America’s greatest danger is not Al Qaeda!
America’s greatest danger is not terrorism!
America’s greatest danger is not an “axis of evil” nations!
America’s greatest danger is not oppressive dictatorial regimes abroad!
America’s Greatest Danger is in the intersection of three forces at its historical heart, best described by the words Affluence, Avarice, Arrogance. These forces, if allowed to flourish in continuing power, will lead to some distant dissolution or downfall.
We are probably the most affluent of people in the history of the world. Rising on a land rich in natural resources, populated by waves and generations of variously gifted people, in a mostly hospitable climate, Americans have gathered to ourselves a spectacular accumulation of things designed to provide contentment, ease, security, and happiness.
Traveling to most any other part of the world, listening to the astonished comments of those who visit us from many other parts of the world, or learning from a deprived person on a street corner, will quickly remind us of immense affluence ready for many at our finger tips. Affluence is so much a part of who we are as a people that we do not see it, unless there is a threat to its continuance.
Affluence is a characteristic of what are sometimes called the developed nations. Development means accumulation, and that comes for us in the context of an economy which assumes that growth is necessary for its existence. Growth is a demand of most any measure of economic success, culminating in a perpetually expanding demand for new markets, products, methods, things which it is assumed will bring enrichment. Thus, the systemic demand for growth feeds the desire for more, more, more, which too often dominates personal goals. The combination of the systemic demand and the personal desire is power, incorporated and privatized.
The system is avaricious, both fed by and encouraging personal desire. The combination was there when our nation was born in 1787, in that case aligned with prejudice, to rationalize slavery. The effects of that original sin are a continuing plague; the signs of what affluence and avarice can do to erode a higher national self are the present danger that threatens.
We are a great nation, no question there. But greatness defined by affluence and avarice can lead so easily, almost inevitably, to arrogance. Gratitude for who we are has become gloating over what we have. Graceful acceptance of what we have has become self-congratulation, too often inflated with an unbearable pressure. The burst is predictable.
Pride has become a prejudiced assumption that we are entitled, not only to our affluent life, but to be admired by all other peoples and nations. Everyone must want what we have, what we want, and all must be committed to achievement in the same way we have achieved. Ultimate arrogance accepts no critique from those outside the temples of its power, and will not tolerate self-criticism from within. It is an offensive posture which succumbs easily to that absolute power which corrupts absolutely.
Shouting “We’re No. 1” for a favorite hockey team may be fun. When that same “Number 1” becomes a national psyche it is no longer harmless fun. When that national psyche becomes empowered by political persuasion, the first level of danger should be sounded. When that national psyche is projected into the world as a model of global superiority, there is predictable trouble ahead. Some will rush to duplicate the model, with a denied wish that life had offered another choice. More will accept the model only because they are forced to, knowing they will work for another day when they can deny its power. Some will live with submerged hatred for the model. Others will openly hate, deride, and determine to undermine its source. None of these is a healthy alternative for those who ride in the seats of assumed superiority.
Strike the highest alert code!
AFFLUENCE, AVARICE, ARROGANCE combined become our greatest national danger.