When we began this crazy assignment, it was very difficult for us to believe America’s story may be coming to its end.
After all, you are the unprecedented “King of the Hill”! Since our frenemy, the Soviet Union, bit the dust, you have been the world’s superpower. Look at this…
The United States has become the largest and most actively garrisoned empire in history, built up by World War II and the 1991 disintegration of the Soviet Union. Our empire has, among other things, approximately 800 military bases in more than 70 countries, over 240,000 active duty and reserve troops in at least 172 countries and territories, de facto or de jure commitments to defend 70 countries, and presidential wars as belligerents or co-belligerents in Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and against al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).American Empire Demands a Caesar, By BRUCE FEIN, American Conservative, June 25, 2018
We Chinese have all kinds of aspirations for change in this world’s Game of Thrones. But, when you look at what your last two presidents have declared, it would appear hopeless for us…
I told you earlier all the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air. Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker. The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It’s not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined. Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world. No nation dares to attack us or our allies because they know that’s the path to ruin.President Obama, State of the Union Address, 2016
Today, I stand before the United Nations General Assembly to share the extraordinary progress we’ve made.
In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.
America’s economy is booming like never before. Since my election, we’ve added $10 trillion in wealth. The stock market is at an all-time high in history, and jobless claims are at a 50-year low. African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American unemployment have all achieved their lowest levels ever recorded. We’ve added more than 4 million new jobs, including half a million manufacturing jobs.
We have secured record funding for our military — $700 billion this year, and $716 billion next year. Our military will soon be more powerful than it has ever been before.Remarks by President Trump to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, NY, September 25, 2018
In other words, the United States is stronger, safer, and a richer country than it was when I assumed office less than two years ago.
So, it would seem that no threat could penetrate your borders, no arrow could pierce through your armor.
History is on your side! You are the dominant superpower!
But, let’s pause here for a moment and consider what this Huntington guy says…
Samuel Huntington, Who Are We?
The greatest surprise might be if the United States in 2025 were still much the same country it was in 2000 rather than a very different country (or countries) with very different conceptions of itself and its identity than it had a quarter century earlier.
A surprise? Is your country really in as precarious a situation as Huntington suggests?
Is it even possible that you too, like the Soviet Union, could quickly dive down into the dustbin?
Don’t push the idea away too quickly. Let’s ponder this. After all, it looks like what Abraham Lincoln thought could happen may now be unfolding in the United States…
All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.
At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.Abraham Lincoln, The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions: Address Before the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, January 27, 1838
Spring up from among you? Die by suicide? Though Lincoln spoke those words long ago, this Guinness guy thinks Lincoln’s words still carry relevant weight…
Yet if the founders of the republic were correct, the ultimate challenge facing America will always be the enemy within—domestic rather than international. Intercontinental ballistic missiles, dirty bombs, cyber-security and the ferocities of terrorism notwithstanding, the deepest menace will not come from abroad but home. Many people quote Arnold Toynbee’s repeated observation, “History shows that all great nations commit suicide.” But the theme of this book owes far more to Abraham Lincoln’s expressly American understanding of the challenge: “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”
No one who knows the classics well would be shocked by such bluntness, though many Americans today would be. Some people talk of the “loss” of freedom as if citizens mislaid it in a fit of absent-mindedness. Others talk of the “miscarriage” of freedom as if the loss was unfortunate but caused by factors outside their control. I have even heard people talk of the “aborting” of freedom, as if someone could be rid of freedom but the “ridder remains alive and well. To be sure, Americans have become some of history’s grand masters of casual abortion, but that metaphor does not come close to the truth of what is happening with freedom. Lincoln was right: the precise term is suicide.
The free people of the American republic, who also happen to be citizens of the modern world’s sole superpower, have no one to blame and nothing to fear but themselves. There is no question about the earlier menace of the Nazis and Communists, and now Islamic extremists, but in the end the ultimate threat to the American republic will be Americans. The problem is not wolves at the door but termites in the floor. Powerful free people die only by their own hand, and free people have no one to blame but themselves. What the world seems fascinated to watch but powerless to stop is the spectacle of a free people’s suicide.Os Guinness, A Free People’s Suicide
And when my friend, Hector Klumpp, of the Nihilist Lites of America, saw that, he proclaimed…
Not wolves at the door,
But termites in the floor!
And try out Keizer’s haunting thought…
“All men kill the thing they love,” Oscar Wilde writes, and perhaps most ruthlessly when the thing they love—or have convinced themselves they no longer love—is under threat. Need I say that “the thing” being killed is America?Nihilist Nation: The Empty Core of the Trump Mystique, By GARRET KEIZER, New Republic, October 25, 2018
So, is it possible you are killing your own beloved country?
To the founders, the preservation of freedom meant they had to be wary of popular rule, or pure democracy, which they saw as an invitation to despotism. The fiercest enemies of the republic, Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 1, were those men who begin “by paying an obsequious court to the people, commencing demagogues and ending tyrants.” John Adams declared of popular rule: “It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”How Trump Has Proved the Founders Right, By H.W. Brands, Politico, March 31, 2016
Are you feeling the tension yet? Because my team loves this quote from Game of Thrones…
This inspired our team to consider the question: could we Chinese win this game of thrones without fighting? What if we exercised patience, waiting for America to die of its own—by suicide?
But, Shih Tzu scoffed at us. His recommended course? To act quickly before the end of Obama’s term. He advocated an aggressive militarily push — to sprint this last lap in our hundred year marathon. He argued, very persuasively to some on the Central Committee, that he and Chairman Mao were united comrades on this question.
Shih Tzu is a devoted follower of Chairman Mao, and this quote from Mao has become the controlling idea in Shih Tzu’s story…
The enemy will not perish of himself. Neither the Chinese reactionaries nor the aggressive forces of U.S. imperialism in China will step down from the stage of history of their own accord.
By the way, since we are exploring the mysterious unknowns, we are also now wondering if your unfolding suicide epidemic in America is somehow an indication that Lincoln’s suicide warning is also unfolding in your drama.
Anyway, look at some of the things Paula showed us…
So many statistics say that life in the U.S. is getting better. Unemployment is at the lowest level since 1969. Violent crime has fallen sharply since the 1990s—cities such as New York are safer than they’ve ever been. And Americans lived nine years longer, on average, in 2017 than they did in 1960. It would make sense that the psychic well-being of the nation would improve along with measures like that.
Yet something isn’t right. In 2017, 47,000 people died by suicide, and there were 1.4 million suicide attempts. U.S. suicide rates are at the highest level since World War II, said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on June 20, when it released a study on the problem. And it’s getting worse: The U.S. suicide rate increased on average by about 1% a year from 2000 through 2006 and by 2% a year from 2006 through 2016.
Although suicide is the starkest indicator of mental distress, others abound. Drug overdoses claimed 70,000 lives in 2017, and 17.3 million, or 7%, of U.S. adults reported suffering at least one major depressive episode in the past year. Life expectancy, perhaps the broadest measure of a nation’s health, has fallen for three straight years, in part because of the rise in drug overdoses and suicides. That’s the first three-year drop since 1915 to 1918.Latest Suicide Data Show the Depth of U.S. Mental Health Crisis, By Cynthia Koons, Bloomberg, June 20, 2019
The Centers for Disease Control recorded 47,173 suicides in 2017, and there were an estimated 1.4 million total attempts. Many of society’s plagues strike heavier at women and minorities, but suicide in America is dominated by white men, who account for 70 percent of all cases. Middle-aged men walk the point. Men in the United States average 22 suicides per 100,000 people, with those ages 45 to 64 representing the fastest-growing group, up from 20.8 per 100,000 in 1999 to 30.1 in 2017. The states with the highest rates are Montana, with 28.9 per 100,000 people; Alaska, at 27 per 100,000; and Wyoming, at 26.9 per 100,000 — all roughly double the national rate. New Mexico, Idaho and Utah round out the top six states. All but Alaska fall in the Mountain time zone.All-American Despair, By STEPHEN RODRICK, Rolling Stone, May 30, 2019
The principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warned on Wednesday that suicide is on the rise in the U.S. among almost every age group.
“Suicide – in all ages except for young children and the elderly – is one of the few conditions that’s getting worse instead of better around the country,” Anne Schuchat told “Rising” Hill.TV co-hosts Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton.
Suicide is a leading cause of death in the U.S.
Nearly 45,000 Americans have lost their lives to suicide in 2016, and suicide rates have spiked more than 30 percent in half of states across the country since 1999, according to the CDC.Suicides in the US are up, says CDC official, By Tess Bonn, The Hill, September 26, 2018
Suicides and drug overdoses pushed up U.S. deaths last year, and drove a continuing decline in how long Americans are expected to live.
Overall, there were more than 2.8 million U.S. deaths in 2017, or nearly 70,000 more than the previous year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday. It was the most deaths in a single year since the government began counting more than a century ago.
The increase partly reflects the nation’s growing and aging population. But it’s deaths in younger age groups — particularly middle-aged people — that have had the largest impact on calculations of life expectancy, experts said.
“These sobering statistics are a wake-up call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable,” Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC’s director, said in a statement.
The suicide death rate last year was the highest it’s been in at least 50 years, according to U.S. government records. There were more than 47,000 suicides, up from a little under 45,000 the year before.Suicide, at 50-year peak, pushes down US life expectancy, By MIKE STOBBE, AP, November 29, 2018
The number of deaths from alcohol, drugs and suicide in 2017 hit the highest level since federal data collection started in 1999, according to an analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data by two public health nonprofits.
The national rate for deaths from alcohol, drugs and suicide rose from 43.9 to 46.6 deaths per 100,000 people in 2017, a 6 percent increase, the Trust for America’s Health and the Well Being Trust reported Tuesday. That was a slower increase than in the previous two years, but it was greater than the 4 percent average annual increase since 1999.
Deaths from suicides rose from 13.9 to 14.5 deaths per 100,000, a 4 percent increase. That was double the average annual pace over the previous decade.U.S. deaths from alcohol, drugs and suicide hit highest level since record-keeping began, By Jayne O’Donnell, USA TODAY, March 5, 2019
And since your men are killing themselves at a much higher rate than your women…
According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is now the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., killing twice as many people (45,000) as homicide does each year. In more than 25 states across the country, the suicide rate has increased by more than 30 percent since 1999.
Most of the deaths are people (like Spade and Bourdain) at an age once considered the prime of life, which suggests a kind of epic, deadly new form of the midlife crisis: The largest number of suicides are happening among white men and white women between the ages of 45 and 65 (although rates are rising steadily for nearly all racial and ethnic groups). The news is grimmest for men, who account for three-quarters of all suicides. The CDC’s principal deputy director, Anne Schuchat, told Business Insider thatthe new data are “disturbing.”The Suicide Epidemic, by CHRISTINE ROSEN, Commentary Magazine, JUNE 19, 2018
… you can see why I struggle with this. After all, men are more likely than women to meet the train of death earlier in life…
There has always been evidence that men, throughout life, are at higher risk of early death—from the beginning, a higher male incidence of Death by Mastodon Stomping, a higher incidence of Spiked Club to the Brainpan, a statistically significant disparity between how many men and how many women die of Accidentally Shooting Themselves in the Face or Getting Really Fat and Having a Heart Attack. The male of the species dies younger than the female—about five years on average. Divide a population into groups by birth year, and by the time each cohort reaches 85, there are two women left for every man alive. In fact, the male wins every age class: Baby boys die more often than baby girls; little boys die more often than little girls; teenage boys; young men; middle-aged men. Death champions across the board.Sperm Count Zero, BY DANIEL NOAH HALPERN, GQ, September 4, 2018
Let us know, then, whether you are going to take Lincoln seriously. We just want to know what you want, here in the story.
Because, if Christianity is the story we are in, well, as you’ll see in our research, it’s all about what you really want, here in the story.
And we understand the power of desire. You see, we are on a Quest to achieve our China Dream. We want to make China great again…
What does President Xi Jinping want? In one line: to “Make China Great Again.”Graham Allison, Destined For War
Graham Allison, one of America’s most astute China watchers, quotes Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, who two years before his death in 2015 said this: “The size of China’s displacement of the world balance is such that the world must find a new balance. It is not possible to pretend that this is just another world player. This is the biggest player in the history of the world.”
In that context, what China wants is a play in three acts.
First, China wants ideally to push the U.S. out of its Asian region, or at the very least reduce its influence, to achieve a regional hegemony that makes all actors ultimately dependent on it. Second, it is acting globally to displace, if not yet replace, the United States wherever it can — including in major parts of Europe — most importantly through its Belt and Road Initiative.
Finally, it’s clearer than ever that Beijing by the time of the 100th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China in 2049 aspires to be the dominant economic, political and perhaps military power for an era where democracies remain but authoritarian systems are ascendant.It’s time for the US and Europe to ask what sort of world China wants to build, By Fred Kempe, CNBC, April 13, 2019
It sounds a lot like what so many of you Americans want.
And we want to stop you from stopping us…
The “harm” they will bring does not have to do with security. The Chinese have no reason to fear attack from the United States, or even from Japan so long as the United States remains involved in the region. Nor do Chinese thinkers like Yan Xuetong even claim that China faces the threat of foreign invasion or attack. What the Chinese fear is they will be prevented from achieving their larger goals as a nation. According to Chinese scholar Wang Jisi, they see the United States trying to “prevent the emerging powers, in particular China, from achieving their goals and enhancing their stature.” In the first instance this means the unification of Taiwan with the mainland and international recognition of Chinese control of the South China Sea. The Chinese have taken to calling these “core interests,” thereby suggesting that the denial of these ambitions is itself a kind of attack on Chinese security. Nineteenth-century Americans made a similar claim with the Monroe Doctrine, which also asserted a hegemony they did not yet have the power to exercise, but they got away with it. The world was configured to their advantage. China’s challenge is that the world is not configured to its advantage, at least not yet. They aim to change that. When Chinese thinkers and officials insist that “hiding time” and “keeping a low profile” are no longer acceptable approaches, they mean they no longer find this situation tolerable. Again, this is not a security dilemma, for it is not primarily security that China seeks. It is the dilemma posed when a rising power sees its path blocked by existing power arrangements.Robert Kagan, The Jungle Grows Back
So, we want to know whether we can continue to win without fighting against you…
For years now, China has been at war against the United States in the South China Sea — only Washington didn’t notice until the process was well underway. The Chinese way of war, modeled after the philosopher of middle antiquity, Sun Tzu, is to win without ever having to fight. Thus, the Chinese have been proceeding by microsteps: reclaim an island here, build a runway there, install a missile battery in a third place, deploy an oil exploration rig temporarily in disputed waters, establish a governorate, and so on. Each step is designed to create a small fact, but without eliciting a military response from the other side, since the Chinese know they may be a generation away from matching the U.S. Navy and Air Force in fighting capability.How President Trump is helping Beijing win in the South China Sea, By Robert Kaplan, Washington Post, October 9, 2018
…or whether we’ll have to take military action as the story unfolds.
Because the conflict between our countries is unfolding…
China, however, is more than stumbling into the South China Sea. It is using its power to push out others, namely, the United States, which has no South China Sea sovereignty claims, and rival claimants. Beijing may want to “win without fighting” as Holmes suggests, but it cannot win without confronting.
Confrontation, unfortunately, is “inevitable,” as Yu Maochun of the U.S. Naval Academy points out. Beijing is trying to push out its borders and expand control of peripheral waters.China Will ‘Pull the Trigger’ in the South China Sea, By Gordon C. Chang, Real Clear Defense, February 03, 2018
And look what Niall Ferguson wrote…
A HUNDRED YEARS AGO, World War I was entering its final phase. No one in either Berlin or London had set out to expend so vast a quantity of blood and treasure on four years of industrialized slaughter. As I argued 20 years ago in “The Pity of War,” World War I was perhaps the greatest error of modern history.
The ultimate result was that Britain and Germany followed the ancient example of Sparta and Athens: the incumbent power and the rising power ended up going to war. The Harvard political scientist Graham Allison calls it the “Thucydides trap,” after the historian of the Peloponnesian War.
Are the United States and China on the way to repeating this classic historical mistake? Having just spent a fascinating week in Beijing and Shanghai, I fear they may be.An ancient trap awaits China and US, By Niall Ferguson, Boston Globe, May 7, 2018
And that is our fear. Shih Tzu may be setting the trap.
And to understand my enemy, Shih Tzu, you must see what he wants.
Shih Tzu wants to become a hero in China’s great unfolding drama.
He wants to be remembered as the one who took an action which brought about the fulfillment of our China Dream.
And our China Dream is nothing more – nothing less – than an effort to bring about a major change – to make China great again.
Shih Tzu believes he is the one who is destined to take an action which will change the course of the world’s unfolding drama and knock your country off the stage of history.
And when he does it, he thinks history will smile down on him, because history is now on China’s side, not America’s. That is what he wants.
But, underneath Shih Tzu’s desire there is another motivation.
He also wants to redeem the reputation of one of his ancestors, an unusual character in China’s story.
You see, our agent Shih Tzu is a direct descendant of the infamous Shih Tzu, author of the strange and mysterious 19th century work, Unleash the Small Dogs of War.
Here is part of the description of the book…
It is believed that Shih Tzu, who was a minor official in the Qing dynasty, began to write Unleash the Small Dogs of War soon after the outbreak of the Taiping Rebellion in 1850. Inspired by the leader of the rebellion, Hong Xiuchuan, who claimed to be the brother of Jesus Christ, Shih Tzu carefully crafted the work over the next decade-and-a-half, bringing it to completion in 1864, the same year the rebellion ended. Shih Tzu died the following year, but his work took on new life. There has been some dispute about its influence, but most scholars now believe it directly contributed to the Chinese defeat in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-5), and the eventual weakening and collapse of the Qing dynasty.
When Sun Yat-sen became president of the new Republic of China on January 1, 1912, he ordered all copies of it burned and issued an edict forbidding members of his government from reading it. Some copies survived however, and after reading one of them in 1916, Yuan Shikai declared himself emperor. He died a short time later. The book is believed to have passed into obscurity at that point, although there are rumors Chairman Mao read a copy just before he triple-jumped into the disastrous Great Leap Forward, which eventually led to the Great Famine which, well… you know the numbers.
Shih Tzu loves that book.
He reads it all the time and tries to weave it in with insights from Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book, which is very little read in the United States.
So, even though Shih Tzu knows the horrifying potential of military conflict between China and the United States, he sees it as an opportunity to turn himself into a hero who will be remembered for millennia to come. He wants China to make an aggressive military move which will shove you off the stage and give us the victory in the game of thrones.
And you know the power of a quest. It can turn you into a very intense figure.
But his intensity isn’t just aimed at you Americans. He also wants to bring me down.
You’ll get his political revenge.
I’ll keep getting his personal revenge.
Even as he puts millions of innocent people in great danger, he won’t forget me.
So — Is it possible God the Great Storyteller may be bringing the story of the United States to its end?
No way, right? That is what we would have thought before we ever began this assignment. But we have changed.
And Robert McKee helped us to see something about story…
A story is simply one huge master event. When you look at the value-charged situation in the life of the character at the beginning of the story, then compare it to the value-charge at the end of the story, you should see the arc of the film, the great sweep of change that takes life from one condition at the opening to a changed condition at the end. This final condition, this end change, must be absolute and irreversible.Robert McKee, Story
And Paula showed us what Robert McKee says about climax in story…
A story is a series of acts that build to a last act climax or story climax which brings about absolute and irreversible change.Robert McKee, Story
At climax, the story’s final event changes the core value’s charge absolutely and the character’s life returns to balance.Storynomics, By Robert McKee and Tom Gerace
At climax, the protagonist’s final choice of action causes the reaction she hoped for. She gets what she wants and needs as her world delivers her object of desire and restores her life to an even more perfect balance than when the story began. The story achieves closure – all questions answered, all emotion satisfied.Storynomics, By Robert McKee and Tom Gerace
And consider how that fits with what Shawn Coyne writes…
Lastly, there is INTEGRATION, which I would call the very end of a Story — INTEGRATION dramatizes resolution. We’ve found a new stability, one that is vastly different than where we began. We’ve got a whole new outlook on life and we’re not the same person we once were. At INTEGRATION, we have come full circle and have recovered from the SHOCK of a big Inciting Incident in our life, no matter what, by the end of the Story we will never go back to where or who we were before.Shawn Coyne, The Story Grid
So, here is the surprising reality for you Americans …
If Christianity is the story we are in …
The Only Climax in the Story of America is that which brings about the end of the United States.
That is not the way you normally think about it, is it?
But, if Christianity is the story we are in, it looks like America’s story, like that of any other nation, is strangely intertwined with the story in the Bible.
You see, your God, who is the Active Protagonist in the story, is going to bring all other kingdoms to an end when he fulfills his Quest and restores his kingdom – the kingdom which will never be destroyed…
And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever….Daniel 2:44
And look at this…
Jesus claims that the establishing of God’s kingdom is the ultimate goal of world history.Michael Goheen and Craig Bartholomew, Living at the Crossroads: An Introduction to Christian Worldview
In light of this, our team began to consider passages in your Bible like these…
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.Matthew 6:10
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.Matthew 24:14
Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.1 Corinthians 15:24
The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.Genesis 49:10
For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.Job 19:25
May he have dominion from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth!Psalm 72:8
May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!Psalm 72:11
May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!Psalm 72:17
So, if Christianity is the story we are in, the United States is a temporary political arrangement, as the story waits for the King to bring this movement in the story to a climax.
In other words, there cannot be a positive ending to the story of the United States. The climax can only be one which brings America to an end.
The story of America either ends sometime before the King returns — or it waits to be smashed in pieces at his return.
It’s a wild idea, isn’t it?
But the same holds for all other kingdoms of men. Look what your Mohler Man wrote…
Now we can see why this pair of petitions is so radical. By asking for the kingdom of God to come, Jesus subversively overthrows the kingdoms of man and the powers of Satan. … For the kingdom of God to come means that all other kingdoms (including our own!) must fade into oblivion.Albert Mohler, The Prayer That Turns the World Upside Down
In all of history there is no other climax to the story of any kingdom other than a climax which brings it to its end.
They are all temporary political arrangements.
So, while America is an exceptional nation, it looks like there is no exception to how the story of every kingdom ends.
And if Christianity is the story we are in, that includes China too!
So, you can imagine why this song is causing us a disturbing sense of anxiety…