Like many people, this election year has left me confused. Strong man Donald Trump changes his mind the way the rest of us change our socks, but he has been consistent in his view that America is weak. (“The Strongman Trump Wanted,” Excerpted from The Washington Post, July 20, 2016, pgs. 36-37.)
Others share Trump’s opinion. They see the nation as falling into decay. Colbert King writes, “America’s seething mass of killers, racists and immigrant bashers are very much a part of who we are.” (“The Truth About Who We Are, Colbert King, The Washington Post, excerpted in The Week, July 29, 2016 pg 12.)
Social media doesn’t help. When young people pose for selfies that make them look like hookers, zombies or axe murders, I’m obliged to wonder if the phenomenon represents more than teenage rebellion. Writer Judith Shulevitz suggests what we see is the result of porn gone viral. (“Internet Porn’s No Laughing Matter,” by Judith Shulevitz, New York Times, Excepted The Week, July 20, 2016, pg. 12.) Certainly, the industry has dared to plumb the darkest reaches of human depravity, including depicting gang rape, incest and men having sex with cadavers. (Ibid pg. 12.)
Each time a mass shooting occurs, President Obama reminds us this isn’t who we are. But if we are not a seething mass of violent people, who are we? Hillary Clinton insists we are still great and I want to believe her. But what is her measuring stick, I wonder.
Perhaps one measure is a truth we believe to be self-evident: that all men are created equal. We believe it so strongly that any citizen can aspire to be president of our country. Cynic and comedian George Carline, thinks, “That’s the problem.”
Most of us know democracy isn’t so much a unifying force as it is a method for choosing winners and losers without killing one another. The process is messy. Violent language sometime ends in violent actions. But every 4 years, the nation survives its uncivil political wars and picks itself up to begin again in November. That resilience makes us great. This country – this confluence of races, languages and cultures – is an experiment that goes against the grain of our tribal history and forces us to recognize our common humanity. Ours is an experiment like no other since man’s beginning. We don’t always get it right. How could we? As Franklin D. Roosevelt once reminded us, we are the children of immigrants and revolutionaries.