Truth’s voice now strains to make its speech be heard
above the world’s din. The war-drum beats loud
and priests of many faiths pervert the word
God vouchsafed to them. A gathering crowd
protests in the streets, and cries out for calm
so loudly, thugh the press makes this voice mute.
Our leaders promise to hold back the storm
as if they were more blessed than king Canute
who knew his limits. Bankers gain by theft,
conning those who live by hard-working creeds.
Our greatness withers: not a tree is left
to thrive in once fertile ground. Instead, weeds
grow rampant in America’s garden,
and there’s axes in our Forest Arden.
I went to this talk with the appropriately-named James Blight, who argued that American foreign policy works best when it clings to two imperatives: the ‘moral’ imperative to bring its highest ideals at home to all its overseas work; and the ‘multilateral’ imperative to seek to act in concert with others.
I agree with him in principle, and history agrees with him; we do our best overseas when we try to bring genuine democracy and honest reform to the wider world, and we do that best when we have allies to keep an eye on us. When we act alone, we turn things into a screaming horror.
That said, though, I felt like he was addressing the wrong audience. We were all teachers, flush with a glass of wine or two, recently satisfied by a big dinner, and virtually incapable of affecting foreign policy in any way. It was like a professor from the Sorbonne lecturing a bunch of happy peasants in southern France in 1344, after a village feast about rat control. We can see that there’s a problem. We just can’t make the nobles listen to us.