A thoughtful, reflective, insightful friend sent me a note with a quote pertaining to the political predicament in which we find ourselves:
The following is from an article in Harper’s Magazine by Justin E.H. Smith, “Blood and Soil: The Rise of Vindictive Nationalism.”
The excerpt is very provocative, maybe extremely prescient, especially the very last phrase.
“…It seems that every earnest attempt to rationally rebuild society at some point crosses over, as if by natural law, into irrational violence. At present, we may be witnessing the beginning of an irreversible breakdown of American democracy. A form of authoritarian demagoguery is in the course of replacing the old hard-won system, and it is coming as an expression of the popular will of people who do not think of themselves as enemies of American political tradition – on the contrary, they wish to restore its greatness. It is a movement that gleefully rejects facts and arguments in favor of feeling, passionate group identification, and the titillating prospect of violence.”
He wondered what I thought of the quote. Here is my response:
Thanks for the note.
Just a few thoughts off the top of my head:
That certainly is a sobering and chilling paragraph. I’m hoping this time in American democracy is an aberration but human nature being what it is and our fascination with violence being what it is….I will read the article hoping the author gives a dystopian vision as a warning which all societies must heed and to which we must stay alert.
By way of comparison with a Western nation in recent human history, Nazi Germany was unique: Germany had suffered humiliation in WWI, it had tarnished its image of itself as the superior Western nation, its economy was in a shambles and it found a ready-made scapegoat — Jewish business leaders and bankers.
We don’t easily fit into those circumstances. On the other hand, we tend to be smug, entitled and arrogant and yes, I’m talking about upper-lower and lower-middle class Christian whites, too, who because they are afraid and resentful are being handed the scapegoats of Washington, blacks, browns and Muslims.
Also, I think we middle-class, educated, progressive Americans had become complacent, enjoying the seeming fruit of hard-won efforts at human rights for women, blacks, Hispanics, LGBTs, etc. and thinking that things would only continue to get better and better. Afterall, we had elected the first black president and next we would elect the first female president.
The thing that bothers me most is the class warfare between the richest and the rest of us. We’ve got capitalism gone crazy. I don’t think we middle-class feel the pinch like the lower-middle does. (The middle class lives like the rich to a certain extent and we have decent salaries, drive nice cars, take vacations, all of which might be a way to keep us quiet in our imagined comfort. We go our merry way consuming, consuming, consuming. Maybe we are too sated with stuff to figure out what is going on.)
The ideological and fanatically religious economic elites push their worldviews through purchasing the Republican politicians who just want to stay in power. The Democrats sit around with their thumbs up their butts and the political establishment at the bidding of the rich and powerful (who mostly are white) point fingers away from themselves appealing to the racism that runs deep in the American soul and trumpeting (no pun intended) jingoism and xenophobia.
I have cited this many times, but I do believe it is critical to understanding our country’s economic conundrum: a Canadian socialist and professor of economics (falsely attributed to John Steinbeck) said that socialism was found wanting because the poor believe they are a mere one misfortune away from being millionaires. Is that the way the Trump voters see it? “If Donald could do it, so can I”?
I’m hoping someone will come along with a Bernie Sanders’s type message and appeal to our better angels. Such a message might be able to help the poor to cross racial lines and join forces for peaceful, political change. The vast majority of the American public, I believe, would work toward that goal.
But then again, I may be just an old, retired, myopic minister unable to see the forest for the trees.
There is plenty of historical evidence to suggest that we are “on the eve of destruction.”
Oh, my…. Well, wife Chris and I will keep going to protest rallies in peaceful protest hoping we don’t get our heads bashed in.
I’m going back to reading my daily meditations and poems.
See you this summer, Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.
Dare I venture an “All the best,” ?