Two years ago I left the life that I had known to serve as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. It was the best decision I have ever made.
And now I am back.
LDS Missionaries do not watch television, listen to radio programs, peruse newspapers (much less the blogosphere) or read anything outside of a very small 'missionary library.' For those two years our entire life is devoted entirely to teaching, serving, and helping other people.
Coming back to "normal" life was an interesting adjustment.
I have felt a little bit like Rip Van Wrinkle coming down from the mountains and finding out that the world has moved while I was gone. Some things have improved; others have not. The United States of America is a fine example. On the face of it, her geopolitical situation has improved remarkably. Her armed forces are largely gone from Iraq; they are on their way out of Afghanistan. Sealing her independence from the region is this new "Oil Renaissance" -- a term that had no meaning just two years ago. In sharp contrast is the continued atrophy of her political institutions. Corruption grows, liberties are curtailed, and the two mass political movements formed in response to these problems have changed nothing. America is victim to the cutting irony of political decline in an era of geopolitical renewal. I mourn for my Republic.
Which explains in part why I am writing this.
Several years ago I wrote for the side-bar of this blog:
"This scholar-yet-to-be invites you onto this stage to discuss, among other things, strategy, diplomacy, geopolitics, and the intersections of governance, ecology, demographics, culture, history, and security."The invitation is open once again.