Wednesday, April 4, 2018
Let's Start With Crazy
The U.S. Of A resembles one giant dysfunctional family. Those on the left regard their cousins on the right as ignorant boobs. Those on the right regard their cousins on the left as stuck-up nincompoops. The squabbling is endless. Tempers flare, voices are raised. So long as we avoid doing violence to one another, this is a healthy condition. It's the Great American Discussion. Sadly, History has shown that we are capable of doing terrible violence to one another. The extremist talk that's making its rounds scares the hell out of me. When a spokesman for a powerful gun association accuses "Liberals" of brainwashing and manipulating high school students, I wonder if he actually believes what he is saying, or whether he is saying these things as part of a script. Either way, such ideas reek of malignancy. I don't trust extremists on either end of the spectrum. We're losing the moderate center, and we're losing it to those who have some concealed reason for inciting animosity between Americans. I don't know what a functional family looks like, but I imagine it's one in which members support one another with compassion and generosity. This is not what today's America looks like. Instead of mutual support I see separation, hostility, contempt and rancor. I see blame and a failure of individuals to critically examine their own thinking, just in case they might be wrong about some of their beliefs.
One of our greatest disasters is the connection between politics and money. Only the rich can afford the towering cost of running campaigns. Thus we are dominated by the agendas and tactics of the rich and powerful. We ARE an oligarchy. If we need a reform urgently, before we reform gun laws, before we reform immigration policy, before we change ANYTHING, we need to reform campaign finance. We need to bring a new method of choosing the people who make the laws by which we are governed. We need to get money out of politics. I don't know how we'll achieve that. The fox is already guarding the hen-house. We need something akin to a revolution, one that is miraculously shorn of bloodshed.
American culture is a multi-headed hydra. It's brilliant and it's toxic. Over the decades, life has become more and more expensive in the U.S.A. This "free" country charges an exorbitant price. The complex demands of a consumer society weigh heavily on its citizens. Young people are especially vulnerable when they feel an avalanche of expectations laid upon them. If they're to have a decent future, if they're to 'get ahead' they need to have stellar grades, be models of civic action, join clubs, demonstrate competence in multiple disciplines and volunteer to help the afflicted. It doesn't hurt if they're also athletic and good looking. Who can fit into that template? Who can get into an Ivy League school and graduate with an MBA and show the drive that's required in our heated business world? What about the average kids? It's said that everyone is good at something but the complexity of our culture is robbing ordinary people of a future All the while a torrent of image and information comes pouring through the Internet, television, movies, radio, advertisements and smart phones. This information chaos skews our perceptions and encourages depression and confusion. Take a look at any waiting room or bus stop.. The people aren't talking to one another. Their eyes are glued to the screens of their phones. Americans may be the loneliest people in history.
Recently a depressed and unstable eighteen year old murdered seventeen high school students with an AR-15 assault rifle. Today I heard the tape of a 9-1-1 call made by this child about a year ago, just days after his mother died. I felt such pity for him. I couldn't help it! I'm outraged at his evil, but I imagine that he felt abandoned and terrified.
In a nation of more than three hundred million people, there are millions who aren't being seen and cared for. So many people fall through the cracks, yet we are armed to the teeth and waiting for some catastrophe so we can discern which are the good guys and which are the bad guys. We are better than this. Our president suggests that we give weapons to school teachers, that they may protect their students. This epic dumb idea will create a new class of suicides. We'll be adding Death By Teacher to the already climbing incidents of Suicide By Cop. We aren't going to purge this nation of firearms. Guns are deeply embedded in our national DNA. There are immutable historical reasons for this situation. Guns will always be a part of our cultural nervous system.
It would be better to try to stop being crazy. Because we are...crazy...we're bat-shit crazy. Our minds can only cope with so much signal intensity before they start to smell like fried wiring inside the walls. That's where I would start, anyway. I would accept the fact that I am crazy, I'm disturbed and I need to look for someone who can help me. If I were to pin a diagnosis on Americans it would be that we suffer Bi-Polar Disorder wrapped up in a mantle of PTSD. Maybe I'll call the Norwegians. Or the Dutch.
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