|The Allegory of Prudence|
When was the last time you stopped yourself from saying something you believed to be true for fear of being punished or criticized for saying it?
If you live in America, it probably hasn’t been long. That’s not just a talking point about political correctness. It’s the central problem with our national conversation, the main reason our debates are so stilted and useless. You can’t fix a problem if you don’t have the words to describe it. You can’t even think about it clearly.People sometimes argue about whether abstractions like "liberty" and "equality" have improved in the United States recently. Some probably think they have. "Hey, we have freer access to no-fault divorce, abortion and pornography than at any time in human history! Homosexual marriage! Rainbows! Legalized drugs!" But concrete questions like Carlson's reveal the truth. We need to devise more like these; we need to press ourselves actively to understand our true condition:
Do you speak without fear? No? Then you, my friend, are not living in a free country. Does the government control more of your life than it did your grandparents' lives? Then, you, my dear, are less free. Do we honor what is honorable and reward what is meritorious? No? Then, we are not just. Is it harder to live in godly estate as man and woman and raise children in the fear of the Lord? Then, we are not well ordered.Carlson is too optimistic, however, in implying that we could fix our problems if we could speak about them. When the U.S. ends, I doubt the reasons will include that Americans couldn't publicly discuss the sickness destroying the nation. Everyone already knows enough about the basic reasons for our decline. There is no more citadel, less outer walls. The banner no longer flies. We don't have to talk about why exactly we lost asabiyyah and for what we abandoned our Rock. Our laws are too many, too confused: too lax or too severe. We have lost the inner political precept of unity, respect and participation. The difficulty is not knowing that we have lost ourselves; it is admitting it to ourselves.
Here's an analogy. The way to live an individually virtuous life is not to pretend that death and sickness are not real. Universal psychology teaches that recognizing the inevitability of death sharpens understanding. In realizing what little we have left and soon will lose, we gain a stronger sense of proportion and value for what remains. Ethical and political reflection are both improved by considering action in the face of the shortness and vulnerability of individual and corporate life. Most importantly, we cannot turn fully to God until we say with Job: "If the only home I hope for is the grave, if I spread out my bed in darkness, if I say to corruption, 'You are my father,' and to the worm, 'My mother' or 'My sister,' where then is my hope? Who can see any hope for me?" 17:13-15. Why do we lack the wisdom and repentance that comes from acknowledging death? The problem is not a lack of conversation and depiction about death. The problem is facing the inevitability of death.