What does it mean to say a nation has failed?
Is Niger, currently wracked by a military coup d’état, its neighbors girding to invade it, a failed nation?
When the British were nearly bankrupt at the end of World War II and compelled to give up their global empire, was the UK a failed nation?
Speaking of World War II, was Nazi Germany, the self-proclaimed Thousand Year Reich, a failed nation?
Acc’d’g to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, a failed nation is:
…a state that is unable to perform the two fundamental functions of the sovereign nation-state in the modern world system: it cannot project authority over its territory and peoples, and it cannot protect its national boundaries.
What about the United States itself? Are we a failed nation?
A huge percentage of our holy land’s population thinks so. A New York Times/Siena College poll reveals 37 percent of American voters think the US is a failed nation.
Us. Niger. The Nazis. Bet you’d never seen that grouping before.
One’s in chaos, another was burned off the face of the Earth, and the third…, is currently the globe’s biggest, most robust economy, its most powerful military force, and the country hundreds of millions — maybe even billions — of people look to as the place to be.
My grandparents, and maybe yours, looked at the United States a century and more ago as the land where the streets were paved with gold. They came here and found out otherwise but, truth be told, they made scads of money, bought comfortable homes, put their kids through college, and counted themselves among the most patriotic of Americans (even though so very many of them were terrorized and persecuted by those who considered themselves even more patriotic).
In any case, this isn’t Busia and Dziadzia‘s USA anymore. Nor Pappou‘s or Yaya‘s. Not even Papaw‘s and Memaw‘s.
I don’t know whose country this is anymore but, apparently, more than a third of us think, “It ain’t mine.”
That’s got to be what people mean when they say the US is a failed nation. Guess who, more than anybody, thinks so — yep, Republicans.
You know what? They’re right. Many, many, many people on the Right grew up thinking this nation was the bastion of white Christians, ruled by men, with women keeping house, LGBTQIs keeping in the closets, Black men carrying bags at the train station, and all other ethnic immigrants either running restaurants or forming criminal syndicates. This ain’t that land anymore.
It was, a long, long time ago.
And that’s likely why so many people think this isn’t their land anymore, that it’s a failed nation.
It has failed them. It changed. Blacks became more than Pullman porters. They became college professors and neurosurgeons and prima ballerinas and, by god in heaven, president! Women started running companies. Lesbians hosted TV talk shows. Italians ran cities and states and even became Speaker of the House. Women became men and men became women. The whole world had gone crazy!
That is if you bought into the faulty reasoning that the world today should still be just like that long gone place where there were white Christian men and… everybody else.
Now white Christian men are — can you believe it? — just a part of everybody else. And for some mysterious reason, scads of people, including those who aren’t white Christian men, wish it were otherwise.
Well, maybe not so mysterious. Maybe they’ve been led down their scary, grievance-filled path by sly politicians, click-hungry internet moguls, ratings-addicted cable execs, formerly peripheral lunatics, Russian bots, and, most loudly, an incurious, unprepared, unread, pandering, borderline personality disordered greed monkey who somehow became president and hopes to become one once again.
Their United States hasn’t existed for at least 40 or 50 years. That nation, thankfully, did fail.
But the nation we live in today, for all its sins and all its warts and malignancies, is not, by definition, failed.
It will one day. Fail, that is. All empires collapse. All nations die. That’s the commonest thread of human history.
Everything ends. So do dreams and — luckily — nightmares.