A New Dark Age Has Begun
DARKNESS IN AMERICA
Why I Wrote This Book
During the 2012 Republican Presidential Primaries, Rick Santorum said in an interview, “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state [is] absolute. The idea that the church can have no influence or no involvement in the operation of the state is absolutely antithetical to the objectives and vision of our country...to say that people of faith have no role in the public square? You bet that makes me want to throw up.”
Santorum was making a reference to John F. Kennedy’s famous speech to Baptist ministers in Houston in 1960 where America’s first and only Catholic president argued, “ I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute; where no Catholic prelate would tell the President -- should he be Catholic -- how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference, and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him, or the people who might elect him.”
Before he said those words, Kennedy lamented that he shouldn’t have to make such a statement, that his loyalty to the U.S. Constitution was beyond reproach, but because he was a Catholic running for president in a nation that was predominantly Protestant, he felt he had no choice. Anti-Catholic prejudice was wide spread back then. The KKK, an anti-Catholic organization better known, and rightly so, for its hatred of African Americans, was still a force in American politics. Kennedy had to show his allegiance to secular principles.
Now, Kennedy didn’t believe people of faith had no place in politics. During his inaugural, he referenced God three times. He used the Bible to argue that Americans had a duty to take care of the poor and the sick, and when it came to civil rights, he once said, “We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.”
Kennedy was a man of God, but he also understood that the United States is, first and foremost, a secular nation. The only way to protect religious liberty is to say that no one group is above the rest. Catholics don’t have more rights than Protestants, just as people of faith don’t have more rights than people of non-faith. You can make your case, speak about your faith, but you can’t tell someone else they must live their lives based on your religion because your god said so. That’s called secularism. That’s the First Amendment.
Those who thought that Kennedy shouldn’t be allowed to run for president because he was a Catholic didn't believe in secularism, or the U.S. Constitution. Neither, it seems, does Santorum. On September 8th, 2014 on Bryan Fischer’s radio show, Santorum argued that conservative Christians should call “secularism a religion because if we did, then we could ban that too.” Later, he said that Christianity “should be taught in the schools.”
Naturally, hearing Santorum’s comments got me thinking. This guy was one of the top contenders in the Republican primary. He might have become the nominee, even the president. What would happen if his vision for America became a reality? How far would America regress? Could it regress beyond the point where even Santorum would be uncomfortable? Could America go back to the days before the Enlightenment when holding heretical views could get you burned alive at the stake? Could we be seeing the dawn of a new dark age, and if so, what would that mean for America’s neighbors like Canada and Mexico? Those thoughts compelled me to write a story about it.
That novel, the first in a book series, is called Darkness in America. In it, secularism is dead in the United States. Christianity, or a version of Christianity that even Santorum would find alien and frightening, has come to power. Everyone must worship Jesus Christ or die. Rape victims are stoned to death. Heretics are burned alive, and Muslims, Jews and Hindus are forced to fight each other to the death.
I have been working on this novel, its sequels, and almost four dozen related short stories since 2012. While I am not ready to release the main story – I am trying to find a publisher for it – I am prepared to publish the short stories that take place before it. These prequels will give you some insight into the concepts and factions that will be seen in the main series.
I have worked tirelessly to get these short stories out to you. I plan to release one every few weeks so come back regularly to see new content. Also, check out my YouTube channel, titled Canada and the World, where I talk about politics and other issues of the day.
To my fans, I thank you for your support and I hope to hear from you.
Ryan F. Gassien
Collapse Theory Part I
All empires rise and fall. The Roman Republic, followed by the Roman Empire, lasted a thousand years, whereas the Ottomans survived six centuries. Britain was an empire for three hundred and sixty years. That was an eternity compared to the seventy-four years the Soviet Union enjoyed. If it hasn’t become apparent already, the lifespans of empires are shrinking. Whereas the Romans were able to maintain their power and influence for a whole millennium, the Soviets lasted less than a century. Technology is the primary culprit. Just as technology has accelerated the speed in which we advance, it has also sped up the time it takes for empires to decline. This fact should concern anyone living in Washington, but the reality is that most Americans believe the U.S.’s star is still rising. That America could never fall. In truth, on our television sets, we are witnessing its collapse.
I can imagine what you are thinking: but Ryan, unemployment is at an all-time low, particularly among minorities. The stock market is booming. We have never seen highs like this before. Actually, we have. Both in 2007, just before the 2007-8 Global Financial Crisis, and on October 23, 1929, the day before Black Thursday hit. That was the day when the stock market crashed, and the world fell into the Great Depression. Even if this wasn’t the case, it doesn’t matter. The issues that should concern us are systemic. America is doomed, and there is nothing Trump has done that will change this fact. If anything, the things he has done has made matters worse, but that’s irrelevant. America is still doomed. Whether it’s five minutes from now or five years doesn’t change the facts.
Now, what do I mean by doomed? I believe that not only is it inevitable for empires to collapse but that they can do so in two ways: hard and soft. A hard collapse is where the quality of life for the people in the empire drastically decreases. This is because the infrastructure necessary to maintain it (i.e., plumbing, and paved roads) has been lost, as well as the institutions that sustain civil society. Typically, a hard collapse happens because the empire in question has expanded too far and too quickly while also not making the needed investment to maintain the territory it already controls.
The western half of the Roman Empire is a perfect example of this. In 476 A.D., Rome was conquered by invading Germans. Almost overnight, society fell. Literacy rates plummeted until virtually no one knew how to read, and professions like pottery and masonry disappeared. No one had the skills needed to maintain the plumbing that made Rome the envy of the world. People started to throw their waste onto the streets. Paved roads transformed into roads of dirt. The life expectancy of the average person was 31.3 years. Before that, it was 35. Still low by today's standards, though this was mainly due to high child mortality rates. In Roman times, if you could reach the age of ten, you could expect to live until your 40s or 50s. However, during the dark ages, you had to reach 20 before your chances improved.
In a soft collapse, the standard of living doesn’t drastically decrease, but the empire’s power and influence wains. It’s not something to worry about. It's like undergoing a detox. Before, you were an empire. Now, you’re not. The eastern half of the Roman Empire is an example of this. The Byzantine Empire survived until 1453 A.D. when the Ottoman Empire stormed Constantinople. A modern-day case would be the British Empire. Great Britain is a society with high literacy rates, a dynamic economy, and a decent defense force, even though it hasn’t been an empire since the 1960s. It ceased to be one because it could no longer sustain the endless wars needed to maintain it. This is what triggers a soft collapse: prolong conflicts where the empire gains not enough new territory to fuel them.
So, why do I think we are seeing the end of the American Empire? Well, let’s look at where America is and where it is going. Currently, the United States has the largest military and the largest economy, with a GDP of 19.39 trillion and a national debt of 21.4 trillion dollars. It is estimated that by 2028 the debt could rise to $33 trillion. Trump has accelerated this with his tax cuts. Tax cuts are like heroin They give you an instant jolt of energy, which feels great at the time, but in the long term, starves you of needed revenue. When the debt does reach $33 trillion, 1 in $5 the government takes in will go into servicing the interest on that debt, and that is only if interest rates stay as low as they are. There is no reason to think that will happen, especially if the greenback stops being the world’s reserve currency.
Right now, almost every country has American dollars on hand. Oil is primarily traded in greenbacks. That is why the U.S. dollar is considered the world’s premium reserve currency. Since the dollar is in such demand, its value remains stable. Stability is important because it allows the Fed to print more money without fearing hyperinflation. That’s what’s killing Venezuela. That’s what did in Germany in the 1930s. However, the U.S. will likely see competition in the decades to come. The Euro is becoming more popular, and because of Trump’s tariffs, more countries are looking to trade with the EU. China is another major market and it is expected to surpass the United States in size. Right now, the Chinese government makes it difficult for money to leave the country, meaning there is less in circulation and thus less in demand, but that will change. My point: America could lose its status as the world’s premium reserve currency, and then it will become harder for the Fed to keep interest rates down.
Talking about interest rates. Since 2008, the Fed has kept them at near zero through monetary easing and other accounting tricks. This was done to encourage lending after the 2007-8 Financial Collapse destroyed consumer confidence. This wasn’t a one-time deal. The Fed has been suppressing rates ever since. When the next downturn comes, and it will, the Fed will not have the means to kickstart the economy. They can’t lower interest rates any further because they have already hit rock bottom. Thus, the recovery will be slow. The federal government will take in less revenue, meaning it will be harder to service its debt, but also harder to pay for such vital services like Medicaid and Medicare.
Americans spend more on health care than all other developed nations. For example, Americans pay $8,508 per capita, whereas the Brits spend $3,405 for medical care. If money determined outcomes, the Americans should be doing better than their British counterparts. Instead, in a recent study, America ranked last out of eleven industrialized nations: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the U.K. and the U.S. The U.K., it should be noted, was number one. Also, every year, 643,000 Americans go bankrupt due to medical expenses. Medicare and Medicaid are expected to become more expensive in the coming decades. In the case of Medicare alone, they project a $3.3 trillion shortfall over the next 75 years. Yet medicine might be the least of the Americans’ worries. Infrastructure could be the iceberg that sinks the U.S.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the United States currently gets a D+ regarding the state of infrastructure. The ASCE estimates it would cost 4.5 trillion dollars to get America up to code by 2025. Trump is promising at most $1 trillion, and I doubt he can muster even that. The tax cuts he and the Republicans passed mean there is nothing left over for infrastructure. Understand, decaying infrastructure is like a terminal disease. The longer you let the disease fester, the harder and costlier it’s going to be to fix it. If Donald Trump wants to keep his promise, he must either borrow more money, raising the debt by another 4.5 trillion, or take in more revenue. The latter won’t happen.
In 1950, when America was at the height of its power, the top marginal tax rate was 90%. This was why people could go to college under the GI Bill. This was why Eisenhower was able to build the Interstate Highway System, and why NASA could send a man to the moon. Today, it is at 34%, and the 2018 fiscal deficit is 779 billion dollars. Even if the economy grows by 3 or 4%, as the Trump administration believes it will, the budgetary deficit of 2019 is still projected to be 984 billion dollars. It should reach a trillion by 2020, two years ahead of schedule. This is partly because Trump doesn’t care about deficits. He once even bragged that he was the king of debt. To be fair, when developing apartment buildings or hotels, it’s expected that you will incur massive amounts of debt. However, America is not a hotel. Debt is sometimes necessary, but too much can be deadly.
Trump thinks you can just print more money, or that you can stop paying the interest on the debt. In fact, the latter is how Trump survived his six bankruptcies. However, again, he was running a family business. The federal government can’t do that. The stability of the dollar is tied to interest payments. Remember, the reason the greenback is so stable is that governments around the world keep American dollars in reserve. They also own U.S. Treasury Bonds. They do so because they are guaranteed to get their money back plus interest. But if the United States defaulted on its national debt, then they would lose all faith in the system. To curb inflation, – and inflation would be happening and in a bad way because countries around the globe would be dumping the American dollar – the Fed would have to raise interest rates. That would bring economic growth to a standstill. America would befall a deep depression, unemployment would skyrocket, and what would this mean for America’s military?
Ultimately, what causes empires to collapse is unrestrained expansion. As I said before, soft collapses are driven solely by over-expansion. By its very nature, empires need to grow. America is no different. During the Iraq War, the U.S. built twelve military bases in the country. This significantly expanded its reach into that part of the world. Through these bases, it controls the flow of Iraqi oil and ensures its safety, something it could not have done while Saddam Hussein was in power. This doesn’t mean America owns the oil. It doesn’t have to. The reason the U.S. invaded Iraq was to increase the supply of the black goo. According to basic economics, if there is more of something in the market, then the price will fall. By merely opening Iraq’s oil fields to the world, that should have caused the price to drop. It didn’t, but that’s because of another factor: investors hate uncertainty. Nothing produces uncertainty more than a civil war triggered by the fall of Saddam Hussein, who we now know was keeping the crazies in check.
There is a price tag for these kinds of military adventures. In the case of Iraq, as of 2017, it stands at 2.4 trillion dollars or more than half of the funds needed to repair America’s crumbling infrastructure. It should be noted that this war was paid through borrowed money, meaning that the U.S. will have to pay it back with interest. It also means its part of the $20 trillion debt that hangs over every American’s head. This price tag will only grow as more troops are deployed to Iraq, and more will. Many will come home maimed and traumatized. Some will suffer from PSTD. Others will be so severely damaged that they will not be able to work. Money will have to be expended to support their rehabilitation. And of course, so far, we have only been talking about Iraq. It is far from being the only war America is fighting.
Since 2001, the United States has been engaged in ongoing conflicts throughout the Middle East and beyond. The only war that has gone on longer is the Vietnam War, which went for 19 years and 180 days, though that will change in 2021, and experts expect the U.S. to be in Afghanistan and Iraq for decades to come. The U.S. is also involved in the war in Syria and is supporting the Saudis war in Yemen. Since Trump tore up the Iranian Nuclear Treaty, I suspect that the U.S. is heading to war with it. Since Iran is four times bigger than Iraq and unlike Hussein, has a real military, a conflict with Iran would cost far more. We could be looking at trillions of dollars and tens of thousands of deaths. My point: The United States is quickly heading for a hard collapse scenario.
Collapse Theory Part II
At the beginning of this essay, I noted that the lifespans of empires are getting shorter, and that technology plays a role. In Roman times, it took months to travel across the Mediterranean. During the life of Christopher Columbus, months were spent traversing the Atlantic Ocean. Today, a flight between London and Toronto by air takes seven hours and five minutes. Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, claims that he can shorten a trip to any destination on Earth to thirty minutes. The rapid increase of our ability to circumnavigate the globe means that empires can engage in more wars and project their power like never before. It also means that empires can control more territory.
The Romans ruled an empire that encompassed much of Europe and the lands around the Mediterranean. This was because sailboats were limited in how long they could stay in open waters. However, by the time of the British Empire, man could build galleons that could spend months at sea. That’s why my ancestors were able to maintain colonies in North America, Africa, Australia, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and parts of Asia. Today, the United States has over 800 military bases in over 80 countries. The more territory you control, the bigger the bureaucracy you need to manage it.
Rome once dreamed of building a million-man strong army. Never happened, but today, the United States has a million bureaucrats to oversee its military. Imagine, a million bureaucrats to manage an army of 1.41 million active duty soldiers and another 1.24 million in reserve. Those bureaucrats alone dwarf most militaries around the world, including my beloved Canadian Armed Forces. And this doesn’t even touch the State Department or the intelligence apparatus. Remember, bureaucracies become less efficient the larger they get, and that is why empires today have shorter lifespans.
There is one last thing I wish to bring up, and that is that the institutions within the country have begun to break up. It started with the political parties. Over the past forty years, we have witnessed what political scientists call asymmetrical polarization. What this means is that in the U.S.A. while both parties are moving away from the center, the Republican party is leaving it so fast that it’s like watching a rocket escape the atmosphere. Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann, two highly-respected political scientists, wrote a book titled “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism.” In it, the two write, “The Republican Party […] is an insurgent outlier. It has become ideologically extreme; […] scornful of compromise; […] and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. The Democratic Party, while no paragon of civic virtue, is more […] open to incremental changes […] fashioned through bargaining with the Republicans, and less disposed to or adopt a take-no-prisoners conflict between the parties.”
This is what I saw in 2012 during the Republican primaries, which drove me to write my novel, Darkness in America. I knew a Trump-like character would soon appear, though I was somewhat surprised by the speed at which he arrived. I figured such a person wouldn’t win the nomination until America was further along in its decline. This holds ill for America and the world. It means we have less time before the collapse arrives. When it does, the civil unrest you see today will be nothing to the level of barbarism that will be unleashed. America will tear itself apart, probably through a civil war.
Trump is already pushing America down this path, not just by dividing Americans, but by destroying the institutions that maintain order. Many of the positions in the federal government have been left empty. He has placed people in charge of the departments that do not believe in the objectives of those departments. These people are systematically destroying these institutions, and that will have effects that will last long after Trump leaves office. When governments don’t work, people grow disillusioned and are more likely to engage in extreme behavior. We are seeing this now on the television: protestors screaming at politicians in restaurants or throwing rocks into offices. This, combined with Trump’s violent rhetoric, inspire people on the right to engage in acts of even greater violence, be it sending pipe bombs or shooting up synagogues. This deadly cycle will only get worse as we draw ever closer to social collapse.
Now, my novel, Darkness in America, is an example of a post-collapse United States. Obviously, given the sci-fi and fantasy elements in my book, it is hardly a perfect representation of such a society. However, it serves the point of highlighting what we can expect to see if America should befall a hard collapse. America’s military will shrink in size. It will not be able to invade distant lands like Afghanistan or Iraq, but Canada and Mexico will be within its reach. Modern-day Russia is a more accurate example of what a post-collapse U.S. will look like. It is no longer the Soviet juggernaut, but with its massive stockpile of nukes, it poses a genuine threat to world security. It has already invaded several of its neighbors or started civil wars in their borders to make Russia great again. This scenario could very well play in North America, but instead of Chechnya and Ukraine being invaded, it will be Canada and Mexico.
The question now is: what can be done about this? Sadly, as I said at the beginning, all empires come to an end. America is no exception. However, there is a difference between a hard and soft collapse. The American Empire cannot be saved, but America can. Doing so will require political will. Electing Bernie Sanders as president in 2020 would be a good start, but it isn’t enough. The Republican Party, like the Whig Party before it, must be disbanded and replaced with a new right-wing party, one that values compromise and bipartisanship. It can still be the party of corporations, but it must give up the xenophobia and blatant racism that defines the current Republican Party.
The Democrats must also change. Since the Clinton administration, Democrats have tried to claim the middle. By doing so, they have pushed the Republicans further to the right. Take healthcare. Obamacare was initially conceived by the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank. It was the plan Bob Dole championed in the 1990s. Yet when the Democrats made it their own, rather than advocating left-leaning ideas like single payer or a public option, they forced the Republicans to abandon it. Now the Republicans stand for nothing, and the debate has devolved into a mindless screaming match.
America’s infrastructure must be rebuilt. There is no way getting around this. It is going to cost the nation 4.5 trillion dollars, and they can’t afford to borrow the money. That means they will have to raise taxes back to what they were in the 1950s. This will also mean dismantling America’s foreign bases and cutting the military budget in half since they can no longer afford them. This will be difficult because the rich profit from both more wars and lower taxes. The only way to deal with them is to get money out of politics. This will require a constitutional amendment, like the one Wolf PAC is championing.
More unions need to be formed. I haven’t talked about this yet, but real wages have been stagnant and have been since the 1970s. What changed? Well, money became a form of free speech. Also, laws have been passed that make it harder to form unions. Today, only 10.7% of American workers are in a union, down from 20.1% in 1983. In Canada, it is 31.8%. By June 1st, 2021, Canada’s minimum wage will rise to $15.20 an hour, whereas in the United States, it will be $7.25 per hour. Part of the reason it is so low is that unions have fewer members and thus weaker negotiation power. By strengthening unions, we raise average incomes, which translates to more tax revenue to pay for roads and bridges.
The mainstream media will also have to be taken to task. While they are not the conveyers of fake news as the right would have you believe, they are guilty of helping to create the environment we now find ourselves in. In the name of neutrality, they refuse to make the distinction that the Republicans are far worse than the Democrats. They don’t cover issues that matter (i.e., global warming, infrastructure, and healthcare) because they are evil, but because these issues don’t get them big ratings. That’s why they gave Trump 5 billion dollars worth of free media. He got them ratings. They helped him far more than the Russians ever did, and now the Americans are paying for it because Trump is President.
There is little that we Canadians can do to help. The Americans must decide for themselves whether their country can be saved. However, there are things we can do to protect ourselves. Right now, 76% of all Canadian exports go to the United States, and trade between our two nations amounts to 20% of our GDP. If America collapses today, we would be dragged down with them. We Canadians need to reduce our dependence on trade with America. That means signing trade deals with other nations, like China, and not signing the United States Mexico Canada Agreement. We must also spend more on our military, just in case the day comes when America stops being our best friend and becomes our worst enemy. I hope that day never arrives, but I fear the dark path America is on.