04/16/2008 04:14 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Look Back In Anger, Look Ahead In Dread

That 81% of Americans now think their country is on the wrong track is no consolation.

It has taken this complacent majority eight years to wake up to reality -- eight years to see the awful truth.

They were not all in a deep REM dream state, nor medically
anaesthesized; most were in a state of self-induced hypnosis. Watching
the incessant pendulum of TV news, listening to the drone of their
leaders, they succumbed, and lost consciousness. While a few lucid voices
tried to break the trance, snapping their fingers to wake them up, they
remained in their somnolent state.

Now, as they lose their homes and their jobs, they begin to awaken
and realize Something Has Gone Wrong.

They are sinking into debt, and those pretty plastic credit cards are
no longer the life rafts they clung to.

Yes, I'm using -- abusing -- poetic license here, but it will take a
good dose of hyperbole and mighty metaphor even to begin to define the

America the Beautiful, the Bountiful, is facing economic recession,
social disunity, and moral perdition. What Barack Obama implied -- that
guns and churches are substituting today for justice and education -- is
not off the mark. When college campuses become killing fields, where is
civilization? When our government claims to slaughter for democracy in a
foreign land and tramples on democracy at home, what can we hope for?

This is America the Belligerent, the Bellicose, the Embattled. We
maintain 700 military bases around the world, in 130 countries. And at
home, we award Oscars to films that depict violence, sadism, and murder.

Friends of my generation say this is not the America we grew up in,
and it's not the America we want our grandchildren to grow up in. We do
not envy the next president, whoever it is. He/she will inherit the
wind -- the decline of the American Empire.

It's an historic truth that most great empires ended not through
foreign invasion and conquest but through implosion: they grew bloated,
divisive, ineffectual, corrupt, and they planted the seed of their own
destruction: Greece, Rome, Byzantium, the Moors in Spain, imperial China,
the Soviet Union....

That, dear reader, may well be where America is at now.