Saturday, July 8, 2017

Dear America.....WTF?

Okay, okay....that was a false start three years ago.  I really did intend to re-start my blog and to do so with a more positive outlook on things in general and our country and its politics in particular.

But, then, reality intervened. As a person who has been observing and caring for over six decades now, I found myself struggling with what is happening to us, as people, as a society and as a planet. There is just no getting around the fact that, regardless of how you look at it.....we're in big trouble. I simply could not find a way to be positive about the fact that we're A) destroying the environment and so many are still in denial about it.  B) becoming less and less compassionate towards others, right down to actually attacking those who don't share our own beliefs. C)  making political choices that seem to indicate we're headed deeper into the swamp, not out of it.



A large segment of the people seem to believe we're in danger of becoming a socialist welfare state in which wealth is 'stolen' away from those who have earned it...uh, amassed it?...and re-distributed to the teeming masses of people who don't deserve it and are unwilling to work for a living. At the same time, another large segment seem to believe that a tiny portion, i.e. .01%, of the people have more wealth than all the rest of us put together.  The safety nets that were put in place by FDR, and LBJ, among others, are in danger of being either stripped away, or being mutated so that they become vehicles for big money to make more profits from them.

Further complicating this scenario is the fact that simple facts are becoming elusive.  The 'truth' is now considered to be--by too many--what any one writer or site or paper says it is at any given moment.  We have been introduced to the novel concept of 'alternative facts' and the idea that there is no such thing as The Truth.  To the people who still want to believe that certain things are simply factual and true, this is an infuriating way of dodging reality. It is also a known and well-proven method of moving a society towards the goal of becoming an autocracy.....yes, a dictatorship.

The actual and factual simple TRUTH is that we are a people divided, and badly so.  It's not just a matter of some feel this way and others feel that way. Oh, no!  It's more like: if you don't believe what I believe, then you are my enemy, and furthermore you are EVIL.  The invective...on both sides of this great chasm....has become so venomous and so hateful that it would be alarming and astonishing, but for the fact that we are now becoming inured to least, a lot of people are.  It is becoming, the 'new normal' and that, in and of itself, should be terribly concerning.  It is paving a formerly faint path and becoming a direct route to the eventuality of violence.

There are now so-called 'alt-right' voices espousing rounding up 'the democrats' and 'getting rid of them'.  This is a form of rhetoric that is so extreme that I had to read it several times before it sank in. What?   So, they want to have concentration camps?  Who are these people?  Are they so mentally aberrant that this is actually a serious contention? This is just one example of parties getting so worked up over the opposing viewpoints of conservatism and liberalism, aka 'right' and 'left' that we are starting to put forward ideas that are stark and would have been unthinkable, just a very short time ago.

These two ideologies are so vehemently in opposition that terms are being routinely used such as, 'the war on the middle-class', or 'the war on black people' or 'the fight for justice'.  We (most of us, anyway...some have been there ongoing) are at the early stages of imagining we might actually accept violence as a way of settling these issues.

 And, we have done this before, haven't we?  It seems odd to me, somehow, that my own great grandfather was in the American Civil War.  In fact, he was a drummer-boy in a Pennsylvania regiment at Gettysburg, and watched Pickett's Charge from Cemetery Hill.  He stared through the pall of gun-smoke at a massive body of troops as they advanced across the open fields.  He watched as cannonballs and grape shot tore gaps in their ranks....and on they came.  We know how it culminated; Pickett's troops made it to the Union positions, but were so decimated that they had to ultimately retreat back across the same blood-soaked fields. William Henry Sayen, was a boy of fifteen, and watched as thousands of Americans killed thousands more Americans that day.  I can only imagine how this must have affected him for the rest of his life.

A 2012 re-calculation of casualties in the Civil War indicated that approximately 750,000 Americans, on both sides, died in the line of duty.  Disease and primitive medical capabilities figured greatly in this number, far more than any other war in our national history.  But, we went to war over a national chasm between ideas....and three-quarters of a million Americans died.

Now, just try to imagine if we somehow manage to talk ourselves into another national conflagration.  Weapons are much more efficient, our population is about ten times what it was in 1860 (31.4 million vs. 321 million in 2015).  If we persist in ramping up the sentiments on both sides of this national rift, to the point that violence really does become a reality....there is a mind-boggling potential for how lethal and cataclysmic it could be.

This is such a terrible thing to contemplate, that most of us...who are not already there....likely consider it to be 'unthinkable'.  But, pause to consider this: we are collectively the most heavily armed populace to ever comprise a modern society....hell, any society.  The rhetoric continues to heat up, both sides are becoming more choleric, more invested in coming out on top, more intolerant of divergent views.  All the ingredients are in place; just add heat and stir.

I majored in the philosophy of ethics in college. My mentor in the phil department at Penn State was Doctor Ernst Hans Freund.  He was a professor emeritus on the verge of retirement, but he took me on because he could see that I was earnestly seeking some answers about 'right' and 'wrong' as they apply to our daily lives and to our society at large.  Dr. Freund was a Quaker.  His family had fled the Nazis and come to the U.S. and he was one of the most reasonable and kind people I have ever met.  Were he alive today, I can imagine him just shaking his head with a sad look as he contemplated what we are doing to ourselves.

The problems we face are not insoluble. Quite the opposite; they are easily solved....but, only if we are willing to pull back from rabidly held positions that consider the opposing views to be evil, wrong, malfeasance on a terrible scale. Perhaps it sounds simplistic to say it, but we do have goals in common.  Both sides, and even the extremes of same, want to be happy, to have a shot at living decent lives, raising their families and taking advantage of the same opportunities as others.  It is only a very small percentage of Americans who really crave being lavishly rich at the expense of others.  Most people just want to feel like their lives are doable, enjoyable and that they have a feeling of optimism and hope about the future.

I cannot believe that most Americans wish ill for others, here or around the planet.  They just want to feel that options are open to them, and that life is not an ever-accelerating treadmill on which " simply must run twice as fast, if you wish to keep up".

There are answers, and it is my intention to explore some of the possibilites in this blog.  Check back and see what those might be.

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