"It's not dark yet, but it's getting there."

–-- Bob Dylan

The Darkness Is Not Yet Complete

I am dis­ap­point­ed in our coun­try. Focused on win­ning, it is in fact filled with the defeat of our democracy.

I admit, because it often just seems so hope­less attempt­ing to cross the divide, I find myself resist­ing polit­i­cal argu­ments and exchanges. George Lakof­f’s descrip­tion of the con­ser­v­a­tive moral hier­ar­chy is enough of an expla­na­tion for the con­tent of these argu­ments, but it is nev­er enough to explain why we are so close to vio­lence and civ­il war. Out­right cor­rup­tion, lying, delu­sion­ary game-play­ing and manip­u­la­tion, ridicule, the pro­ject­ed insan­i­ty of con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, deeply fact-free blame, and bare­ly con­trolled anger over­flow the banks of our polit­i­cal world. 

We’re drown­ing in rec­i­p­ro­cal con­tempt. If I say you are a racist, then I’m the racist. If I say you are divi­sive, then I must be the real­ly divi­sive one. If I accuse you of hypocrisy, then I’m the true hyp­ocrite. If I say you are an angry mob then you accuse me of the same. If I call out your cor­rup­tion and crony­ism and cheat­ing, then you point to mine as the real prob­lem. If I notice your arro­gance that’s only heard as an invi­ta­tion to accuse me of that very fault. Is any­body lis­ten­ing to these reflex­ive­ly cor­ro­sive pat­terns? Is any­one notic­ing the reci­procity of the accu­sa­tions, all of which add up to the child’s anthem: “I’m not but you are.” Per­haps, if we are real­ly smart we can con­vert that anthem into rec­i­p­ro­cal­ly shoot­ing each oth­er because, you know, it’s just the same thing on a phys­i­cal scale. We have the guns and we’ll just have to use them — in order to pro­tect our­selves, of course, from you, who­ev­er you are.

Indeed, which side is respon­si­ble for this ugli­est of ugly turns? You choose, but do so carefully.


Mean­while, to even look at the nature of the con­flicts between the right and left togeth­er — to exam­ine the great com­mon harm being done in the name of abso­lutism, extrem­ism and par­ti­san­ship and to see our shared respon­si­bil­i­ty for the mess — that’s now con­sid­ered “either naive or disin­gen­u­ous.” Who shall we blame for this, too? Lib­er­als? Con­ser­v­a­tives? Oh, let’s go anoth­er round of insults in order to find out! 

Yet to be able to do this — to look at the dam­age and ask what can we mutu­al­ly do about that — is so crit­i­cal. This is the first place we can begin to find a com­mon hope, but we have to keep that door open. Once closed, we are pow­er­less and there’s only the war. To see the war and reject it is where pow­er­less­ness ends and where human­i­ty starts to regroup. It’s called com­mu­ni­tas.

Today, the sides are still immove­able and mutu­al­ly destruc­tive. There is lit­tle if any gen­uine ener­gy for res­o­lu­tion; only ener­gy for van­quish­ing an ene­my, for putting oth­ers down, con­trol­ling and min­i­miz­ing them, and for, frankly, get­ting rid of them, which is to say get­ting rid of each oth­er. There is only the ener­gy of a bru­tal­ly divid­ed state. What we have — vot­ing — is excel­lent for the half that wins, but vot­ing alone is not enough to bring peo­ple back togeth­er, will not “make Amer­i­ca great again” nor will it ful­ly vin­di­cate the major­i­ty. The dam­age to the demo­c­ra­t­ic spir­it of Amer­i­ca has been done. It’s inked in. Lady Lib­er­ty’s arm tat­too, the one that used to read, “We the peo­ple…” now quite plain­ly says, “Fuck you if you’re not on my side.”

We don’t real­ly have a clue how to deal with such for­mi­da­ble trib­al con­flict, act­ed out day after day in hor­ror in the news and on the inter­net and in Con­gress and the Courts and the Pres­i­den­cy. And this is a sit­u­a­tion where mere­ly wait­ing or even try­ing to avoid the fray, to “rise above,” to per­haps even delight in the supe­ri­or­i­ty of per­son­al dis­en­gage­ment only adds con­fir­ma­tion of our fail­ure as a soci­ety. We can only hope that some­where, some­how some­one is going to uncov­er a new way of talk­ing before the jail­ing of our ene­mies and then the killing begins in earnest. What a waste. What a ter­ri­ble waste. The only words I can think of are: “how stu­pid.” Our hope is in see­ing from all sides just how tru­ly stu­pid this civ­il war is.

The one thing that seems cer­tain is that this is a tran­si­tion­al time. It can’t stay where it is, and it seems like we are still descend­ing into the abyss, which means that the dark­ness is not yet com­plete. There’s still a ways to go before we hit bot­tom, before maybe there will be any com­mon recog­ni­tion of the true val­ue of demo­c­ra­t­ic norms, what they are and how we keep them and pro­tect them for the pre­cious trea­sure they are. 

If we get there — before it’s too late — then maybe some­day some of the light will begin to come back and this strange rite of pas­sage for our coun­try will begin to come to an end.


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