American Culture 2016
Ferris Bueller was right. Life moves pretty fast. In the last fifteen years, it’s also been swirling in ever tighter spirals of chaos, closer to circling the drain. Things none of us ever thought we’d see, starting with 9/11, just keep happening and the root causes have been ignored in the buzz of media circus and amped-up “patriotism”, and consumerism.
Everyone’s got an idea or a solution, from military to closing borders to banning anything that seems slightly off from good old-fashioned American values, whatever those are deemed to be lately.
What seems to be in short supply are common sense, the study of history, ethics, religion and diversity, equality among races, genders, nations and creeds, compassion, good-heartedness and love.
These have been replaced by fear, hate, violence, racism, sexism, misogyny, greed, and conflict between people whether it’s next door or across the ocean. Feeding all this is a media that wallows in this tub of slime and spews paranoia-filled vitriol out as “news”: slanted, non-objective, the more inflammatory the better, with no regard for fact-checking or disputing outright lies. The old story prevails – once it’s out there and people have heard or read it, no retraction holds much weight. We don’t hear about the many good things people do, only the bad or salacious.
As a country, we don’t agree on even on the basic values we once held dear: the importance of personal choices and freedom, protecting nature and the environment, promoting good health and medical care, educating our children with quality public schools, family farms and mom and pop businesses instead of corporate mega-monopolies. Technology and its products from phones to computers, has become the undisputed new emperor, and a lot of the time, the emperor has no clothes and narcissism rules. In other ways it’s wonderful and allows me to write and publish, but its downside is a deep abyss in the way people interact. There is an insidious message of no accountability or face to face honesty…people can be vilified, bullied, lied about with no consequences, as can events, wars, political decisions…the list is endless. The truth may be out there, but it’s damned hard to find.
We now have an election that is a consequence of these years. Hillary is experienced, educated, well-spoken, and qualified. She’s also made serious blunders, is arrogant, off-puttingly intense, strident occasionally and has been the target of a Republican conservative attack for years, which has seriously damaged her credibility, true or not. On the other side, we have Donald Trump, the most under-qualified, politically inexperienced, hate-mongering candidate to ever win a nomination in this country. The fact that he did, and has so many supporters who adore him no matter what he says or does, is frightening and surreal. No matter which one wins, manufactured divisiveness and fear will continue to rule our lives. The power of presidents can be tempered, but the tone they set can lead to far-reaching consequences.
We have gigantic issues in this country. Foreign wars, terrorism, racial unrest, immigration, economic and trade problems, climate change, and social issues like abortion and gay rights which really have little place in a political arena, but have been forced into it in defense of people’s rights. Perhaps scariest right now, are constant steps into anarchy, with unbalanced shooters turning up in public venues and police targeted for death. Somebody once said, if you live by the gun, you die by the gun. Do we all start carrying weapons like the Old West every time we go out in public or start cracking down on the type of guns the public can buy and exert more care on determining the mental state of those who do?
Change is essential if we are to survive as a nation. Each of us needs to step up, honestly assess our lives, our needs, our desires and face up to our responsibility as citizens. Freedom, as they say, isn’t free. It comes with strings, and they aren’t military. Ethical, responsible, kind people who seek truth and justice get the government they deserve. So do violent, hate-filled, power-hungry ones.
We’ve got a lot of work to do.