We are having our national moment. Well, really, it’s more than a moment. The past three years have been one, long tormented “moment.”
As someone who loves history, it has forced me to go back and look at our history and realize that this catastrophe in which we are engulfed didn’t just “sort of show up” in 2016. It didn’t drop by without giving us plenty of warning that this calamity was lurking.
We’ve been building towards this calamity for our entire history.
American has done great things. We have also done horrendous and unspeakable things. We allowed slavery as a start — and we’ve never recovered from that. We slaughtered the Natives who lived here — and we pretend we didn’t.
We have, as all countries do, glossed over the most awful parts of our history and focused on greatness. We have — and we are by no means alone in this — pretended our failures never happened or really weren’t that bad. We have held ourselves up as a beacon of light to other countries. And thus we failed to accept responsibility for the bad stuff and never grew up.
But that isn’t what happened. Briefly, our better selves dominated but the bad stuff was stuck where it has always been. We fought our Civil War more than 150 years ago and it’s not over. The war will never end because we never accepted racial equality, no matter how many laws we’ve passed.
Despite the obvious that this entire country — unless you are Native American — is built on immigration, we have lost ourselves. We’ve forgotten where we come from and where we drew our energy, drive, and willingness to “go the distance” that gave the United States its vitality.
We also forgot that we got our huge emergence of industrial power from the decimation of Europe following two devastating wars. Sure, we fought in the wars, but the fighting was not here. Never on our shores.
Pause briefly and think about Pearl Harbor and 9/11. Imagine how different this country would be if both world wars had been fought in this country, on this continent. Who would be the great industrial power then? It would not have been us.
We never had to rebuild our entire infrastructure from the rubble upwards. We’ve elected fools to run our government. Not just now, but in many earlier years when we elected immoral, mentally challenged morons as leaders.
It matters more today because our executive branch has gotten so much more powerful than it was supposed to be. It was supposed to be one-third of a balanced government. Instead, it manages everything. News and events have increased to the speed of light. We don’t wait for news anymore. Everything is instant.
We didn’t become this disaster accidentally or through one bad election. We never demanded citizens vote or get a decent education. We never required our people to act like grownups. Why should we be surprised we find ourselves in this unreal and terrifying scenario?
This is our time to consider who we want to be.
Do we want to be the perpetual international fools? 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 the taxes of the rich, nothing else matters?
We are going to be lost to history, a blip on the timeline. 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