As I write this (January 1994), some 20,000 victims of the recent California earthquake suffer in improvised and inadequate tent shelters, in abysmal conditions, totally unfamiliar to their accustomed and normally privileged lifestyles. A soldier-enforced curfew seeks to prevent widespread looting, but no legal restraint impedes the greedy from charging exorbitant prices for the simplest amenities, even water. Government agencies are overwhelmed and overrun by the complaints and demands of these many thousands of disaster victims for which no anticipation or preparation was evidently enough.
This calamity follows the ravages of the recent and terrifying fires that have swept the state and the drought, floods and riots that preceded them. Who has ever heard of such a time, yet only at its beginnings, when the most elementary things, so long taken for granted as constituting the unquestioned premises of our human security, are no longer to be trusted nor guaranteed? Elsewhere, and at the same time, crippling, record-breaking sub-zero temperatures add to the woes of the nation bringing destruction to water mains, streets and private and public buildings unprepared for such extremity. Now record rains threaten the denuded brush-burned areas threatening mudslides and further destruction of property. Billions in federal subsidies will be required to bring some restoration to the ravaged areas at the cost of straining an already overextended and depressed economy.
A comparable ravaging takes place socially and morally in a society disintegrating before our eyes. A rampage of violence perpetrated by juveniles is unprecedented in the nation’s history. Death by gunshot becomes the principal cause of juvenile fatalities in a land where there are as many handguns as there are people. Perpetrators of violence are lightly dismissed or not considered legally or morally accountable because of “abuse” ostensibly suffered earlier, or face light and inconsequential sentences soon remitted or pardoned to alleviate the crunch of an exploding, congested, prison population. The vilest, most abominable of society’s sinners are honored and given special status and consideration, accounted and celebrated as heroes if they suffer the fatality of diseases appropriate to their perversion. Hollywood celebrities, “the culture-elite,” solicit funds for research through concerts and functions, while pressuring government in its responsibility to find a cure, no matter the expense, to enable the perverse to continue their lifestyles without penalty! In school classrooms, children are inducted into a simulated sexual sophistication through “orientations” that are likely to assure the very disaster that they ostensibly are designed to avoid.
For those of us who grew up in the generation of F.D.R., Churchill and Truman, the contrast of mediocrity in public leadership is especially pronounced. Glib, facile, technocrats, statistical virtuosos of studied charm, contrive mammoth programs that elevate the state as the focus of all security and dependency. The forecast for the future, humanly speaking, is bleak if not hellish. The traditional church, unable or unwilling to interpret the disasters round about us as the preliminary judgments of a yet greater wrath, continues itself to appoint and promote lesbians and homosexuals, applaud or endorse same-sex “marriages,” and fits itself for participation in the growing Beast-system through heady ecumenical dialogue in that which is non, and even, anti-Christian.