Of marriage, nations, and interlopers
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When we got married, my husband, ever keen on preserving this union, said this to me: “Nobody can destroy our marriage. The only two people who can destroy our marriage are you and me.” I have for 10 years treasured that insight in my heart.
We have heard homewrecker applied to an interloper who causes the breakup of a marriage. But it isn’t precisely true. The intruder would have to go through the final gate of the will of one of the married parties. And that gate can be made impermeable. It is the couple’s business to see to it that it is. And that business is an internal work.
So the very good news is that even if there are 8 billion people in the world, many of them clever and attractive, not one has the power to destroy your marriage. There is no one so formidable that the power of your will cannot override that attack from outside.
I was thinking along those lines with respect to the grand historical experiment that is America, vis-à-vis mischievous international interlopers like Russia and China.
Communist regimes have a problem: They are inherently unstable. This is because their systems, to the extent that they may succeed in bettering the material lot of their citizens, contain within themselves the seeds of their own destruction. That is, the better off their people become, the more they will get funny ideas in their heads: Wouldn’t it be nice to have more than one political party? Wouldn’t it be cool to have freer markets, and more open intellectual ideas from abroad?
That’s suicide for Communist rulers. To keep their tight grip they must mete out freedom but not too much. There is always this tightrope act. In the case of Hong Kong, the tightrope was finally deemed too dangerous, and Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, yanked it. Even if America never said a word but minded its own business here on our own continent, we would be a threat to tyrants by merely existing. We are the beacon of freedom that innumerable Chinese and Russians must not be allowed to envy.
What if it turns out the best way to render America harmless to tyrants is by making America nothing to envy? I have heard Putin on TV say that our nation’s founding upon land once occupied by indigenous people disqualifies us from moral standing. I have heard Antony Blinken’s Chinese counterpart in Anchorage shame our secretary of state to silence by bringing up Black Lives Matter as evidence of American’s corporate immorality.
Enemies are gonna do what they’re gonna do. But far more deadly than Russia or China badmouthing us is us badmouthing ourselves. And you hear it everywhere. There is no destruction like self-destruction. Historian Stephen Kotkin, author of three hefty tomes on Russia, remarked in a recent interview: “Countries that are defeated by their enemies often rebuild. But the countries that are destroyed from within—that’s really the end of the line.”
See now how trenchant is Jesus’ statement in Matthew 12:25: “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.” Notice, he doesn’t say “Every kingdom attacked” but “Every kingdom divided against itself.” Like Kotkin, Jesus knows that a kingdom might survive an outside attack; it is an inside division that is fatal.
I come full circle to my husband’s solemn wedding day appeal: “Nobody can destroy our marriage. The only two people who can destroy our marriage are you and me.” As goes for marriages, so goes for nations. Our America, if she is destroyed, will not be the casualty of outside forces but of inside forces. More than one Founding Father made the point that America will only work for a virtuous people.
You have a marriage that no one can destroy but you and your spouse. Likewise, only America can destroy America. May we shake off the spell of toxic self-demonization, and safeguard our nation. We have a fine republic—if we can keep it.
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