Thursday, June 15, 2017
Powerless People; Despicable Acts
What happens when you push hard enough against the powerless? What happens when rage ripples beneath the surface calm of those “little people,” erupting in small bubbles and then explodes? What happens when their seething anger is ignored? What happens to those in power who built and benefit from that unlevel playing field? There’s always at least one explanation but in the end, is there ever a justification? Where does the responsibility reside? Who gets the blame? We often ignore the symptoms until it is too late.
From dangerous decisions emanating from simple acts of road rage, savage barbarism as large vehicles mow down hapless and random victims, companies cutting safety corners to make money that kill people, racially-driven riots after a police shooting, embedded privilege, destruction of upward mobility, hopelessness, slow and deliberate anger that drives a left-leaning senior citizen to attempt to annihilate a GOP congressional baseball team, a London fire in low-income public housing with an escalating death toll notwithstanding myriad complaints of safety and fire hazards, to farmers whose governments have turn a deaf ear to their permanent loss of farmland to global warming desertification electing to follow ultra-violent ISIS and al Qaeda. “Let them eat cake”?
We always seem to be able to look back and see the warning signs. Are there just too many people with too many symptoms that we just cannot deal with it all? Is this just a Malthusian response from too many people and dwindling resources? The inevitable impact of climate change? Nature’s way of culling the human herd, noting that we are the species at the top of the food chain with no natural animal predators… except ourselves? Passionate dogma or misplaced religiosity, false justifications for cruelty and callous insensitivity. Old world values of “self-reliance” and “personal responsibility” versus attempting to level the playing field through social legislation. Darwin vs. humanistic political evolution? Is polarization merely another step to geopolitical unraveling, from anarchy, conquest, civil war or steep economic decline?
Look at gerrymandering and the harsh realities of automation and globalization, a yearning to a simpler more prosperous time, an increasing belief that only God can provide the answers, that one-time beacon of personal freedom and democracy has devolved into a bickering, deeply divided nation of people unwilling to listen to those who disagree with them, doing whatever is expedient for political power and unable to find that middle ground – compromise – that was the way it used to be. As Mark Barabak (Los Angeles Times, June 15th) observes: “In [American] politics today, people don’t just disagree. They hate.” We are now a “flawed democracy” (according to The Economist applying their rating index) and a rogue state to most of the rest of the world. But does it have to be that way?
I’d like to present excerpts from House Speaker, Republican Paul Ryan’s June 14th post-Alexandria-GOP-baseball-practice speech, reflecting bi-partisan sentiments, as a ray of hope in a nation that seemed to be in the process of splintering itself into irreconcilable factions:
My colleagues: There are strong emotions throughout this House today. We are all horrified by this dreadful attack on our friends and colleagues, and those who serve and protect this Capitol. We are all praying for those who were attacked and their families…
We are all giving our thoughts to those currently being treated for their injuries at this moment. And we are united. We are united in our shock and anguish. An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us…
My colleagues, there are many memories from this day we will want to forget, and many images we will not want to see again. But there is one image in particular that this House should keep. And that is a photo I saw of our Democratic colleagues gathered in prayer this morning after hearing the news.
You know, every day, we come here to test and challenge each other. We feel so deeply about the things we fight for and believe in. At times, our emotions can get the best of us. We are all imperfect. But we do not shed our humanity when we enter this chamber.
For all the noise and fury, we are a family. These were our brothers and sisters in the line of fire. These were our brothers and sisters who ran into danger and saved countless lives.
So before this House returns to its business, I want us to slow down and reflect, to think about how we are being tested right now. Because we are. I ask each of you to join me in resolving to come together…to lift each other up…and to show the country—show the world—that we are one House. The people’s House—united in our humanity. It is that humanity which will win the day. It always will.
Can a malevolent attack motivate our leaders, our elected representatives, to reevaluate what it means to “get along,” to “compromise,” to take a leadership role in ending that totally destructive explosion of polarization that, sooner or later, would lead to the end of the United States as we know it? Or does this expression of unity wear off in a few weeks or a few days returning us to a deeply-divided and clearly unworkable body politic? Dare I hope?
I’m Peter Dekom, and we actually do have a choice to “Make America Functional Again.”