The events of the past few weeks have caused me to step back, try to look at the bigger picture, try to see what’s happening here. A friend from the UK recently said he did not know what had brought this country to this pass, but that it needs to end. I think we can all agree that it needs to end, but … what did bring us to this pass? How did we become such a divided nation filled with racism and hatred, intolerance and threats of resolving our differences through violence?
I do know that the racism we thought had largely ended in the 1960s with civil rights laws and integrated schools, buses, diners, etc., had merely gone into hiding. There came a point where it became politically incorrect to express racist views, and those who dared do so were shunned. The feelings of superiority by some whites, though, never actually went away, they just festered under the surface. So, did we come to this pass by electing a Black man as president, not once but twice? I’ve often thought that was the start of where we find ourselves today. But that is a simplistic answer, and the election of President Barack Obama, while it certainly plays a role in our current situation, cannot be the entire answer.
Part of the answer, I think, comes from the uber-capitalism that has enabled some to become multi-billionaires, while others stay awake nights trying to figure out how to pay the rent and put food on the table. In the U.S., with as many millionaires and billionaires as we have, there is no excuse for any child to go to bed hungry at night … but they do. Single mothers work 2-3 jobs trying to make ends meet, and it’s a daily struggle, while others live in such luxury that they never have to do anything they don’t wish to do.
But what’s really puzzling is why some of those very people who struggle to manage to pay the bills are some of the most die-hard supporters of a regime that nearly worships wealth. Trump & Co have made no secret of the fact that they have cut taxes on the wealthy, rolled back environmental and safety regulations in order to increase the profits of those already rolling in dough. And yet, nearly half of the people in this nation – people who work hard to feed their families – still support Trump & Co. WHY?
Why? Because they are convinced by his rhetoric that he is their ‘president’, that the things he does are helping them. Why are they convinced? Because they are taken in by his fist shaking and his gutter-snipe verbosity. They believe him when he says he has done more for Black people than any president except Abraham Lincoln. They believe him when he promises the tax cuts were to help them, even though there is no proof in that pudding. He has convinced them that immigrants are harmful to our society, to our economy. They have not yet come to understand that any benefit they have gained from his policies is but a crumb compared to the benefit to the corporate giants.
People in this country want simple solutions to complex problems. Income disparity, healthcare, education, immigration … Trump offers off-the-cuff solutions to these issues. Take immigration, for example. Simple solution: impose a travel ban on people from Muslim countries and build a wall on the southern border to keep out the “rapists and murderers”. But this completely ignores the fact that Muslims are not terrorists and Mexicans are not rapists nor murderers. It also ignores the fact that immigrants add much of value to our country. They bring new ideas and add cultural diversity. To deny immigrants entry, to vilify all immigrants, is to spread racism and prejudice throughout the nation. Those who would wish for a homogenous white, Christian, male-dominated society seek a nation that I would never choose to live in, one that would soon stagnate for lack of innovation, lack of diversity and interest.
The people of this nation are more divided today than at any other time … I would venture to say that the ideological differences in the Civil War era were not as far apart as we are today. How did we get here? Perhaps by being a nation of people with too much freedom, too many ‘rights’. We have become a nation of greed, of “me first”, as evidenced by the refusal of some to wear a mask when in a public venue, claiming that mask mandates violate their civil rights. Never mind that they are putting not only themselves, but their families, friends and co-workers at risk by exerting their ‘rights’.
Joe Biden has promised to be the president of the people – all the people, not only democrats, not only white Christians, but every man, woman, and child in the country. He has promised to try to heal the wounds of divisiveness that have festered for the past decade, and especially the last four years. I fully believe he will try to do exactly that, but his success depends on us … We the People must be willing to work together, to put aside petty and irrelevant differences. Are we willing to do that? I wish I could answer in the affirmative, but it’s rather like a loaf of moldy bread. If there are just a few little spots of mold, you can cut them off and the bread is still good. But, there comes a point where there is more mold than bread and you might just as well throw it out and buy a new loaf.
Unlike the moldy bread, we cannot simply throw out all the people of this nation and start over, so we have two choices: we either learn the art of compromise, learn to embrace rather than eschew our cultural and ethnic diversity, learn to respect our fellow humans, else we will devolve into a nation of violence where it isn’t even safe to be on the streets. We need to stop the petty bickering, need to accept that things won’t always go our way, need to learn to adapt to adversity.
It’s our choice what direction this country takes in the coming year, my friends. Government can only do so much … the rest is up to us. My New Year’s wish for us all is that we can build bridges instead of walls, offer friendship instead of hate, put away the guns and offer the proverbial carrot rather than the stick. The choice is ours …