Well, it’s done; The Wetland Way is now blogged and out there. As was the case with The Ten Weeks, it’s time to make some reflections on the work.
The first thing I would say is that I would avoid turning it into an allegory of what’s going on now. It was conceived a long time ago and even the last publication of it was about fifteen years ago. If there are things in common with current events–and there certainly are–the context is different. But that’s the way it is with history: what happens is a confluence of what has led up to the ever-moving present, and to think that it perfectly duplicates itself is not realistic, either in real life or in fiction.
That said, the book was first a response to the bad situation our country found itself in the wake of the upheavals of the 1960’s and early 1970’s. The serious questions were: how is it possible that a country that found itself at the pinnacle of the earth would have the nervous breakdown it did? And how could a country that did this ever come back? These are the questions that history will be asking long after our republic is gone, not the moralistic ones we like to discuss today.
One thing I see on Twitter often is the question, “What would you tell your younger self based on what you know now?” But this book, for me, reverses the question. For me the more relevant question is “What did your younger self try to tell you that you should have acted upon?” My younger self tried to tell me that no country which retreated from what made it great would be great again. My younger self tried to tell me that such a country would, sooner or later, be taken over by others, a victim of its own weakness more than its opponents’ strength. My younger self tried to tell me that you need to either figure out a way to break such a situation or simply flee to happier places, sometimes both.
By the time I finished my undergraduate studies, I basically decided that such matters needed to be put aside, that my walk with God through Jesus Christ was paramount. That, from an eternal perspective, is certainly the case. Had I opted to pursue that in a different fashion, things would have been different. But opting to stay in the U.S. forced my hand on many things.
The most important thing is that I ended up being involved in politics. My younger self told me, “this won’t work, elections can’t deliver the result you need.” My younger self was right on this one. I spite of all of the soaring rhetoric, the whole Evangelical quest to “bring American back to God” has been a failure. Too many of its leaders were unprepared to do what they had to do to finish the job, and many were more interested in self-promotion than advancing the cause. My younger self eventually prevailed and I’ve eased myself out of active political involvement.
That cuts both ways. Our opponents are too sybaritic, absorbed with self-actualisation, too wedded to the system and too focused on keeping themselves in power to really finish the job. A prime example of that was the January 6 Capitol riot. If they really believed that this was the threat to democracy they say they do, they would have done what King Leslie did to the Committee of Personal Liberty protesters. But they didn’t. Their inability to decisively act when they need to has kept victory from their grasp, something else my younger self sensed was the case.
The United States, unlike the Republic of Verecunda, is a vast, heterogeneous country where sudden changes are hard to make and not encouraged by the system we have. But the forces that were unleashed sixty years ago have not run their course. And we have foreign enemies waiting to pick up the pieces if we cannot get them together first.
But such a message is hard to convey in a culture where simplistic moralism is so widespread. In reality, our decisions are made in an environment of unintended consequences and ambiguity. That’s why I believe that salvation comes through grace and not works; our works are important, but sometimes our best intentions lead to our greatest disasters. That’s a message I’d like to leave, but these days it’s a hard sell.