“United we stand, divided we fall.” It was the group Brotherhood of Man who turned that time-worn adage into melodic lyrics. Sadly, however, it appears that ancient wisdom has been lost in the chaos of today’s politics. In so many ways our so-called “United” States of America has become a misnomer.
It’s been a while since I’ve darkened these pages. In times past I have tried to walk a middle path.....setting aside my rose-colored glasses, while at the same time steering clear of today's sad situation, at least as it registers in my tired, old mind.
Yet it feels like it is time to be realistic…..to face the facts, speak up, and add my voice to the conversation. In particular, I am here to ask why “Making America Great Again” has me scratching my head like this, wondering where our great nation took the wrong turn? And why it feels like our train has jumped the tracks.
Well, I suppose I could start close to home. Truth is for decades Portland, the bellwether of our Oregon country, has been viewed as a peaceful and welcoming place to visit or live. After all, what is not to like? Our first city, on the banks of the Willamette, has normally been depicted as fresh, clean, and progressive……perhaps even a bit bland.
But now…….you can scratch the “bland” part. Who could have guessed that Portland, in the heart of the green and peaceful Pacific Northwest, would have suddenly become an internationally-visible magnet for social protesters, both peaceful and violent. For ninety days their nightly side-show, with its destructive property damage and tear-gas standoffs, sometimes even including an intervention by “federal enforcement forces,” has been played out on most every TV set in the so-called “civilized” world.
And of course the violence in our streets has not been limited to one city. Across our country the impact of racism and class warfare……. whether Black Lives Matter or the various strains of White Supremacy……..is no longer hidden in the closet. It has spilled out into the open.
Protests have become weaponized, ugly, and dangerous. Law enforcement struggles to find its place in the scheme of things. Even professional sports leagues have stepped forward to make a stand. How long can we expect to endure these hateful standoffs……the new and distressing symbols of our “Dis-United” division?
Moving a bit further afield, while Portland and the rest of the country struggle to find their footing, our nation faces the harsh effects of another of our government’s favored “hoaxes.” While those in charge dither, ignoring the dire projections, California is on fire……boiling and burning at a record rate, and praying for the end of the terrible drought that threatens to become their new normal.
At the same time the Gulf Coast states of Texas and Louisiana are literally afloat in water…..far more than they need or want. For perhaps the first time ever storms are arriving in pairs, magnifying the damage created by hurricane winds and raging tidal surges……precursors of increasingly unpredictable weather fueled by spreading pollution, melting polar icecaps, and rising ocean temperatures.
Though science assures us it is real, “global climate change” has yet to be accepted or seriously addressed by those who can direct the necessary changes. And why should we expect them to take that sort of action? After all, it would surely impact the profits they have come to worship.
And as you have probably noticed, in the midst of all that existential chaos our nation and the world are dealing with a raging and dangerous pandemic. Sadly, by any measure our country is faring worse than most. As we approach 200,000 Covid-19 deaths our hospitals have too often been overrun, and our medical professionals worn out. Now, as public schools and colleges prepare to resume their hoped-for normal schedules a spike in new virus cases seems likely.
So why are we so far behind the curve? For far too long those responsible for responding have continued to play their ever-popular “hoax” card.
In every way…….planning, diagnosis, testing, treatment, and safety equipment for our caregivers ……they have abdicated their responsibility, insisting that individual states must deal with the problem, while hoping it will simply fade away.
As we have learned in the course of the last several months an out-of-control pandemic carries a steep price. In economic terms, after a promising start, 2020 has taken a decidedly ominous turn for the worse…….at least on Main Street, USA.
While federally-funded cash infusions have fueled a stock market resurgence, small businesses and American consumers have been held hostage by mandatory lockdowns. Unemployment has soared, food bank lines grow longer by the day, and evictions and bankruptcies are likely to reach new heights.
And, of course, the resulting fiscal push and pull has worsened the already growing disparity between the “haves” and the “have nots,” fueling new levels of social unrest.
At the same time, given our many domestic trials, it is often easy to overlook another undeniable reality. Our nation’s standing on the world stage………among the major nations that since WWII have generally accepted our leadership role …….has been significantly diminished.
Internationally, the American brand of democracy, once the world’s standard of excellence, has suffered. Over the last three years we have abandoned long-standing alliances and treaty obligations, and turned our back on long-time allies…….all the while showing unfamiliar favor for dictators and authoritarian regimes. If there is safety in numbers, where does that leave us?
And finally…….adding a bit of spice to our already boiling stew…...all of the above is taking place against the backdrop of a Presidential election.
True, this year’s electoral dance is a bit different than usual, thanks in part to the distressing presence of Covid-19 and a spat of seldom seen campaign tactics.
Who would have imagined that the US Postal System would be a pawn in the Administration’s voter-suppression game….an apparent effort to reduce the impact of vote-by-mail in this pandemic era? Or what about other voter suppression efforts…..the wholesale closing of voting sites, the not-so-subtle attempts to limit voting among parts of our population.
Taken as a whole the ugliness of ‘Campaign 2020’ may be hard to swallow, yet the need for all of us to cast our votes and have our say has never been greater.
By any measure these are interesting times.
Take a moment to consider all of the above ingredients stirred together. We have continuing social unrest, violence in our streets, a mishandled pandemic, the impact of global climate change, a stumbling economy, booming stock market, and ever-widening wealth disparity, and our nation’s changing status on the world stage…….all of that played out in the glare of election politics.
Would you agree that it will take the best efforts of all our people, working together, to restore the normal we like to remember?
And how likely are we to see “All our people, working together”……..in theses times of seldom-equaled division, political distrust, and befuddled leadership?
No wonder I have a headache. I believe I’ll use a cool Budweiser to wash down my aspirin.
As always…….I would appreciate your comments.