National Despair

There’s no point in waving arms, getting red in the face and snapping at the annoying tweaks that are sent only to distract and manipulate us.  If we’re to understand what is behind our national despair we need to focus on the core issue that keeps us stuck in a morass of helplessness and prevents us from the exceptionalism we’re capable of creating.

Perhaps you believe that doing the right thing is the right thing to do.  If so, this may fit for you:

I despair over the paralysis of America caused by the people who are supposed to be our leaders but who, instead, feather their own nest and ensure that their system is self-sustaining, much to the detriment of the rest of us.

I despair over the abdication of the regulatory muscle that could have prevented the banking-driven recession that has hurt so many Americans and has undermined the American brand throughout the world.

I despair over the abdication of the rule of law, like claiming that torture isn’t torture, like leading us into an unprovoked war and, every bit as damaging, by the near-complete failure of Congress and the press to do their jobs to prevent all that.

I despair over the public hatred and lies that are repeated by those in leadership positions and by ordinary, angry Americans as well, spreading the venom that has come to be tolerated and even believed by a distracted public.

I despair over angry young men who take handguns, rifles and automatic weapons to movie theaters and schools and kill innocents randomly, this while the NRA tells us that guns don’t kill and that assault weapons with 100 round drums must be legal and, by all means, let’s have 34 round magazines for those Glock semi-automatics.

I despair when the meteorologists tell us that we can expect this year’s drought to be repeated for years to come and, at the same time, people we’ve elected to be our leaders blatantly lie to us and declare that global warming doesn’t exist.

I despair when a congressman or senator shouts bigoted remarks at others and, worse, when those remarks aren’t rebuked by colleagues, the press and the public.

It’s true that we’ve always had haters and liars and that we’ve always had leaders who have twisted the truth because it serves them (and not America) well.   We have always had fools and bullies.

But it seems that the American train has jumped the track over the past 30 years, that dishonesty has become the purpose and dysfunction the goal.  For example, Ronald Reagan told us this about the Panama Canal:  “We bought it, we paid for it, we built it and we intend to keep it!”  That was a huge applause line, right up until the day he gave it away.

George H.W. Bush told us over and over, “Read my lips: No new taxes.”  Then he raised taxes.

Bill Clinton told us, “I did not have sex with that woman – Ms. Lewinski,” but, well, you know.

Now Mitt Romney is twisting himself every way imaginable to tell us that he’s always been against all those things he was always for.

And these are our leaders.

In any relationship, each has a part in the situation, so ultimately, it boils down to what we – you and I, our neighbors, your goofy brother-in-law, the retired couple down the street and everyone who works at the businesses in your town – have agreed to settle for.  We have let self-serving dishonesty penetrate our leadership as we simply went about our lives with myopic focus.  The lack of public integrity is so common now that we barely lift an eyebrow when we hear the next whopper.  It’s what we expect.  And that is the real poison of despair.

There is a glimmer of hope, though, that holds promise for us.  We can cure our national despair and it is so simple, so easy and so obvious.  We have the power to change everything and it is in our hands right now.

All we have to do is to stop settling.  All we have to do is to stop tolerating the intolerable.  All we have to do is to demand truth and call out the liars.

It’s time.

Copyright 2024 by Jack Altschuler
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