James Buchanan was the last of the American Presidents to placate against the growing tide of resentment and anger over the issue of slavery. For decades they had sought to compromise and capitulate and calm the southerners and the northerners, not knowing the terror that was slowly, inexorably sweeping towards them. How were they to know this was the wave that would drown them all? That would cause the south to secede and the north to violently say, "No!" The presidents could see the sea was rough, but hadn't it always been choppy? The presidents had fought against the French and the Spaniards, and had grown and flourished during the brief skirmishes. It was just a wave. They had tariffs to argue about and roads to build. Slavery was just another thing to paddle through, or from.
How could Buchanan have seen that this was the end of everything? That cities would burn, that brother would rise against brother and six hundred thousand men would be thrown in shallow graves in forests and swamps and mountaintops?
We stand at the coast and look out only to see an eternity of whitecaps rushing towards us. A thousand have already broken around our ankles and yet we stand. It is only when we realize, too late, that the shore has pulled far away that this is something new. The ocean had been gathering itself, the tsunami is suddenly upon you and it will sweep everything you know away.
I wonder what terrible things are headed towards us? The prophets of Israel walked through their towns and spoke of doom, yet none would heed their words. The citizens thought they were mad. There was peace. Then God struck the land with armies and plagues.
I, too, see the modern doomsayers scream from the street corners and televisions, yet I look to the sea and glimpse nothing but storms we can weather. I am hopeful and confident that we can overcome whatever the oceans have in store for us. Some day, though, the tide will pull back and show the sand bars and the reefs and the sunken ships it has claimed, and we will look up and see that something terrible is upon us and it is too late.