James Wolcott in a recent essay pokes his finger at the thorn of my discontent. We are in a period of hysteria where the political alt-right and alt-left, overblown with fears and secretly hoping for a revolution, begin to sound the same. As Wolcott explains, the two sides may not be kissing cousins, but they are so hell-bent on clearing the stage for the brave new world to follow that, “they caterwaul some of the same tunes in different keys.” (“Enemies of the State,” by James Wolcott, Vanity Fair, March 2017, pg. 127.)
I have written more than once that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have points in common as well as points where they differ. Both engage in doctrinaire thinking. Both wrap themselves in laurels of vainglory. Both project dystopian views to fuel their rise to power. Both are wildly intolerant of goals other than their own. Both reject compromise as tool for moving forward.
On the alt-right, we have Steve Bannon, a spokesman with holocaust visions to make America great again. On the alt-left, far less menacing but equally strident and closed-minded, we have Susan Sarandon who speculated during the election that a Trump win might serve to hasten the revolution. (Ibid pg. 127.) Well, here’s what history teaches us about revolutions. They don’t always turn out as planned. They didn’t in China, Russia or Korea.
In the winter of our discontent, passions run high. These passions have little to do with reality – a booming economy, an explosion of job opportunities, health care for almost everyone and trade agreements that have stimulated economic growth for us and people in other parts of the world, people for whom starvation was once commonplace. True, not everyone enjoys opportunity equally all the time. Technology disrupts. Look what happened to farmers when the industrial age kicked in. These shifts are devastating to some and a boon to many. But the sky is not falling.
Frankly, I distrust the alt-left and right because of their dystopian views. If I cannot trust their version of reality, how can I trust their vision for the future? I’ll seek the middle ground, thank you. Compromise these days has gotten a dirty name. Yet, what is compromise but an adult recognition that we don’t always get 100% of what we want. Compromise gives us the opportunity to work toward a better society. Peace is the dividend that pays for the progress.