DISCLAIMER: I lived and worked in America for many years. I do love that country. I have many friends there. This is a perspective on the future of America from the vantage point of what it’s like to not be American. And I know many American citizens who would agree with the following:
Today (Monday the 21 August 2017), US citizens will be treated to a total eclipse of the sun. Although NASA tells us that this kind of celestial event is regular and predictable (an eclipse is visible somewhere on the earth every one-and-a-half years), this year it’s America’s first total coast-to-coast eclipse in 99 years.
Pundits have already labeled it ‘The Great American Eclipse’ (as opposed to minor ‘un-American’ but otherwise identical eclipses), which raises an interesting discussion point: does this ‘American’ eclipse mean something? Is it portentous?
The Great American Eclipse has the potential, according to the Washington Post, to be the most studied, most observed, and (because it’s 2017) most photographed eclipse ever. Of course it is; it will be observable by two thirds of America’s population, from Oregon to South Carolina. That’s a lot of iPhones pointing at the sun. 200 million mini solar panels. You could generate a lot of alternative energy from that.
So, expect “Eclipselfies”.
Hashtag Eclipse x 200 million.
This much shade hasn’t been thrown at the US since 1918, and, as the Post notes again, “this will be the first eclipse of the social media era to pass through such a heavily populated area”.
As usual, all the religious crazies are out. In full force. Conservative rabbi’s, rabid evangelicals, Tom Cruise… this eclipse signals the end of the world. Again. Which is a common human eclipse-related activity: in the pre-scientific era (i.e. all of human existence until about last week), eclipses were viewed as nothing short of opening acts for the Apocalypse.
Of course, two physical celestial bodies suspended in space twirling forever around a third are unlikely to have a conspiracy going against naughty humanity (although given what hell we’ve put Earth through, I wouldn’t at all be surprised). If that were true, the sun could just bugger off around the galaxy for an eon; that’d teach us.
It’s a common-or-garden cosmic event, really. It’s just that this one happens to be American.
Is this a sign? No, obviously. Just science. And yet…
In all these 99 years since the last coast-to-coast eclipse, modernity has watched America. Literally and figuratively. We’ve had no choice. It has been Time magazine’s ‘American century’. Woodrow Wilson was the President at the helm in 1918, a portentous year in itself (the end of ‘the war to end all wars’). A hundred years later?
Donald J. Trump.
You could not find two more diametrically opposed American men than Wilson and Trump. For one, Wilson could read. Wilson presided over an America that was just coming into its own, an upstart young global power that had quite enjoyed rushing into the old world’s global conflict at the last minute and saving the day. The next hundred years would witness the complete cultural colonization of the globe, an almost total eclipse, if you will, of humanity’s consciousness.
For better or for worse, the American Empire had arrived.
But something’s shifted.
Born in 1972, I never imagined I would live to witness the decline of America. The US has seemed all-powerful, inviolable, and, after the election of Barack Obama, finally on the crest of the moral grassy knoll.
As Carl Jung reminds us, however, ‘the greater the light you have, the greater the shadow you will cast’. Just ask the sun. America, the light of the nations, Reagan’s shining ‘City On A Hill’. America, the land of complete human freedom. Freedom, it appears, to kill and destroy, to cheapen culture, to empty religion of almost all its meaning, to mass-produce unhealthy food and killer chemicals, and to finally embody everything that’s shadowy in human nature.
Of course, that’s not the path of totality. America, like every other nation on earth, has contributed something. In the last hundred years, the US contribution to the development of human progress has been staggering. American ingenuity has literally changed the way human beings live. That does indeed go without saying.
However, all good things must come to an end. It’s someone else’s turn.
Is this it? Is this Great American Eclipse a timely celestial reminder that their party may be over? Of course, the question really is, do we really need a massive social media event such as this to remind us that America is finally in decline? Americans, are, after all, solely responsible, in every way, for Donald Trump.
Trump is an American thing. Obscenely rich, obese, ridiculous, dumb, crass, a noisy clown, an uncouth, illiterate, unqualified bully. He has always existed, and he always will. He’s the dark side of the moon; we always knew it was there. It’s human nature’s other half. What makes it all finally unbearable, however, is this is the first time The Dark Side is in charge. Nixon? Compromised, surely, but still, an intelligent man. Clinton? Bush Jr? We derided them at the time. Now we miss them.
The world appears to be at a tipping point. China and India are huge suns about to eclipse a rowdy but out of control moral black hole. In our lifetime, since the end of World War II, this is a momentous time to be witness to human flux. America, for a century or so, led the way. But the eclipse has begun, unquestionably. The rest of the world wants its day in the sun.
The Washington Post reports that NASA’s associate administrator for science missions, Thomas Zurbuchen, will ‘usher in the eclipse over the Pacific Coast from a NASA plane.’
The Great American Eclipse ™. Proudly brought to you by the makers of The American Century ™. © 2017 Trump Enterprises Inc.
Further reading: Barbara Will’s article in The Guardian: