I can’t remember a gloomier day in a long, long while…both literally and figuratively. The smoke and resulting air quality from the many fires in California has made being outdoors impossible; there is an orangish-grey tint to the sky and a heavy haze bordering on “fog-like”. There is no such thing as unencumbered breathing and all of this has cast a pall on my mood as well as the day.
However, the fires are a “me” thing and also on my mind is our country and the more global world situation. In the last week a crisis in Afghanistan has exploded and several days ago at least thirteen US military personnel lost their lives along with scores of Afghans and there were many more injured, the result of a suicide bombing as we try to evacuate way too many people in way too little time. I have many thoughts on this but there is a specific one that made me want to put pen to paper.
Who is to blame for this? I can sense the words Trump, or Biden, or Republicans, or Democrats, or CNN, or Fox, coming to lips everywhere. But this is wrong; the gloom, the despair, the chaos, the finger-pointing, all trying to determine which of the above should take the blame? Who is responsible for this and so many other current messes? I have a news flash.
It. Is. Us.
Us. The self-centered, arrogant, narrow-minded citizens of this country that at some point in the last several generations put ourselves in the position of self-righteous narcissism. The UNITED States are anything but and our citizens are now shills for a deadly Romans vs. lions game where the only acceptable outcome to any difference of opinion is for one side to die a horrible death. We have completely forgotten what a blessing it is to live in this country and have instead become involved in a circus of self-loathing.
It doesn’t matter if we are talking about a pandemic, military withdrawal, immigration, energy or everything in-between, the teeming numbers of the egocentric among us have become masters of spin, talking points and self-appointed superiority. We believe we know more about every subject than anyone around us and have made it our duty to shove that faux knowledge down everyone’s throat. We have become Mensa-level experts in medicine, matters of state, science, economics, and psychology and behavior. Except we’re not. Not even close.
A wiser soul than I one said “you teach people how to treat you” and we have done that to perfection. We’ve taught an already biased media that we are too lazy to do the work ourselves and we are happy for them to feed us any information they want…as long as it agrees with what we already believe. Then when they sarcastically serve the opposite point of view to us topped with thinly-veiled outrage, with great glee we are outraged right along with them. But who can blame them? This is the behavior we have encouraged; in their position as ‘ratings whores’ this very behavior has rewarded them for what they are doing.
Our friends, neighbors, and co-workers have learned that a free exchange of opposing points of view will garner disdain, anger, and sometimes even outright rage. The merchants in our communities have become painfully aware that one poorly expressed thought, or worse, seemingly just a conversation among friends, results in loss of business, bad publicity driven by angry people and in the extreme, loss of their livelihood. But again, we have taught each other there is a payoff to being a bully. He who yells the loudest, posts the most scathing social media retorts, or takes intimidation to an art form is clearly the winner, right? Because after all, this is all about being the winner.
And finally, our politicians. We’ve taught them a master class on what we want. We want red or we want blue. We don’t want our President, or Congress, or the Judiciary working for a common goal. We don’t want bi-partisanship like Rep. Seth Moulton, Democrat from Massachusetts and Rep. Peter Meijer, Republican from Michigan, both military veterans, who took it upon themselves to gain knowledge about the situation in Afghanistan. Their detractors, of which there were many, couldn’t excoriate them fast enough. Was it because they did something horrible? No…well, yes, if you consider putting aside political differences to work for a common goal somehow horrible. The coming days will reveal whether their critics vitriolic remarks have any substance but I understand the Congressmen’s trip to the Kabul airport. They are two veterans who felt frustration at the situation and the type of information coming out of the area and from the military brass. They wanted to talk with fellow soldiers for themselves and draw their own conclusions. It would seem, though from two different political parties, they were united in their desire to do their job and do it fully armed with the facts. What a concept! They pushed outside the popular narrative and thought for themselves in the interest of the soldiers (who also don’t care whether we are red or blue) and civilians and they made their fellow congressmen and women and the administration look bad by working together and for those currently stranded (yes, I said stranded) and caught in an untenable situation. To anyone “in charge” that is unforgivable.
But we taught them everything they know and I also understand the horror at the Congressmen’s trip…the talking heads and the politicians don’t know what to do; they’ve been caught unaware. We want red or blue, not both. We want fighting and scheming and contempt and hatred and division and some full-blown, life-sized reality show of a government screaming “conspiracy”, “racism”, “orange man bad”, old man senile”…I don’t know why we want that but we clearly do. We reward it with our dollars, our votes, and our lip service all in the name of winning some ridiculous game. Of course, there is a payoff of power and money and some odd form of fame for all of them in dancing to the tune we play. But make no mistake, we are continuing to play like virtuosos.
But in the meantime as we squabble about who wears a mask and who doesn’t, women and children on the other side of the world will be raped or killed or both; their only fault being born in a country where such brutality is common place. They would be ecstatic to have the opportunities we have here and after all, someone should. We don’t seem to be. As we continue to remove any trace of ‘uncomfortable’ history from our consciousness, our young men and women in uniform performing heroic actions on an hourly basis will again be in harm’s way. And as we abdicate any vestiges of common sense while we hop on the latest bandwagon of buzzwords, cancel culture, condescension and the blame game we will single-handedly accomplish what no other country or entity has been able to pull off in over two hundred years; the disappearance of the greatest country in the world. We should be ashamed.