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Eight Decades, One Nation: America's Cyclical Confrontation with War

Eight Decades, One Nation: America's Cyclical Confrontation with War

An intriguing 80-year cycle courses through American history, resonating with global significance. Every eight decades, the nation confronts an existential internal crisis, a crucible often tempered by the flames of war.

The genesis of this pattern traces back to the birth of the Union itself. The Revolutionary War spanning 1776 to 1783 epitomized this tumultuous genesis, commencing as a fervent bid to liberate the 13 colonies from the clutches of the English crown. Yet, it swiftly evolved into a sprawling global conflict, drawing in the great powers of Europe vying for supremacy over the seas and colonial dominions.

How Slavery Divided a Nation in 1861

France, spurred by its own vendettas and ambitions, aligned with the American cause, igniting a conflagration that embroiled Spain and the Dutch Republic. Meanwhile, Britain fortified its American forces by enlisting legions of German mercenaries, forging enduring ties with Prussia that echoed through to the brink of World War I.

However, unity eluded the fledgling nation; fractures cleaved through its populace, with factions staunchly loyal to England clashing against those fervently championing independence. The seeds of division sown in that era would burgeon into the bitter harvest of civil strife eight decades hence.

In 1861, America was rent asunder by the specter of slavery, a contentious issue that cleaved society along regional fault lines. While the industrial North reaped the benefits of wage labor, the agrarian South clung tenaciously to the institution of slavery, essential to its economic prosperity.

This schism, emblematic of divergent developmental trajectories and value systems, plunged the nation into a maelstrom of conflict. Simultaneously, across the globe, the imperial ambitions of England manifested in bloody confrontations in India, China, and Europe, further entrenching the era's atmosphere of strife and upheaval.

Fast forward to 1941, and the nation found itself once more at the precipice of chaos as it plunged into the cauldron of World War II. Yet, within its borders lurked a potent strain of fascism and pro-Nazi sentiment, underscoring the enduring struggle between liberty and tyranny.

Thus, across the annals of history, these climactic moments, bound by an immutable rhythm, reverberate with the echoes of conflict and resolution. They shape not only the destiny of a nation but also leave an indelible mark on the tapestry of global affairs.

America's Wake-Up Call from Isolationism to Global Intervention

Arguably America's most esteemed poet, Ezra Pound, embraced fascism during the war, spreading anti-American sentiment from Italy. Charles Lindbergh, a towering figure of his era, championed Nazism, opposing America's entry into war against Germany.

Simultaneously, a fervent socialist and communist movement loomed threateningly from the left. Racism against Blacks and Jews was virulent and unapologetic. Though African Americans were emancipated, they remained marginalized in comparison to the white majority. The aftermath of the 1929 market crash and the ensuing Great Depression, with a staggering 25% unemployment rate, pushed America to the brink of internal conflict.

The nation stood divided over its destiny: intervene in European affairs and support Great Britain, or adopt a stance of isolationism? The attack on Pearl Harbor shattered the deadlock, eradicating the fascist threat. The subsequent Cold War era subdued the socialist movement, spanning five decades. However, it was not without struggle, as the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s bore witness to bitter and at times violent clashes.

Now, if history's timeline aligns, we face the fourth crisis, pivoting around Donald Trump's MAGA (Make America Great Again) movement and his presidential bid. Similar to eighty years ago, the incumbent president, then Roosevelt, now Joe Biden, finds himself besieged from both the right and a radical left, striving to strike a delicate balance amidst the tumultuous political landscape.

In previous historical crises, the United States has often emerged with hard-won victories for progressive ideals. Yet, as shadows of global conflicts loom once more, it remains uncertain whether history will repeat itself in the present turmoil.

Today, the nation finds itself entangled in multiple fronts, akin to the past's tumultuous landscapes. With Ukraine facing off against Russia, Israel grappling with Hamas, and patrols engaged against Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, the specter of conflict casts its long shadow. Meanwhile, amidst fierce competition, China stands as a formidable rival, with numerous potential flashpoints encircling its borders.

Are We Witnessing America's Predicted Crisis?

The world stage seems to be on edge, with the United States playing a crucial role like never before. But underneath all the global dynamics, there's a deep-seated tension brewing within the nation itself, threatening to explode into something much bigger. The way former President Trump talked, especially his criticisms of NATO and what seemed like a friendliness towards Putin, only adds fuel to the fire, using the country's internal unrest for his own political gain.

As tensions keep rising, there's this looming fear of chaos, with things possibly spiraling out of control. But amid all this turmoil, there's a glimmer of hope. The idea that China could be a common enemy might actually bring people together, despite all the internal divisions.

Now is the time for the U.S. and the rest of the world to be smart about things, to learn from the past and not get stuck in old patterns. In American history, there's always been this argument about whether we're making progress or just repeating the same mistakes over and over. This idea gained traction in the 1990s and has now found a supporter in Stephen Bannon, the guy who played a big part in getting Trump into power.

The theory goes like this: big crises, like the American Revolution or the Civil War, happen roughly every 80 years. Neil Howe and William Strauss wrote about this in their books, predicting something they called "The Fourth Turning" would happen in the early 21st century, peaking around 2020 and hopefully wrapping up by 2026.

With all the chaos going on, from leadership questions to investigations, and a flood of information—both true and false—it feels like America is facing a major moment of reckoning. Even though things might seem okay on the surface, there are a lot of vulnerabilities, and we're balancing on the edge of some serious challenges. Has the push for progress, like we saw during Obama's time, suddenly hit a roadblock, pushing America back into its old, turbulent ways?

Trump's Legacy and Bannon's Beliefs

Trump's rise, no matter what you think of it, has left a mark on the country, bringing back old ideas and creating new ones that fit the times. Bannon, who played a big role in Trump's movement, really believes in Howe and Strauss's theories, using them to try and shape politics in a way that fits his vision.

The "crisis climax," as described by Strauss and Howe, evokes imagery akin to nature's tempestuous fury—a force capable of uprooting institutions, redefining societal paradigms, and leaving an indelible imprint on generations to come. Its denouement holds the promise of triumph or the specter of tragedy, with the fate of a nation hanging in the balance.

The cyclical nature of history, governed by generational shifts and societal archetypes, perpetuates this recurring drama. Each generation, shaped by the crucible of its time, becomes both product and progenitor of historical forces—a testament to the enduring legacy of human endeavor and the ceaseless march of time.

In the intricate tapestry of Strauss and Howe's theory lies a compelling portrayal of the leader destined to emerge amidst the Fourth Turning—a figure characterized by charisma, anti-intellectualism, and demagoguery. Their vision paints a portrait of slogans transformed into political mantras, championing action over reflection, strength over empathy, and impulse over reason. Does this depiction sound eerily familiar?

As the Fourth Turning unfolds, shrouded in uncertainty and fraught with anticipation, the looming question persists: will it culminate in the crucible of conflict, mirroring the cyclical patterns delineated by these historians? Bannon, a fervent adherent of this theory, harbors grim expectations, foreseeing the specter of war looming ominously on the horizon. Yet, we can only hope that his pessimism remains unfounded, and that policy choices do not unwittingly facilitate his prophetic vision.

David M. Swearingen

David M. Swearingen

American Correspondent

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