Should we despair, giving up on America?

Should we despair, giving up on America?
05 Jun

Summary:  So far as I can tell from reading the media, the mood of America – both Left and right – is depressed. The situation looks bleak, so it’s time to consult the pros for advice. (This is an update of a post from 2012.)

"Despair" by Edvard Munch (1893-94)
“Despair” by Edvard Munch (1893).

It’s an article of faith on the FM website that only cold analysis can provide the basis for accurate diagnosis and treatment of the Republic. That is the best bet to restore our lost liberties and return us to the path of wisdom and prosperity.  With 4,500 posts and 55 thousand comments since 2007, its authors, guest authors, and commenters have provided analysis totalling tens of millions of words.  Combined with the work of greater writers elsewhere, also working for the reform of America, the Republic would be saved by now – if words alone sufficed.

But as Spock reminds us in Star Trek IV, “logic is only the beginning of wisdom”. Logic gives us no motivation, no energy, no drive. But worse, if relied upon alone it can lead to despair. Fortunately, we can turn to the sages for the solace and inspiration that reason cannot provide. First let us consider the wisdom of despair. And then the see the necessity of hope, which is our greatest resource.

For Roman Catholics, despair is a sin against the First Commandment. Rightly so.

By despair, man ceases to hope for his personal salvation from God, for help in attaining it or for the forgiveness of his sins.  Despair is contrary to God’s goodness, to his justice – for the Lord is faithful to his promises – and to his mercy.

— Article 2091 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest Doctors of the Roman Catholic Church, asks “Is Despair the Greatest of Sins?” His answer can help us all.

Saint Thomas Aquinas.

If, however, despair be compared to the other two sins {disbelief or hatred of God – or, in this context, Liberty} from our point of view, then despair is more dangerous, since hope withdraws us from evils and induces us to seek for good things, so that when hope is given up, men rush headlong into sin, and are drawn away from good works.

Wherefore a gloss on Proverbs 24:10, “If thou lose hope being weary in the day of distress, thy strength shall be diminished,” says: “Nothing is more hateful than despair, for the man that has it loses his constancy both in the every day toils of this life, and, what is worse, in the battle of faith.”

And Isidore says (Sententiarum seu De summo bono, ii, 14): “To commit a crime is to kill the soul, but to despair is to fall into hell.

The Summa Thologica, Part I – Treatise on the Theological Virtues, section I, Question 20 – About Despair, Article 3

Even popular fiction sometimes has wisdom. There is much of it in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings saga, a story of people working to better the world in a struggle without rational hope of success.

“Despair or Folly?  It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt. We do not. It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope.”
— Gandalf at The Council of Elrond, in Fellowship of the Ring.

“Do not cast all hope away. Tomorrow is unknown. Rede {council} oft is found at the rising of the Sun.”
— Legolas, in The Two Towers.

“The counsel of Gandalf was not founded on foreknowledge of safety, for himself or for others. There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark.”
— Aragorn, in The Two Towers.

“For thus it is spoken: ‘Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.’”
— Legolas in The Return of the King.

A darker perspective about despair and hope

While that good news is inspiring, much of the time these demotivational posters better express my mood. Which is why we need faith to keep us moving even when despair has driven away hope.



For More Information

f you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information see some of my posts about good news for America and the world, and especially these …

  1. Some good news (one of the more important posts on this blog) –  We need not fear the future. This remains a great nation, not because of our past but because of us and our polity.  We differ from almost every other nation because of our commitment to our political order, of which our Constitution is the foundation.
  2. An important thing to remember as we start a New Year — As we start a New Year I find it useful to review my core beliefs. It is easy to lose sight of those amidst the clatter of daily events. Here is my list.
  3. Is America’s decline inevitable? No. – Why be an American if one has no faith in the American people?  How can you believe in democracy without such faith?
  4. Let us light a candle while we walk, lest we fear what lies ahead — Many people look to the future with fear. We see this fear throughout the web. Right-wing sites describe the imminent end of America: overrun by foreigners, victim of cultural and financial collapse. Left-wing sites describe “die-off” scenarios due to climate change and ecological collapse accompanied by takeovers of theocrats and fascists.  Most of this is nonsense, but not the prospect of massive changes in our world.
  5. Good news about the 21st century, a counterbalance to the doomsters.
  6. Some thoughts about the economy of mid-21st century America — Optimistic words from the greatest economist of the 20th century.



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