Over Eighty Years Watching the Decline of America’s Heart and Soul: Innocence and Compassion Lost. Both Mine and The Nation’s
Listening to our President and talking heads, I recall the following: when – over time – what we say is different from what we do, people quit listening. Have we stopped listening to each other? I watch the news, pundits talking over each other as if louder will somehow drive home a point of view. We have chosen sides, and God help the other side.
Is this something new, or has it always been like that?
I think back on significant events in my lifetime and how they have changed my country. I was born during the Great Depression, lived through a World War and the ones following. I try to understand how love and hate continue as partners in a constant dance, a dance that isn’t close to finishing.
My country used to feel like a lean and muscular country coming out of the Great Depression years, flexing those muscles in a world war. I wonder when it turned into an obese, flabby state, barely able to live up to the title of a world leader.
The symbiotic relationship between xenophobia and prejudice exhibited by the current administration reminds me of remoras that live on the back of sharks, both needing each other.
In Sunday School, we heard love for one another was a part of the helix that formed our country coil. Has that part of the spiral been stripped apart? I find it hard to see the love in faces of people shouting hateful words, spittle flying as they rant.
I fear it has always been like that, hate and worse hiding under the surface like some primordial ooze, while we’ve been fed sugar cubes to keep us distracted.
Eighty-three years of observation: newspapers, radio, newsreels, television, and books, and I’m no closer to understanding. My personal cultural and moral values were developed at home and in school, and my faith at church. My patriotism blossomed serving in the military. Maybe as a student of history and having a good memory, I sense I’ve seen what’s happening in our country as an echo of events when I was born. It’s like a stage play, the playwright not telling us how it will end, doomed to slog from one act to the next.
You don’t have to take my word for it. Find a copy of William L. Shirer’s Berlin Diaries. Reading that book will serve as a good reminder that the same white supremacy, racial and authoritarian politics of Germany and Europe in 1937 are alive and seeping to the surface today. We’ve all heard the phrase; the more things change, the more they stay the same.
What’s at stake?
The moral compass of our nation is at stake. We see a sharp spike in anti-Semitism. The divide between races, languages, and nationality cries out for a bridge, a bridge that never seems to get built. There all the antis: anti-socialism, anti-fascism, anti-immigration, anti-fill-in-the-blank. Manipulating messages stay fueled by politicians humming songs of hate under their breath.
What we say we are as a nation is poles apart from what we do. We’ve quit listening. The world stops listening.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said it best. “All we are saying to you, America, is do what you say on paper.” Ouch.
The fog of war (German: Nebel des Krieges) describes the uncertainty of warfare. What about the fog of truth that lies hovering over our nation’s capital, creating insecurity, and obscuring facts?
Ah, scapegoats and distractions are all.
Nazis targeted German Jews the year I was born, were swept up in a category five hurricane of hate. Then, Germany exported their vile philosophy across Europe, finding takers in other countries willing to “get rid of” their Jews.
The tentacles of anti-Semitism reached our country. We were quite happy to develop our version of Nazism.
Never again? Yet anti-Semitism still boils under the surface in this country
It sometimes feels like the inside of that famous Edvard Munch painting, The Scream.
In my childhood, the Germans were bad. Now they’re good. Japanese were bad. Now good. At first, Commies are bad or good, depending on who was talking.
What about the ghost of Senator McCarthy still holding up his list of subversives he claimed to exist in the government? It felt my young head spinning when the HUAC, The House Unamerican Activities Committee, went after a deep state that never was. Today, some nutters believe the attack on the so-called deep state continues, this time led by someone with the odd letter Q, who chooses to remain anonymous apparently.
After the Shoah Jews pledged, “never again!” In the aftermath of slavery and the civil rights movement, other pledges to never let it happen again.
We’ve evolved into a division of Conservatives v Liberals, taking it up a notch or three. The right is fascist, while the left is socialist. Two words, fascism and socialism, I suspect few can define, yet willing to accept as real.
What’s at stake? Truth and the soul of America.
How will the piece start and end?
In reality, it’s a story that will never end.
My memories feel like a huge sandwich, filled with war, then not war. Then peace, then no peace. Much of the sandwich is garden variety hate, the kind that that visited Charlottesville? My brain feels like it’s exploding when I tally the people killed in the name of genocide. Germany, Uganda, Bosnia, names at the top of the list. Uganda and Bosnia are already fading from memory. Will the Shoah be far behind? I’ve heard ranting anti-Semitism, ignorant anti-Muslim tirades Post 9/11. I witness prejudice leading up to – and following – the Civil Rights Movement. How often will I hear “never again,” only to be followed by again, and again, and again, and again?
Oh, there’s a lot of meat stuffed in the sandwich.
It would be a dreary piece, however, if it ended with hate. I have to believe in goodness. There were many examples of good, of love. How many have paid the price for the freedoms we have left? Non-Jews, who took a stand, becoming The Righteous Among Nations serve as an example of what’s right!
Who will stand up today and quiet the dog whistles? If you’re still reading, it takes you and me. Our faith, be it Judaism, Muslim, Christianity, or any commitment to a moral code, can serve as guidance.
Or, simply watch our new American-made Storm Troopers using tear gas and rubber bullets. If that doesn’t convince you, you might be a candidate for the latest crackpot conspiracy idea that the Covid-19 virus will actually inject us all with mind-controlling microchips.
The above is an expression of my thoughts alone. Agree or not, I don’t care. But we ignore our nation’s divide at our own peril.