Planning for the Collapse of America

Planning for the Collapse of America November 16, 2016

Soon after the presidential election, we made the decision to take a week off blogging. It’s not that we didn’t have anything to say—it’s that there was too much to say, and too many people trying to say it. Instead of fighting to be heard among the cacophony of voices, we took the opportunity to rest and reflect…and then prepare for the collapse of America as we know it.

Dollar Bill

We don’t mean that as a metaphor. We mean it as honest-to-goodness societal collapse of our democratic institutions. It sounds melodramatic. It sounds ridiculous. We were embarrassed to even broach the subject in private between the two of us. But if marriage is to be a safe space to explore both our hopes and our fears, then even nightmare scenarios fall under this purview.

Most people can’t fathom the dissolution of the rule of law, even though 100% of ruling powers in history have faced imperial decline, either gradually or suddenly. Most Americans refuse to even entertain such a scenario, even though our democracy has positioned itself in a way that some argue is ripe for tyranny. There is something distinctly unpatriotic in suggesting that America not only has the capacity to fail, but is following a path that makes it nearly inevitable. That’s the stuff of conspiracy theorists and bunker builders. It’s something more like The Hunger Games than real life.

How, then, do we have these conversations without appealing to hysteria, and without giving them more weight than they deserve? Although it would be easier to disregard the topic altogether, it was important to us to have a calm, rational conversation that entertained these worst-case scenarios. We set aside time to broach the subject during our monthly financial meeting, when we typically look at our budget to make sure we’re on track. So this week, after spending some time on the spreadsheets, we sat down with our wine and scotch to discuss the “what-if” scenarios. What if the value of the dollar plummets? What if bank accounts are frozen and access to our savings is restricted? What if property rights are compromised? What if our marriage is no longer recognized by the government?

There was some eye-rolling and incredulous laughter between us as we talked, but it didn’t diminish the value of the conversation. As newlyweds, we’re learning to be good at the day-to-day operation of our marriage, but we also need to prepare for moments when our marriage could be in crisis. That could be the result of serious illness, financial troubles, or a natural disaster. But it could also be the result of significant changes in our system of government. Rather than ignoring the possibility, it made sense to us to explore even unfathomable outcomes. They say that it’s not wise to put all your eggs in one basket, and for now, all of ours are in this basket we call America. Should that give us pause? Wouldn’t it make sense to research what are the world’s strongest currencies and what countries have the most stable economies? Even if nothing came of it, at least we’d be informed.

A marriage should be strong enough to welcome and respect feelings and opinions without judgement, even the ones that seem outlandish. So that’s what we did: We set aside judgement and talked. We looked a crazy situation in the eye and we made a plan. Just because American society as we know it could collapse, it doesn’t mean our marriage should.

Since having our conversation, we’ve put the issue aside so that it doesn’t consume any more mind space than it deserves. We know that, really, God is in control. It is in Him that we put our ultimate trust and hope. But we’ve also been empowered to be thoughtful stewards of the resources we have been given, and to plan for eventualities even when they seem outlandish. This is the tension we hold in our lives as followers of Jesus: placing our trust in God while also practicing responsible stewardship of both our families and our resources. It’s not an either/or situation; it’s both.

We hope we never have to move. But if we do, we’ve read good things about New Zealand. And who doesn’t want to pet one of these things?







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Photo illustration by David Khalaf.

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