But perhaps the most troubling symptom of our cultural rot is the sense, detectable already in some people, that there simply is no future for us at all. This sentiment takes many forms, whether individual or national. Some people are taking their own lives in despair or exhaustion, a phenomenon reflected in spiking suicide rates. Some say there’s going to be a “national divorce,” a coward’s term for a Second Civil War, and some say there ought to be such a war, and it’s difficult to distinguish the two; either way, if you take them at their word, there is no future for the United States of America. Some say the planet is dying and we’re already living on borrowed time. Those people have something like an end point in mind.
Then there are some who say that every terrible thing—including even this untenable thing that no civilization could endure, this demonic murder lottery of schoolchildren—simply must go on, and somehow, they are winning. After all, wasn’t the Newtown massacre like the breaking of a seal, the final entry in a national catalog of stunned loss that had begun with Columbine? It wasn’t that there would be no more losses. It was only that we could no longer be stunned. Yesterday, before the families of Uvalde had buried their children, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a televised interview that he would “much rather have law-abiding citizens armed and trained so that they can respond when something like this happens, because it’s not going to be the last time.” That is to say: It’s going to go on indefinitely. It’s not an end, exactly, but life inside a permanent postscript to one’s own history. Here is America after there was no more hope.