“How does the country come out of a crisis stronger and not weaker?” – Jon Meacham
“It’s just a sign of the grim moment we’re in that a basic statement about the capacity of America to reform itself can even seem partisan” – Jon Meacham
I supposed it took an historian to jolt me back to action. I read these two statements in a New York Times article this morning, which got me thinking about these times, which were predictable in the lens of history but ignored in the self-consumed orgy of partisanship. What’s in it for me? has taken over for what’s best for the greater good? As if wanting equality for all is some dark socialist conspiracy. And with this rise of media bile and self-absorbed profiteering, the country has turned on itself. And with it, I’ve pulled away from the entire sordid mess in revulsion. But I’m doing a disservice to the country, the global community and the environment in doing so.
American politics was once no place for the weak or meek. If you wanted to be in the arena you had to face the crush of public opinion, backroom pressure and lobbyists currying favor. But more than ever the morally compromised seek office for the power it brings and for the chance to grow rich from those who would buy a vote. The undercurrent of inequality has always been there in this country, but the American public is having a collective reaction to the bile we’ve been forced to hold down.
Hatred and bigotry, things that simmered under the surface for years, would reveal themselves steadily as they rose to a boil. Things like mass shootings, police brutality, and riots would bubble up from below, indicating a level of rage and pathology that needed to be addressed. But instead it was thoughts and prayers and all manner of bullshit from political leaders too busy growing fat on lobbyist bribes to actually do anything meaningful. Trump, and Trumpism, is all that crap that was simmering under the surface finally boiling up and rattling the lid. Everything I believe in seems to be taking a hit from the criminally greedy swirling about in the White House today. It isn’t unlike other dark periods in history, and it will get far, far worse in a second term.
And so what do we do about it? What do I about it? Vote? Of course. Raise my voice? Definitely. But not in a way that divides the country even further. No lecturing people who believe in something I don’t believe in. No mocking the opposition. Seek first to understand. And then to be understood. The key to selling is to help people reach conclusions, not to trick them. There are plenty of people tricking the American public right now. Educate people, but do it without smugness and antagonism. Lead with dignity and steadiness… but lead. Be in the arena, be in the game. No more recoiling in revulsion. Face the truth of what we’ve become and work to change it.
Our history as a country is written in divisiveness, cruelty to others, opportunism and greed. But also on hope for an ideal of equality and freedom. The current administration has spotlighted the worst traits in America, but the reaction to the current administration has spotlighted our best traits. There’s a battle for the future America happening right now. This is our history being written, today, and we’re the authors. This is/there is no time to sit on the sidelines.