemy is cheap fun, but only the foolish man indulges such fantasy. He who laughs loudest rarely laughs last. This is a needed caution for some of our European friends who are eager to write us off before bad news turns good again.
Igor Panarin is an amusing professor and political “analyst” at something called the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and he thinks America is doomed, exhausted, and about to go the way of Atlantis, or at least France. Some of his colleagues take him seriously.
“The American economy is already collapsing,” he writes in the Moscow newspaper Izvestia. “Due to the financial crisis three of the largest and oldest banks on Wall Street have already ceased to exist, and two are barely surviving. Their losses are the biggest in history. Now what we will see is a change in the regulatory system on a global scale: America will no longer be the world’s financial regulator.”
The professor even foresees the resurrection of the Confederacy, sort of. Not just one confederacy, but two or three or more, as the United States becomes a less perfect union. He sees six nations instead of one: The Pacific Coast (“with its growing Chinese population”), the South (“with its Hispanics”), Texas (“where independence movements are on the rise”), the Atlantic Coast (“with its distinct and separate mentality”), the poor central states (“with their large Native American populations”), and the Northern states (“where the influence of Canada is strong”).
Wishful thinking can lead even a professor to places where he not only doesn’t know where he is, but where he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Drawing up these scenarios is a harmless parlor game, but you need a better tourist’s guide than the one the professor uses. Out of control illegal immigration, as vexing as it is, has hardly put a chop-suey republic at hand on the Pacific Coast, nor is the Frito Bandito about to ride triumphantly into Birmingham or Atlanta. Some Texans dream of drawing and quartering their state to get six more senators, but nobody has said anything lately about a new Texas republic. “The poor central states” being overrun by the spoor of Geronimo is news to us; so is the news of a redoubt of states so impoverished that “the influence of Canada is strong.”
A better idea for breaking up America, if we really are doomed, is to divide and become the wards of the major college-football conferences. Ah, that’s where the money is. This is where America really lives. The Southeastern Conference and the Big 12 should lead the way, with the Big Ten, the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big East and the Pacific-10 trailing behind. If we must be led by professors, let them be professors of grunt and sweat. The late William F. Buckley astutely said he would rather be governed by the first 200 names in the Boston telephone book than by the entire faculty at Harvard, so Rutgers and Pitt of the Big East would step up to save the Northeast from the timid ministrations of the Ivy League. Men of good will can work things out.
Such parlor games are fairly fanciful to those who actually live here, but the professor is impressed by his laundry list of reasons why it’s almost midnight in America. “A whole range of reasons. Firstly, the financial problems will get worse. Millions … have lost their savings. Prices and unemployment are on the rise. General Motors and Ford are on the verge of collapse, and this means whole cities will be left without work.” Despair grows, dissatisfaction abounds, and despondency is held back only “by the hope that Barack Obama can work miracles. But by next spring, it will be clear that there are no miracles.” China and Russia will be at hand to pick up the pieces. Best of all, he says, “we could reclaim Alaska, it was only granted on lease, after all.” We can expect Sarah Palin and her moose-hunting rifle to have something to say about that.
To the endless bulletins of bad news getting worse, an American typically says: “So what? We’ve been here, and worse, before.” Somebody said similar things about America to Winston Churchill on the morning after Pearl Harbor. “Silly people might discount the force of the United States,” Mr. Churchill said. “Some say the Americans are soft, others that they will never be united. They will fool around at a distance. They will never come to grips. … But I have studied the American Civil War, fought out to the last desperate inch. I think of a remark made to me more than 30 years before, that the United States is like ‘a gigantic boiler. Once the fire is lighted under it there is no limit to the power it can generate.’”
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.