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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Disgusted & Ashamed


My living room looks like a trip back in time. Pewter tableware and accessories sit beside long-stemmed clay pipes against Federal blue walls with cream accents. In one corner an antique Chippendale mirror frame with a carved eagle hangs opposite a framed portrait of Thomas Jefferson. Nestled between two period chairs any guest can crack open a book of the writings of Benjamin Franklin......or, if less politically inclined, a cookbook of Colonial recipes. When Rosa and I want to get away we visit the historic sites, homes, and battlefields that punctuate New Jersey, reminding everyone how much of our early history unfolded here. You could say I'm a bit obsessed with American history.

So it is not without enormous heartache and regret that I make the following confession: "I'm no longer proud to be called an American."

Readers who are anti-Trump might be saying, "well I can understand why." But it's not just our current president that is the problem. Nor is it solely the recent ugly events in Charlottesville.......or the perpetual legislative stagnation of polarized partisanship. These are certainly real problems, but we've always had problems. No, the reason I am disgusted, does not conveniently sit in one chair, or even in one large room. It is pervasive.

To put this in a direct and vulgar fashion, I have to observe that America at its historic best......while never perfect, relied on brains, balls, and heart.  Somewhere along the line our society managed to let itself be simultaneously lobotomized, castrated, and eviscerated......and not in equal measure. There are still ballsy acts taking place.....like in Virginia.....but they are without brains and heart. There are actions in Congress that are very clever.....but without nerve or conscience. And there are acts of passion that play out fruitlessly because they are not balanced with logic.

Personally, I no longer know what to hope for. I abandoned the hypocrisy of 'Democrat' or 'Republican' to identify with Libertarians. But that party has been so corrupted by other influences that I can no longer support them. I am a patriot without a party.

When I talk to people, I am frustrated by the lack of awareness the average person displays. Reality TV or the newest fad occupies the mind of John Q. Public. People choose to believe and even act on information they get from biased sources on both sides. Sensationalism sells better than truth and is easier to write. Truth is no longer important. Opinions outweigh facts....as long as they are consistent with what one wants to believe. Inconvenient truths are easily replaced with an alternative fact. And it's all OK.

Honor means nothing. "What is better for me" has supplanted "what is better for us".....or worse, "what is simply the right thing to do."

And you can still see passion.....but where is the thought? Look at Charlottesville. White Supremacists come to protest the removal of a statue, and are met by opposing groups defiant in their resistance to what they see. Then when violence inevitably breaks out, because the notion of White Nationalism is so abhorrent to most people, no one wants to say that maybe showing up to protest such a protest was not a good idea. What better way to invalidate a protest of wackos than to simply ignore it? Just like walking past a raving "the end is near" street prophet rather than debating them. You are not going to change their minds......and they do have the right to assemble and protest......even if what they are saying is something we all can agree to dislike. And there is nothing more pathetic than a protest that is actively ignored. But no, let's give attention to these people by showing up and taunting them and then be outraged at the inevitable violence that results.

Why can no one see this? We are founded on the principle of free speech. What would be the reaction if an LGBT Pride march was met with angry anti-Gay protesters who hurled insults or worse? And if violence broke out as a result, who would be to blame? Now that the LGBT community is more accepted than in the past, people would look at those protesters as instigators, but weren't the anti-White Supremacist protesters instigators as well?

But this is who we are now. Polarized opposites acting without thought. It takes courage to face an adversary.....but it also takes courage to allow an adversary to speak their mind.

And then there is the whole Red State/Blue State thing. We are not a country united. We do not share a common ideology, just a common patch of a continent: the Divided States of America. The right can't see beyond their rhetoric any more clearly than the left can see past theirs.  We have an admittedly flawed healthcare plan. But rather than dismissing the left and right extremes in favor of having moderates on both sides of the aisle working to fix it, we will lock horns like two rams on a cliffside until both starve to death.

It's not hard to fix all this. It's basic common sense: think logically, have the courage to hear opposing views, compromise, do what is right even if it is inconvenient, be honorable, be compassionate. Others have done it before us. No, maybe it isn't hard at all.......perhaps it's utterly impossible.

13 comments:

  1. While I share your disgust at the current political situation, I'm not sure that this period is all that different in terms of conflict arising from divergent views. Our history as a nation began with a revolution to resolve opposing views of what government should be and do. That was followed by a Civil War that again was inevitable given the nature of the oppositional views at stake. After WWI there was the rise of the KKK. The 1960s was characterized by enormous divergence in opinions about politics, culture, etc. And, there was a hell of a lot of violence -- riots, cities burning, political conventions resulting in mass arrests and violent confrontations.

    What I do think has changed is the primacy of party politics over patriotism, which I link pretty closely to the politics of personal destruction launched by Newt Gingrich and his ilk, and it isn't like the Pelosi wing of the Democratic party has been any better. What has been lost in the last two decades is any spirit of statesmanship that trumps partisanship. But, I wonder if what we are seeing now is the last gasp of that hyper-partisanship, initiated ironically by having someone like Trump in the White House doing and saying (or not doing or saying) things that even his fellow Republicans just can't defend. Sometimes things have to get very bad before they get better, and that may be where we are right now.

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    1. I would agree with your observation that we have a history of being polarized. Maybe it's endemic to being American....or human. I grew up n the 60's and remember the riots. So perhaps the divisions now are just the next phase?

      But the sheer level of blinding hatred between sides has eliminated compromise and truth-seeking as important elements. I recently saw a poll that showed a difference of 15 percentage points between people who don't believe what Trump says and those who still support him.....which means that this portion of people acknowledge that he doesn't tell the truth most of the time but that they are OK with that. How, if I ever was to meet one of these people, could I ever respect them in any way?

      Meanwhile no one on any side has stepped forward with a reasonable alternative game plan for anything. I hope you are right in that this is the apex of the absurdity in the politics of partisanship at the cost of progress or resolution, and that the pendulum will have to swing back to a more reasonable position. But having never lived through anything like this, it sure is scary.......and sad.

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    2. I always try to approach life from the perspective that the vast majority of people are trying to do the right thing, in their own twisted way. Very few are just bad people. But, I've also been thinking a lot about that 15% you reference. There does seem to be about 15% of hard-core supporters who truly don't care about collusion with Russia to fix an American election. They truly don't care whether he grabbed women's pussies without consent. They truly don't care that he lies with total casualness about things big and small. Particularly on Russia, these people not only aren't patriots -- they are basically traitors or at least enablers of it. It is disillusioning, but I am reluctantly concluding that there are about 10% to 15% of people out there who are either evil or so partisan that it amounts to the same thing. Or, they are just irredeemably stupid.

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    3. I too believe some of the worst people act with what they believe are the best of intentions. I also believe there are a lot of people who are not 'evil' per se, but utterly opportunistic and self-serving; people for whom altruism is a characteristic of a sucker. And I believe.......only because I have met a couple.....that there are some people who are just evil sociopaths.

      Stupidity is another huge factor of course. But don't forget, this is 2017! People can now flaunt their stupidity as a badge of honor. ;-)

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    4. I believe there is a pretty good argument that those who believe they can impose their will on others because they have the best of intentions are really by far the most dangerous to everyone else. Their belief that they are on the right side justifies any scale of atrocities. I've definitely know a few people who are opportunistic and self-serving, and one or two who were so narcissistic that they really didn't know there was anything wrong with them. I'm not sure I ever have personally met someone who was an evil sociopath, though I have no doubt they're out there.

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  2. I'm not making a joke here, please understand that. I'm a big science fiction fan. Logic, worked for the Vulcans. They learned to suppress their emotions and follow the course of logical reasoning.
    This country is now so emotionally charged that both sides aren't thinking straight. We're past the point of finding out and stopping what caused it all, no one would listen anyway.
    What we need is a common cause. When and if we find that cause then perhaps both sides will sit down and work together.....logically
    I just hope its soon.

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    1. I don't find your analogy inappropriate at all. I think that is exactly what is happening. Neither side can see how ridiculous their more extreme views are in reality. Instead, these absurd extremes have come to define them.

      One of the great take-aways from watching the old Nixon/Kennedy televised debate for me was not the cosmetic differences in camera-friendliness but the oh-so-subtle differences in each candidate's position. On many issues their differences were rooted in approach as opposed to disparate ideology. Now we are so far from moderate commonality that nothing can get done to anyone's liking.

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  3. Don't see why you would be ashamed of a wonderful country like America because of a politician you don't like.We have a selfie posing idiot as our pri-minister in Canada but I'm still a proud Canadian especially because I do not identify with Trudeau at all.

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    1. But Glen, if you look back on what I wrote you will see that I mention Trump only as one small factor.....not the main one. My disgust is with the people who support hypocrisy, mendacity, bigotry, and defiant, proud stupidity. And that defines a broad portion of the extremes from both sides of our population and some of the moderates who choose to remain apathetic and uninformed. These people are my countrymen.......and I wish they weren't.

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  4. I agree that people are less informed and that may be because the media are really not doing their job. Some of the ignorance is due to financial security also .People need jobs to be happy.

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    1. I agree with your first statement completely, but while people may very well need jobs and financial security to be happy, those aren't really prerequisites for being informed. There are so many ways people can learn today that don't require a lot of money.

      But basically, I see what you're saying.

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  5. I have a girlfriend who is in the process of moving her 96 y/o grandfather to Illinois because the violence is so bad that he's afraid of walking to Temple. This is no longer "Land of the Free and Home of the Brave."

    Our president isn't helping matters either. I wonder if this what I served in the USAF for? We are all in danger, and I am saddened by it.

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    1. It's not like we are no longer at all what your quote describes............ as long as you amend it a little to reflect our updated values: "Land of the Free WiFi and Home of the Brave Fashion Statement". See? That still fits.

      As for the president not helping? Right now the problem seems that no one is helping. Hopefully this is the lowest point in the political and social low tide.

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