Regular readers of the Egg -- to the extent that there ever were any -- have perhaps noticed that we post a great deal less often these days. There are many reasons, a new and rather busy parish chief among them. But one reason in particular stands out for its sheer darkness.
America has gone mad.
Writing with a jaundiced eye about our nation has never been difficult; HL Mencken and Sinclair Lewis made their bones by picking low-hanging fruit. Teasing booboisie and boosterism is easy, so long as you have even the least bit of critical distance from them. For our own part, lobbing softballs at our favorite targets -- the Bush Administration, drunken bishops, Protestant groupthink and Catholic revanchism -- has always been a pretty straightforward business as well.
Here's the thing: the sort of armchair criticism in which we have indulged depends upon a fairly thick portfolio of shared convictions, both with our readers and with our targets. At some level, even Dick Cheney knew that torture was wrong. Likewise, Bruce Burnside knew that drunk driving (and texting) was stupid, the UCC knows that both tradition and Scripture actually do matter, the SSPX knows that at a certain point the Pope is the Pope and they are not. All we have had to do is remind them of these shared convictions, and invite them to behave accordingly.
But the times they are, as always, a-changin'.
Over the past year or two, it has become evident that America's police departments are terrified of the people they nominally exist to serve and protect. So, with government collusion, they have armed themselves like military units, and declared war on ... well, anybody who looks at them funny, especially while black. Meanwhile, America's well-armed civilians -- the Constitutional "militia" which has so powerfully resisted all efforts to regulate it -- have risen to the challenge, procuring and using their own weapons, both against the police and against their unarmed compatriots.
At the same time, our Congressional gridlock has become so exacerbated that it has spread to the Supreme Court. The justices, divided 4-4 on a handful of major decisions, have even begun declining to hear cases they know they cannot decide. Two branches of the federal government are now unable to function properly.
As for the Executive Branch -- well, goodness! As the November elections approach, the two principal political parties have both nominated candidates who are strikingly, intensely, passionately unlikeable. This is a bold move, but also a stupid one. While Richard Nixon proved that it is possible for a person with poor social skills and a paranoid (or grandiose) personality disorder to win the nation's highest office, this remains an exception. The rule favors candidates whom people actually like. However much we may disagree on matters of policy with a Reagan, a G.W. Bush, or a Bill Clinton, they were all the sort of person you might enjoy eating lunch with, or taking in a ball game, or sharing a few beers at the office picnic. They could kiss a baby without frightening the parents.
The presidential campaign, which would be comical if the apparent madness of Donald Trump did not raise the stakes quite so high, is frankly terrifying. But it is just one symptom of our society's seeming rush to the bottom. Racial and ethnic hatred, explosive violence, an unreliable justice system, and a national government that is unable to govern (and don't let's get started on the states): these are just a few of the profound challenges facing America at this moment.
Worst of all, we are plagued by the sense that we no longer share a set of common values, not only with the people running for president but with many of the people preparing to vote for them. What kind of country could create, not to say tolerate and even in some corners celebrate, Cliven Bundy and his family? In what world is the answer to gun violence a wider dissemination of guns? When did Joel Osteen become a public representative of the Christian tradition? It is madness; and indeed, our Facebook news feed offers a daily glimpse into the Abyss.
It is hard to write about current events. To make jokes seems callow, while to say what one really thinks sounds alarmist or even unhinged. So we at the Egg have found ourselves paralyzed, unable to say what we think -- and often unwilling even to think it. More and more we take refuge in a careful exploration of antique rubrics, or considering the best punctuation of seventeenth-century sermons (literally; these have been our chief leisure pursuits lately). We are, in short, hiding from the world, because the world is a frightening place.