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“I say that it is a narrow policy to suppose that this country or that is to be marked out as the eternal ally or the perpetual enemy of England. We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”
- Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston
“America has no permanent friends or enemies, only interests.”
- Henry Kissinger
So it is worth remembering in this “winter of our discontent” that the passions of the moment are just that. I am old enough to have noticed that many things which once seemed to matter intensely — anxious things, infuriating things, terrifying things — are now forgotten, laughed at, or even subjects for nostalgia.
I am also old enough to have lived through the end of the world, and the end of the Republic, many times. The human race, it seems, will never cease producing William Millers, Y2K bugs, and Mayan Calendars. Something in our hardwiring inclines us to look out over the horizon scanning for the next catastrophe that will bring it all to an end. Some of these “seers” are in earnest, and others merely charlatans. Either way, what they are mostly, is mostly wrong.
After the appointed date and hour, after the exam or the election, or even the foreclosure or the job loss, even after the diagnosis, the sun will come up and life will go on. We will personally adjust and do our best to keep muddling through, knowing that our time is limited anyway no matter how we did, who wins, or what the news was in the current crisis. Our country will similarly pick itself up and muddle through, imperfectly but better than most. Someday it won’t, but that day will probably not be in our lifetimes.
Life throws curveballs, to individuals and to nations, but most often they come at a speed that can be adjusted to. Breaks in continuity, though not unheard of, are rare. And America has survived Barack Obama, the welfare state, Nazi Germany, and a Civil War. Surviving a second Clinton presidency will present it with challenges, but the sun will come up on November 9th, the bitterness of this season will pass, and we will all live to fight another day.
It is, moreover, worth pondering that we will live to fight another day as friends and allies many of us, because our interests – in constitutional governance, in fiscal responsibility, and in human liberty – are permanent, even as our passions of the moment rise and fall, our alliances shift, and our evaluation of the tactics available in the near term diverge.
So, a little late I say, try not to say things you can’t take back. Try to step back in the heat of the argument, and look at the forest rather than the trees. It, and we, will still be here apre le deluge.