This is a moment. Well, really, the last year and a half (is it longer? shorter? interminable?) has been a “moment.”
For me, it has been a long and painful moment of realization. This catastrophe in which we have been engulfed didn’t just “sort of show up” in 2016. It isn’t something that dropped in from the outer limits. As Americans, we’ve been building towards this monumental, momentous calamity for our entire history.
We have done great things. We have also done horrendous and unspeakable things. We have — as all countries do — glossed over the unspeakable and put a lot of our energy focusing on the greatness. We have ignored our failures and failed to grow up, nationally speaking.
But that isn’t what happened at all. Briefly, our better selves dominated politically, but all the rest of it was still right where it had been before. Our Civil War is more than 150 year in our past, yet for many people, it is still going on. Despite the obvious that this entire country — unless you are a Native American — is built on immigration, we have forgotten who we are and where we come from and that it is the energy and willingness to “go the distance” that gave the United States its vitality.
We also forgot that we got our big bang of industrial power from the decimation of Europe following two devastating wars. Yes, we fought in them, but they took place elsewhere. Not on our shores and if we want to pause briefly and ponder Pearl Harbor and 9/11, we can only imagine how different this country would be if the wars fought had been fought here.
Not “over there.” Not on some foreign shore, but in our backyard. We never had to rebuild our entire infrastructure. We have been political fools. Not only now, but in many earlier times when we elected immoral, mentally challenged morons as our leaders.
It matters more now because we gained so much power. And because the speed of events has increased and we don’t wait for news anymore. Everything is instant, continuous, and migraine-inducing.
We didn’t get here by accident or because of one bad election. We have never demanded our citizens vote or even get a decent education. We have never required our citizenry behave like grownups, either. Why should we be surprised we find ourselves in this unreal, treasonous, and terrifying scenario?
This is our moment to consider who and what we want to be as a nation. Do we want to be the perpetual international fools and morons? Do we want to pretend that all the really important things — decency, morality, safety, protection, equality, liberty and fair government — are trivial? That the only thing that matters is greed? As long as someone promises to lower our taxes, nothing else counts?
If we continue thinking like that, we will be lost in history, a mere blip on the timeline. And because we have had so much power, we might take down other nations with us. Who knows how many?
We are not an island, nor do we exist alone and separate on this planet.
No Man is an Island – John Donne
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions