Page Two: It Is the Worst of Times, It Is the Worst of Times
It is the age of little wisdom, it is the age of foolishness
We are living in strange times, the most exaggerated and distorted of my life. Much of this is due to President Trump, not just the least qualified person to ever hold that office but one whose track record, beliefs, and actions are both astonishingly obvious yet viewed radically differently by different segments of citizens. Obviously you could accurately argue that this has always been the case, Americans in disagreement with each other. But we have entered a time where there is no common ground, no shared space. The inclination of most seems to be to further retreat into tribalism, embracing the political clan they find most soothing and unchallenging.
On all sides, compromise is not just undesired, but despicable. To compromise is to surrender and capitulate, to fail the present and sell out the future. This attitude is shared as much by liberals as conservatives, by the more progressive left as well as the proudly reactionary right.
OK, this is a column of opinion. I'm not going to put "I think" in front of every statement; that is implied. This column offers a catalog of generalities. All are to some degree accurate, all boast flaws in logic and inclusion. This is a report from the front, not a detailed, annotated history.
It is a listing of things (truths, opinions, thoughts) that I hold to be self-evident (suggested, possible). This is part one. Overall it will be as depressing a take on where we are and may be going as I have ever offered, because never before has my despair been so deep and my belief in this country so shaken.
There is no evident significant difference between the ideology, methodology, and ambitions of the extreme Christian fundamentalist right and the Muslim absolute jihadists. Each side is certain that their religious view is the truth, as certain that the ones held by the other are wrong, while convinced that working toward their logical vision of the future, the other side wants to wipe them out.
Neither evidence any love of God or belief in humanity but rather use scripture and deity as a way to justify repression, intolerance, and exclusion, all draped in a holier-than-thou sanctimony.
The abandonment of the Constitution as a guiding document, as well, seems to be subscribed to by folks of all ideological stripes. Coming together to work in unity for the shared interests of all is treated as either naive, ignorant, subversive, or purposefully extremist.
There is little difference between the overly violent sectarian left (witness last issue's article on the Red Guards) and the equally isolationist reactionary right. Neither care about a democratic republic or have any interest in a society espousing and supporting shared respect, attempted understanding, and an ongoing effort to accommodate the views of others.
A member of the Red Guards was quoted last issue as saying, "We believe in armed struggle with mass participation." Recently, folks dressed in fatigues holding automatic weapons appeared in public to protect the rights of citizens supporting Trump. Neither group cares for the Constitution, the functioning structure of a democratic republic or the actual desires and interests of the majority of citizens. Both manifest a thin ideology that owes more to comic books than news reports, more to the narrative structure and ideology of B Westerns (Good Guys vs. Bad Guys) than Marxist treatises or the vision of the Founding Fathers.
Both left and right are sure they know what is best for all; neither really needs or wants the weigh-in of the masses. When a significant part of the population seems to hold opposing views they blame misinformation, media lying, or personal motivations (all kinds of variants on "love it or leave it"). Gleefully, the right supports voter suppression, denial of citizenship, and aggressive gerrymandering – not so all citizens can better share in governing but to maintain the power of a party with ever narrowing views. Championing universal human rights while chanting "The People United Will Never Be Defeated," the left, especially the extreme left, seems to ignore the clear desire of most individuals for decent housing, good education for their kids, and good jobs. In a frenzy of Marxist fantasies they ignore the reality of Wal-Mart and cable TV. Insisting these are narcotics to which the masses are intentionally addicted to prevent the people's revolution, they miss that these actually are the people's revolution.
"Fake news" and "biased media" are the terms used by most to describe the media presenting news they don't want to hear. After the longest time ranting against the liberal bias of mainstream media, the conservative right made clear the issue was not with bias dictating content but the nature of that bias as they embraced Fox and Breitbart. On the other hand, the left, ranging from those opposed to the dominance of international corporations to many who distrust anything official to the conspiracy-theorist fringes entertaining lunatic theories, have never had any truck with mainstream media.
We no longer even vaguely share a common source's take on the world around us.
The greatest concern as to the future of this country is the ongoing working-class support and in some cases love of President Trump. Ignoring his history, business track record, what he has said and is doing, they insist on his having a deep sense of Americanism and a profound affection for most Americans that his extreme narcissism does not allow and probably can't even begin to understand.
It does seem like the mass of Trump supporters are enthralled by and enthusiastically support a government and a vision that is pretty much the opposite of what they insist. Wearily, with an East Coast intellectual's arrogance, I find it too painful to watch so much of the populace cheering on an assault on their own best interests and supporting a legislative vision that aggressively yet smugly limits their constitutional rights and actively destroys their hard-fought and long-cherished protections.