Wednesday, February 22

Post-Election Malaise and Emotional Schizophrenia

My goal had been to write every week. But then life intervened as it so often does. Since January 20, I’ve found myself tottering between absolute despair and cautious optimism. A sort of emotional schizophrenia. Like many others, I find I cannot ignore the news but I also find I flip between media outlets in a quixotic attempt to find akin to objectivity. I’d get better results beating my head against the windmill.

And so some random thoughts as I, like many others, try to make sense of my shifted and canted ( world.

Toby Keith. He performed at 45s thing. Now he has become a pariah. Seriously? What is wrong with people? No one wants to listen to anyone. People just want to shout over each other. Toby Keith is allowed to perform wherever he wants but to make him into something he’s not just because you don’t agree with his politics is just wrong. Toby Keith wanted to play his music and was honored to be able to play for the inauguration of the president of the United States. Just because you don’t like this president isn’t a good reason to condemn the man’s music and talent. If his music and talent suck, that’s a different story.

Fascism. I’m not sure people really know what fascism is but it’s convenient to call 45 and some of the people in his inner circle fascists. Then others pick up the label and use it like a cudgel because it’s easier to pick up something from Twitter or Snapchat than actually use your brain and do some research. And we wonder why kids don’t want to read or learn how to do research? From whom do you think they’re learning such fabulous bad habits? Hello. Selfie time.

On the other hand, if you do a Google search on “fascism,” you encounter a whole bunch of dreck. That’s not Google’s fault, by the way. It’s the way people have learned how to maneuver search engine optimization. For those of you vaguely interested but too lazy to do your own research, here are some reasonably trustworthy resources that represent different perspectives:

According to Robert Paxton, professor emeritus at Columbia University and acclaimed as “the father of fascist studies,” fascism
requires some basic allegiances, such as to the nation, to national grandeur, and to a master race or group. The core principle — what Paxton defined as fascism's only definition of morality — is to make the nation stronger, more powerful, larger and more successful. Since fascists see national strength as the only thing that makes a nation "good," fascists will use any means necessary to achieve that goal. 
 But it’s easy to pick a term and use it like a weapon. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen this and it won’t be the last.

“The true values of the nation.” Wow. That’s quite a concept. What are the true values of the United States of America? The whole United States of America. In 2013, Colin Woodard published some work that introduced the idea of 11 American “nations” within the nation. Now this article has been republished and probably viewed as something new and electrifyingly eye-opening. But it was first published in 2013. When Obama was president. And it’s not as though these internal borders formed overnight so let’s be real about that.

It’s an interesting article and worth the read. What I found most striking is how hard it is to define “the true values of the nation” if we’re trying to refer to the whole of the United States. Based on Woodard’s work, what is valued in the Deep South has no place in New Netherland. Does that make the values of the Deep South “wrong”? To some, sure. To others, not so much. Does that make the values of the Far West unpalatable to Yankeedom, and vice versa? Probably.

Which is one of the reasons the framers of the Constitution were so keen on states’ rights.

But here’s the great thing about a democracy that actually works. You don’t have to agree with everyone.

As for me, I cannot keep up the outrage. Do I like or approve of 45? No. Do I like or approve of Bannon or Priebus or Conway or Spicer? No. Do I like or approve of some of his Cabinet choices? Absolutely not. But, by the same token, I do not like nor approve of the rabid fanaticism of the anti-Trump movement that seems to be against anything and everything just because it is Trump. It’s not healthy for the country. It’s not useful.

So what’s my point? I think we are approaching the bursting point of a great American bubble. We’re about to begin the deportation of millions of illegal immigrants. In some cases, let’s be honest, that’s not a bad thing but we also know that there will be those who will use their power and authority to go after some just because their skin isn’t white. That’s a horrible thing. And not new but now they have permission.

The giddy Republicans in Congress are so blinded by their absolute power they are going to do stupid things because they can and because it allows them to rip up what they think is the wrong-headedness of Obama and the Democrats. Dear God, please let them THINK before they shred. Please let them use some modicum of rational constructive criticism before they just overturn everything for the sake of overturning it.

Mexico is threatening to stop buying corn from the United States because of 45s policies. Sweden thinks 45 is a nut case because he gets unverified information from Fox News. Yea, that’s a great way to form national policy because Fox News is so unbiased and trustworthy. NATO isn’t sure what to think since Pence says one thing while 45 tweets something else.

I have to wonder if various security organizations are having conniption fits because 45 uses his Florida estate to conduct business, some of which is quite likely top secret. And then that makes me wonder if the American taxpayers are going to have to pay a small fortune so the billionaire’s private estate can become secure. (I’m starting to grind my teeth again.)

Media of all stripes cannot help but trip over themselves with generalizations about “liberals,” “conservatives,” “Republicans,” and “Democrats.” Whole classes and groups of people are dumped into soups of generalizations which is wrong and narrow-minded and stupid on so many levels.

And then I hear Christians lamenting the fact that we are no longer a Christian nation even though the United States of America has never been a “Christian” nation in the way they tend to mean it. But it’s so much more convenient to ignore historical facts.

Because of 45’s demonization of the media and accusations of “fake news,” people are willing to if not eager to ignore and denounce any form of history and facts as irrelevant in the face of what they want to believe.

God help us when the bubble bursts. When 45 cannot return jobs to the coal miners. When Mexico stops buying corn. When all of the illegal immigrants and a whole bunch of legal immigrants are rounded up and herded out of the country. When non-Americans stop wanting to come to the United States for fear of what they might encounter. When other countries don’t want to do business with us any more because of our policies and our politics, because of our narrow-minded attitudes. Because they won’t distinguish because the 45 supporters and the non-supporters. 45 has reminded us how easy it is to taint entire groups with slanderous hate (slander:

I think we are headed towards a civil war. (War is not “civil,” of course, but there are historical reasons for the reference: Civil wars have been waged across the world throughout human history.  The term “civil war” comes from the Latin phrase bellum civile, which translates to “war of or pertaining to civilians,” and was first used to describe the Roman civil wars of the 1st century BCE. I’m not alone in thinking this but I haven’t the historical or political gravitas to support my thinking.

Matt Mayer writes in U.S. News & World Report that “our unraveling predates” the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He observes that we are both “a red America and a blue America.” There is truth in that and in the fact that some of us are purple. On some issues I’m more red than blue; on others I’m more blue than red. I know I’m not alone but we are not screeching hysterically at each other and others. We are listening, reading, thinking, watching, waiting. I’m not sure what I’m waiting for but it feels like I’m waiting for a social and political conflagration.

It feels like what needs to happen is something catastrophic, something cataclysmic that will either sunder the country entirely and smack it back to its senses. My fear is that too many will simply stand on their respective sides of abyss and continue their hysterical screeching, finger-pointing, and name-calling while we once knew as these great United States slides slowly and irrevocably into oblivion.