In last week’s blur of news, as we forced ourselves to pay attention to the candidacies of the second Clinton and the third Bush, as we reacted to the vagaries of the Supreme Court at home and the brutalities of ISIS abroad, as we pondered the implications both of the Iranian nuclear program and the Caitlyn Jenner reality show, one story in particular caught our attention. Its headline: “Experts Say Best Option Now Is Keeping Nation As Comfortable As Possible Till End.”
Okay, it wasn’t a real news story but a satire by the jokesters at the Onion. Still, it seemed to speak to our situation more trenchantly than all the real events that were being dutifully reported. The story “quoted” experts and ordinary Americans arguing that “letting the U.S. pass peacefully is better than having to watch it linger on in agony like the United Kingdom.”
As the Onion’s crack correspondent went on to elaborate,
According to those familiar with its condition, the country’s long, painful decline over the past several decades has made it clear that the most compassionate choice at this juncture is to do whatever is possible to ensure America is at ease during its last moments. . . . “At a time like this, it’s completely understandable to wish for some kind of 11th-hour miracle, but expecting the U.S. to somehow magically return to the way it was in its prime isn’t healthy or realistic,” said Georgetown University researcher Andrew Fischer, who later stressed that just because the nation still has “the occasional good day,” this should not cause anyone to get their hopes up for a sudden recovery. “It’s important to manage expectations and realize that sometime very soon, we’re all going to have to say goodbye.”
Funny—but not so funny. And if we can take the risk of earnestness in response to comedy, we do feel compelled to say, for the record and even with some spirit: No. It might turn out that we’re on a path of decline. But we at The Weekly Standard aren’t resigned to going gentle into that good night. Au contraire: We do our best to keep hope alive.
And so we urge policies that we think would make a difference and recommend courses of action that we believe to be in the national interest. We chastise those who would lead us astray and condemn those who would imperil our well-being.
Maybe it is all for naught. Maybe we should join the Onion in a stance of worldly fatalism or at least philosophical resignation. But—at least until we see the results of the next presidential election!—we resist the temptation.
After all, nations, unlike individuals, do not go through an irreversible aging process with mortality beckoning at the end. A nation is more like a family. Generations come and go, but the family can strengthen as well as weaken, descendants as often outshine their predecessors as they fall short of them. Ascent and triumph are as open to us as decline and fall.
So we at The Weekly Standard say about another journal for which we have the highest regard: The Onion is funny and perceptive—but this time the Onion is wrong.