We often forget how fleeting America's history really is. 229 years have passed since our Declaration of Independence. But it's really only in the past seventy years or so that we've become a world power...and only a couple of decades while we've been the one "superpower" in the world. The temptation is to think that it will always be that way.
Frankly there aren't any guarantees of that. We're seeing a spirit of division between "red" and "blue" America that's widening almost every day. If you don't believe me, just watch what happens when President Bush nominates someone to replace Sandra Day O'Connor on the Supreme Court. (Rumored to be coming up any day now.) The support and opposition patterns will be reflexive and automatic. You could already write the speech Ted Kennedy will give on the Senate floor, denouncing Mr. (or more likely) Mrs. Blank who will turn back the clock...blah blah blah.
Look at the war. Close to half the country thinks we're in a titanic struggle of civilizations that will mark a turning point between freedom and tyranny. Close to half the country thinks it's our fault that they hate us, and if we'd just turn the murderous thugs loose from Gitmo (or at least quit making them listen to Christina Aguilera music) and get out of Iraq they'd leave us alone.
Of course the first World Trade Center bombing was in 1993, but that fact is generally ignored in those circles.
Our place in the world as the America we know is not secure. Things change. Frankly when my children were born, I didn't think their children would live long enough to see the Berlin Wall come down. Instead it happened before they were old enough to remember it. Most great and powerful empires do not collapse slowly. The buildup is slow, but the events tend more toward the cataclysmic. If we fail to heed the warning signs, we will suffer the consequences.
I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies,
whose frown,And wrinkled lip,
and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
-Percy Bysshe Shelley