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“What if?” –A Question that Refuses an Answer, but Demands to be Asked

Conservatism is not the hide-bound philosophy of the remorselessly grumpy. It is an optimistic celebration of the possibilities of the human heart and brain and soul. It is an optimism born out of our nation’s ancient traditions, and watered by the absolute knowledge that there is always an earthly answer to an earthly problem.

Here, in America, we’ve never met a problem that couldn’t be solved. Is there no deeper wellspring for optimism?

We don’t ever fear tomorrow, because all of the yesterdays were once tomorrows that were conquered, and rather successfully, at that. This nation has never failed, never retreated, never abandoned the posts. We’ve awoken every golden morning secure in the knowledge that our God would not let us down, our people would rise to the occasion, and that we ourselves had a vital, crucial role to play in our national drama. And we always did the best we could.

How could it not be so?

The refugees of the Anglo religious persecutions arrived on these shores, without so much as a tent to provide shelter, and proceeded to build a Shining City on a Hill; The early patriots fought a war against the mightiest and most powerful nation on earth, and beat them, using a cunning and a skill heretofore unknown. The westward pioneers carved riches out of seeming desolation. A Civil War was fought, not to advance a petty and fossilized grievance, but to free an enslaved people. America assumed the role of continuously finding awe-inspiring technological advances that lit the darkend places with wiz-bang electricity, made carriages move of their own accord, and made messages arrive in homes at the ringing of a bell. We even harnessed the very power of the Sun, for good or ill, to power our televisions, or enforce the goodwill of liberty throughout the globe.

Simply everything was possible here.

But what if it no longer is?

What if, in the fading song of a lark, or the setting of the sun, or the blink of an eye, it is all over, squandered, gone forever, like Brigadoon, into the mists of a darkening memory? What if people leaving these shores look whistfully over their shoulders, saying only they remember when ..? What if the once-revered documents of our founding are forgotten, callously folded up and thrown on the fire? What if our traditions of optimism, of always looking forward, are replaced with a creeping, unrelenting fear of oppressive debt, or the tyranny of anarchy, or a cult of personality?

What if we descend into the madness of mob rule, and then into dictatorship? Every other experiment in man’s ability to govern itself suggests there is no other way out. And we may be living in such times.

A conservative recoils at the possibility. It simply can’t BE. America has always gotten a hold of itself, snugged its collar up against the tempests, and walked head-long into the storm. But what if it is only now turning tail, shrinking into its own self-imposed irrelevance? What if our children really ARE relegated to live in a nation that cannot pay its debts, or defend its friends, or provide for its most basic needs?

It is a sobering, terrifying thought. One that can barely be countenanced.

But, what if..?

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