Today we remember how, a hundred years ago, the blustering aggression of European empires led to the wholesale destruction of an entire generation, and brought that civilization to the brink of collapse.
This has never been intended to be a particularly political blog. Nevertheless, I find it impossible to simply pass over the recent election in silence, especially on a day when we are called to remember those who died because their leaders cheered them on into the abyss.
Those few who follow this blog will not be too surprised, I hope, to learn that I did not support Mr. Trump's bid for the presidency. Like many others I entirely blew my credibility with repeated assurances to anxious friends and family that he could not possibly secure the Republican nomination, and, thereafter, that the American people could not conceivably put such a man at the helm of the republic.
Today he is poised to head the American government and be commander-in-chief of the most powerful armed force in history. His party will control both houses of Congress and, in short order, Republican control of the Supreme Court, which has continued practically unbroken from the early seventies to the death of Justice Scalia, will be restored.
As an older white man I have little to fear personally from Mr. Trump's oft-expressed hatreds. But I am already aware of local instances in our public schools of white bullies chanting "white power" and sneering over the deportation of their classmates (this being New Mexico, some of those being sneered at come from families that have been here since the 1600's). I frankly don't see how the promised mass deportation program can be accomplished by anything but a police state, and I'm sure that great numbers of the perfectly legal poor won't have their papers sufficiently in order to avoid getting caught up in the dragnet.
I am hardly what anyone would call a radical feminist, but I can't help but be appalled at the message that this election has sent to young women. I am, if anything, ever more alarmed at what this teaches young men about "success." Predatory behavior that would get a working stiff fired is rewarded with the highest office in the land. And though it is certainly not news "that avarice, anger, envy, pride, sloth, lust and stupidity commonly profit far beyond humility, chastity, fortitude, justice and thought,"
I can think of no instance in recent American history where such a host of proudly-acknowledged vices have been so unashamedly acclaimed.
No one can of course say what the future will hold. My greatest hope is that Mr. Trump has deceived us about his true convictions, that his more terrible pronouncements and judgments were made as pure demagoguery, only to attain the prize he coveted. It is a slender reed.
So there is great cause for concern, especially when even the wisest might involve us in a general conflagration (I assume that Iran will resume its nuclear program once we renege on our prior commitments). But I don't think there's ever cause to despair.
So I'll end here with a few verses from Chesterton that seem apt, from an old hymn I loved as a child:
O God of earth and altar,
Bow down and hear our cry.
Our earthly rulers falter.
Our people drift and die.
The walls of gold entomb us.
The swords of scorn divide.
Take not our thunder from us,
But take away our pride.
From all that terror teaches,
From lies of tongue and pen,
From all the easy speeches
That comfort cruel men,
From sale and profanation
of honor and the sword,
From sleep and from damnation,
Deliver us, good Lord!
UPDATE: I illustrated this post with an image of Henry VIII for (I hope not too obscure) reasons reflecting my own implicit thoughts on parallels. Oddly enough, within a week of its posting, the President-Elect's chief advisor, Steve Bannon, characterized his role as that of "Thomas Cromwell in the court of the Tudors."
This is not a good sign.