Monday, May 22, 2017

Novus Ordo Seclorum

Monrovia, California
May 22, 2017

Upon the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, both sides of which are depicted on the back of the one-dollar bill, appears the motto "Novus Ordo Seclorum," which means something like The New Order of the Ages.  I suppose that it was meant to declare to the world, in a certainly self-serving and self-aggrandizing way, that with the advent of the of the U.S. government we'd begun a relatively new way of approaching the concept of running a country.  It was nominally secular, or at least not deliberately dominated by any one religion, and did not include the clergy as one of the Estates, fairly rare at that time.  It eschewed hereditary royalty and nobility, as least in name.  It was a confederacy of independently-run mini-states held together by a federal government in charge of national defense and other essential national prerogatives and tasks.  The independence of the mini-states was strong enough that, regarding the issue of slavery, it lead to a civil war.  We sometimes call it The War Between the States, but in reality is was a war between several like-minded southern slave holding states and the federal government acting on behalf of the rest of them.  As such it was doomed to failure from the beginning for the South, because they just couldn't operate as a cohesive unit, so obsessed were they with the idea that each state should be allowed to operate independently.  By the best historical accounts available, running the Confederate States of  America as a country was akin to herding cats.  Vicious, hateful, prideful, self-entitled cats.  So they lost.  Also because they didn't have a hell of a lot of money, whereas we did.  By "we" of course I mean the United States, the good guys.  But as usual I digress.

Since the inception of the United States, and throughout all threats to and by the country since, we have waved the flag, literally and figuratively, of our Novus Ordo Seclorum.  But our New Order has rested on shifting sands, to say the least.  It has been our rallying cry while defending our own shores (only occasionally), while invading other shores, and while railing against perceived threats to our existence.  But no new order can remain new if it's allowed to stagnate and become old.  Some countries declare new regimes when they shift from one major domestic and world view to another. The French are currently in the midst of their Fifth Republic.  They'll no doubt have a few more in the years ahead, following various wars and vicissitudes.  It's their national way of resetting the clock without resorting to the the Pol Pot-style of Year Zero revolution they undertook around the time when the First Republic was declared back in 1792.  A civilized way of correcting their occasional episodes of backsliding into national incivility--new constitution, etc.  The British, our closest role models, just keep on trucking under the banner of their first major shift, through civil wars and new dynasties.  They like to date everything more or less from 1215, when Magna Carta was signed.  Similarly, we still date everything from 1776 and our subsequent (and so far only) constitution, even though we occasionally declare a New Birth of Freedom, or a New Deal, or a New Frontier.  Until now, at least.  This latest presidential election has most certainly ushered in a new order of sorts, more chaotic and fast-paced and overtly antagonistic and radically rule-changing than previous ones in our lifetimes.

The New American Order is driving me crazy, to the point where I have become paralyzed when it comes to talking about politics or anything close to it.   Here I have this blog where I can say pretty much anything I like, even if it's outrageous and contemptible in some peoples' eyes, but there's no longer anything I could say that doesn't get topped regularly by the words or actions of the administration.  Where once it would have been at least marginally witty and snarky to point out the idiocy of the Republican Party and its members, these inmates now have such firm control of the asylum that they're changing national expectations of normalcy, with the instantaneous help of electronic social media and 24-hour news stations--not just daily, but almost hourly.  TV stations I used to consider essentially conservative, like CNN and the original three networks, have begun to look mildly subversive due to the fact that, although they still rather slavishly adhere to the established format of trotting out "experts" from different sides of the spectrum of political opinion, they don't hesitate to state, point blank, that in such-and-such an instance the President or Sean Spicer or Paul Ryan or another of that bunch, are simply lying. But because they're all news junkies they have to keep talking about all these monsters, even when what is being said and done ought to be beneath contempt and the notice of decent people.  They do this because, well, that's pretty much all they have to talk about beyond the occasional flood or tsunami or foreign war atrocity.  They remind me of nothing so much as Marilyn Munster, the "normal" member of the TV show "The Munsters," who was considered abnormal by the rest of her family because she wasn't grotesque, when in fact she was rather comely, or at least conformed to the adolescent idea of feminine beauty.  People who watched the show got the joke immediately, of course.  Today those lines between hideously monstrous and normal have been blurred.  And while the news is much funnier than "The Munsters" ever was, it isn't supposed to be.  And the administration and its minions in the legislature have become masters at repeating the Big Lie that what the news stations say is false, or Fake News.  Black is white now, or to quote from Orwell's 1984, "War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength." I needn't belabor that point further.

As I write this the president is out of the country, and so help me, I think the news stations are going through a kind of withdrawal.  It's a lull they can't quite stand, and in Trump's absence they're really sort of lost.  Some are falling back on the meager footage of Trump dancing, sword in hand, with the guys in the head scarfs in Riyadh.  Others are repeating the fatuous Impeach Him Now mantra (as if any party in power in the legislature would ever impeach one of its own).  Then there's the question of how many Flynns can dance on the head of a pin.  But it's all just filler until Trump makes his next dumb speech or tweets something in the wee hours.  The press would never say it out loud, but they wish Trump would come back home and start acting like the silly guy we've all come to love and hate.  Meanwhile they're resorting to one of their favorite fallback positions--playing back Trump's campaign speechifying to show how contradictory he's capable of being, as if that's up for debate.
Tomorrow all this could be washed over by some new craziness.  But our favorite nutbar is MIA at the moment, schmoozing with world leaders.

My point, in case it's not clear enough, is that Trump's presidency has made the press, and therefore the entire country, sillier and less reliable and less mature than ever, like helpless parents dealing with an uncontrollable child.  Which is more or less what they're having to do.  And like parents who find themselves in this unenviable position, the best advice anyone could give them is to take a deep breath and try to behave like adults.  Leave the ranting to the bloggers.  We can use the work.

1 comment:

William Kriss said...

On a whim, I decided to check for new material in the Old Man. It’s August now. I can say without a doubt that the zaniness continues to escalate. One suggestion for the press: When dealing with an adolescent, treat him like one. They may want to try, “I know you are but what am I?” or “I’m rubber, you’re glue. Everything you say bounces off me and sticks on you.”