Sunday, December 28, 2008

America is in Decline: and Has Been for Decades

America is in decline! U.S. intelligence agencies say so!

Before you either wring your hands in anguish, or dance on an American flag, let me tell a not-altogether-irrelevant story.

I Live in a Dying Town

When I moved to the small town that's now my home, I learned that the place was dying. Quite a few people told me so. They'd lived here all their lives, and the town was dying. They said.

That was over twenty years ago. The town is still 'dying,' by their standards. Several of the stores that were open then have closed, including a bar that was a favorite gathering spot for some. Meanwhile, businesses have opened, the population has gone up, there's a new elementary school complex, and a Wal-Mart superstore in town.

Another set of doomsayers said that Wal-Mart would destroy the town. That was in April of 2007, and I haven't noticed all that much destruction.

Dying and Changing - Not the Same Thing

What I think the long-time residents had in mind when they said that the town was dying was a set of changes. This town, like many others, used to be centered on the railroad. Now, it's getting centered on the Interstate.

That's change. It happens.

The only Wal-Mart-related change that I've noticed is quite a bit more traffic on the south side, and the closing of a new Alco store. There's a video store in part of Alco's space now, and an Ace Hardware is moving into the other part.

That's also change.
Change Happens: Deal With It
Nostalgia is a perfectly normal feeling: nothing wrong with it. Unless a person starts assuming that things are supposed to always stay the way they are right now.

That's not the way the world works.

Things change. Even cockroaches have changed, a bit, in the 250,000,000 years they've been around.1

Which gets me back to America in decline. Which it most likely isn't.

America in Decline! An End to Yankee Oppression! - or - We're All Doomed!

Here's a news flash: seventeen years ago, things weren't the way they are now.

Seventeen years from now, they won't be the same as they were, or as they are.

A post (mostly about a worm that was eating the Pentagon's computers) from about a month ago mentioned the 'Declining America' idea. Specifically, how the news was treating a bit of published research. "Worm Spreading Fast in Pentagon Computers: (not) in the News" (November 21, 2008).

I had been impressed at how I had the time and resources to research American government publications, while newspaper reporters and editors apparently don't. Actually, I suspect that there's bias or unconsidered cultural assumptions involved, but that's a whole different topic.

Where was I? Oh, yes: America is in decline.

The article I cited was "U.S. influence is on the decline, report says" from the L.A. Times.

Here's part of what I had to say about what the report really said:

"From what I got out of the summaries, and a really quick glance at the report, America may lose a little ground, but the big changes include China, Russia, India, and Brazil becoming more powerful players in world affairs. Bottom line, there are other big kids on the block." ("November 21, 2008)

Another blogger dug deeper, and pointed out that U.S. declinism theories are nothing new. "American Might is not going anywhere ..." (December 21, 2008) leads with a reference to Andrew Hacker's "The end of the American Era" (1970). I remember that year: all the best and brightest (in their own estimation) campus thinkers agreed that America was on the skids.

From what I see, America is as much in decline as the town I'm in is dying.

Related (sort of) post: Views and background:

If this post's expository style seems divergent from my usual syntax, there's a good reason. I'm running a somewhat respectable fever, and have reason to believe that my cerebral functions are, if not impaired, running in distinctly non-standard modes, on alternative tracks, and other metaphors which really don't apply here I realize.

I'd have gone back and edited what's here, but my typo-per-minute rate has gone so high that it seems prudent to stop while I'm ahead.

Thanks for your patience.

1 For all you cockroach fans out there, there's a pretty good Q & A on cockroaches at "The Cockroach FAQ."

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.