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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.