When I was a wayward youth, gym class was my favorite period. All the sweating, the aggression, the cheating…..that was math class. Which I found exhausting. So gym was sweet relief. And my favorite gym periods came when the P.E. teacher - usually Brylcreemed and wearing poly-blend coaches’ shorts - wouldn’t try to corral us into formal athletic enterprises. He’d just roll out the balls and maybe go on a smoke break while letting nature take its course. Which usually involved us throwing those balls at each other’s heads. (It was the ‘70s/’80s, when both smoke breaks and schoolyard hooliganism were not only tolerated, but encouraged.)
This is the long way around the barn of saying I’m trying something new today: I’m rolling out the balls. (Not in a porny way.) Maybe even “building community,” as the cloying jargonistas say. In other words, if you’ve spent the last five months listening to me inflict opinions on you, it’s now your time to shine – to inflict your opinions on me. It’s what, in the Substack trade, they call a “discussion thread.” I like to think of this site as a free-to-fail space. (Next week, I’ll be uploading videos in which I Tuvan throat-sing the entire High School Musical soundtrack.) So if this works, wonderful. If it doesn’t, I’ll slink away like it never happened and return to my regularly scheduled bleatings. There are really no rules here. If you’ve not visited Slack Tide’s comments section before, it’s populated by civilized, thoughtful, occasionally irreverent readers of all stripes. Feel free to join in even if you’re not typically a comments section type of person. I will introduce a semi-provocative topic to kick the discussion off. But as the “slack” in Slack Tide suggests, we aren’t going to be sticklers about abrupt subject changes. If the conversation delves off into God or war or music or fly fishing or whatever comes, fine by me. As with any sprawling barroom discussion, there’s no need to be overly rules-conscious. But if anyone starts getting profane or abusive, I’ll revoke your free speech rights faster than you can say Vladimir Putin. If you want to get ugly, there’s no shortage of places to go on the internet. Just don’t do it here.
I will jump in and out with my own comments as the spirit moves. So you and I might very well get interactive. This is open to all subscribers (paid and free.) And if you’re not one or the other, you ought to become one here. (Preferably paid, of course.)
If you’re one of my media subscribers, don’t be shy about jumping in either. Mix it up with The People, elitists!
The kickoff question: Who or what broke America, and how do we fix her?
Two things leap to mind: 1) SCOTUS "interpreting" the Constitution. Reading into it and declaring things which are wholly absent from it (Roe v Wade). There are other extreme examples as well. 2) Mass media encouraging/supporting positions which are destructive of the very principles which made us the envy of the world--all for the mass media's profit. I was once as staunch an American Patriot as ever lived. Not so much over the last 15-25 years. Fix her? I don''t think this is possible. However, I do think an amicable split could be reached to avoid US civil War II and the loss of 10s of millions of lives. Our govt is, sadly, no more trustworthy than Russia's. Same goes for a large swath of our media... completely and irrevocably, untrustworthy. America's only hope is a great move of the Holy Spirit... resetting our media and govt moral compass.
Sorry I couldn't get here in "real time" and participate, but I enjoyed reading the comments and all my favorites were here, I would call your experiment a resounding success.
( My personal opinion is that it is a lot of things , all of which were mentioned, and my Pollyanna response is: hope and the (sane) people, like those here will lead the return...and being civil in a forum..it is contagious...I have already seen it grow...)
I would direct people reading this thread to the writings of Chris Ladd, of Political Orphans and before that, GOPLifer. He's written many pieces through the years, but a brief summary of his thoughts are as follows:
1. White privilege is very real in America, and confers on white Americans concrete, measurable, material benefits. Further, you don't have to support it, or even necessarily believe in it, in order to benefit from it.
2. White privilege has been something of a load-bearing member in the edifice of American democracy– a sort of "glue" holding parts of our society together by giving the people a unifying mythos. As a result, white privilege pervades things that most people don't even necessarily associate with race: public education, health care, union membership, religion and abortion, crime, the justice system, gainful employment, educational attainment, home ownership, home value, family net worth. In each of these areas, being white is (or used to be) either the most determinative factor or one of the most determinative factors in someone's success. And this is not a bug, but rather, a feature. Almost every single one of these items was set up to confer its greatest benefits on whites. That this is no longer the case, or that the reasons people continue to maintain this status quo no longer have anything to do with race is irrelevant. Racist systems set up by racist people for racist reasons can be maintained in perpetuity by non-racist people for non-racist reasons! In other words, the desire to discriminate may be gone, but if the system remains, it will continue to confer benefits on whites.
3. The last 40 years have eroded white privilege to the point that it is now in its death throes. Especially in large cities (and their suburbs) that have enjoyed all of the technological advancement and economic growth. White privilege's most ardent adherents are yesterday's winners and tomorrow's losers!
4. This has caused a huge chasm between urban and rural areas, as well as college educated people and everyone else. Since urban and college educated Americans no longer have any use for white privilege, they are no longer bound by it. They're leaving it behind, and in doing so, are "sawing off the rungs" of the socio-economic ladder to which working class and rural Americans have been clinging. This has caused the latter group to deeply resent and distrust the former.
5. But for all of its virtues in ending the white privilege paradigm, multicultural meritocracy has offered no new unifying mythos to replace the one that it eroded. So we're left with two factions: on the right, a Neo-Confederate cult that worships at the altar of white privilege, standing athwart the steam roller of modernity, yelling, "Stop" and willing to burn everything to the ground, in order to lord of the rubble if necessary; and on the left, a coalition of everyone else, trying to cobble together, among their members, a majority large enough to take power and govern.
Dang! I never knew you were a Tuvan throat singer. Let me know when you visit SW CO and we can sing Tuva to the trout. Works best on the Animas or small creeks. I’m a reverse snob regarding the San Juan below the reservoir. I’m mostly only using the Kargyraa, the bird whistle/nasal/head style- Sygyt escapes me. Tuvan is very visceral. C’mon out man!
Maybe it was slavery? Seems like you never really got over it. Without it the USA would certainly be a more homogeneous society.
Or maybe it was greed? The love of money is a root of all evil, as the Bible says.
America is not broke!! It’s beginning structures, with the benefit of hindsight, had some large holes and what could one expect given that the whole effort was to create the world’s largest democracy ever!! Even today the premises of our Bill of Rights underlies that which we seek become! Our current tensions can be seen as a much needed opportunity to continue the work needing to be done to realize America’s dream.
Of course then this all takes place in the stew of human fears sustained by the old hindbrain. We are lucky to have gotten this far.
Onward through the fog! Greg
I concur with Simple Man - great solid wisdom!
When G.K. Chesterton was asked on two separate occasions what was wrong with the world, he said “sin” one time and “me” the other (please don’t ask me to cite the source—I’m in the recliner. On these occasions, sloth is my favorite deadly sin). On all occasions, Chesterton said that what was right with the world was God. That still holds. But there are levels of human egregiousness. A suburban homeowner from the ‘60’s might inadvertently start a small lawn fire while burning raked fallen leaves in the gutter (ah, that long-lost autumn smell), while an arsonist would deliberately start a massive fire for nefarious ends. So while all of us are capable of messing up our beloved country, and do in our own special ways, not all of us are half a ton of stupidity and malice stuffed into a 300 pound orange meat sack hosing kerosene into a smoldering body politic to try to slake our own insatiable greed, malice, insecurity and narcissism while also hypnotizing a slavering sect of red-hatted mini-mes to go and do likewise. How do we fix our country? II Chronicles 7.14ff still holds true: “If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and heal their land…” If there’s another Great Awakening, it will first be preceded by a Great Contrition, which will be preceded by a rising recognition that true conservatism means holding fast to what is good and repenting of that which is destructive, which includes politico/religious cults. I’m already starting to feel pangs of remorse for the intemperate language of this post. But I’ll deal with those after I post this.
I too am a bit late to comment, but I have checked in this week to read comments and have pondered if I had anything significant to offer...
So here goes - what if, just what if, all is NOT broken? But rather in a terrible, uncomfortable state of change and flux, as often is the course of human history when dramatic change is occurring here on our planet?
I offer these quotes from the writings of Rebecca Solnit that also came across the airwaves this week:
"This is an extraordinary time full of vital, transformative movements that could not be foreseen. It’s also a nightmarish time. Full engagement requires the ability to perceive both.
Hope doesn’t mean denying these realities. It means facing them and addressing them by remembering what else the twenty-first century has brought, including the movements, heroes, and shifts in consciousness that address these things now.
It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not the belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. It’s also not a sunny everything-is-getting-better narrative, though it may be a counter to the everything-is-getting-worse narrative. You could call it an account of complexities and uncertainties, with openings.
Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes — you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting. It’s the belief that what we do matters even though how and when it may matter, who and what it may impact, are not things we can know beforehand. We may not, in fact, know them afterward either, but they matter all the same, and history is full of people whose influence was most powerful after they were gone."
I too came late the party. Many thoughtful and interesting insights. I'd say, though, hippies broke America. I would say improved and refocused classically liberal education would help fix her, but the hippies - and their philosophy - largely are in charge of the halls of academe.
I came late to this free play session so hopefully I'm not parroting somebody else's idea (I did do a quick scan). I would reference the book "Bowling Alone: Revised and Updated: The Collapse and Revival of American Community" by Robert Putnam. The TL/DR (see how I slipped the internet in there when the internet is DEFINITELY a significant part of the problem??) of the book is that we don't interact face to face in community as much as we did before the great age of Digital Information began. Now we hide behind avatars and bravely march forth as keyboard warriors to sling the filth at other nameless/faceless people. It's so much easier to vent one's spleen when the person doing the venting can remain relatively anonymous. How do I know that Matt's not actually a Russian Troll? (I mean other than the fact that my dad was stationed for 3 years in Lexington Park so I often read the articles waiting for some Maryland reference I can relate to so I give Matt the benefit of the doubt). When we would meet in person you could have a healthy debate because it's much harder to say dumb things to a person's face. You would have disagreements but you would also know that the person you disagreed with was another human, just like you. My dad voted for Nixon, Ford, Reagan but we had friends over for dinner that voted for McGovern, Carter and Mondale and nobody cared other than a gentle ribbing the winners would give the losers. With internet, social media and the like you could be as vile as you wanted to be and it was only a matter of time before people actually began to behave that way in public and now the extremists on left and right get all the press cycles (sometimes they are the press) and the vast silent majority is no longer just Nixon voters but people who long for the civilized age. We need to figure out ways to get out and socialize with people including ones who don't sit with us in our echo chambers and realize that everybody for the most part have plenty of common ground and voting for the person with the wrong letter after their name doesn't make one the enemy.
I do wonder if we in the West are collectively Nietzsche's Last Man: listless, sad, unsure of ourselves, only interested in being entertained, etc.
And I'd rephrase the question, and look at the West more broadly, and not just America. Because, well, just take a look at Europe. It ain't thriving.
So if it's broke (or in the process of being broken), it's a lot of things. Maybe it's the post-structuralists who taught us to question those grand, unifying narratives of ours (and to ultimately question truth itself). Maybe it's been the slow jettisoning of religious belief for secularism (which is just another religious belief, I'd say). I'm sure the slow but steady growth of government (and the almost slavish reliance on it that follows) has played a role. Maybe it was disco.
But I do also wonder about the effect of losing that one existential threat, the Cold War, that kept us, for the most part, united in the notion that good and evil did exist. (Okay, we can quibble on that.) We've always had partisan bickering and political feuds, but during the Cold War, Reagan and Tip O'Neill didn't seem to hate each other, and could sit down and hash certain things out.
So losing that (and I'm glad it's gone, obviously), what we had left was big government, and partisanship that became almost religious in orientation. A decade later, and our digital age gave us the ability to create our own virtual, self-curated selves on the web. We're designed to look beyond ourselves, to seek the transcendent. Can you find that on social media?
So short answer: It was Zuckerberg and the Commies.
F A C T I O N. And that genie is never getting pushed back into the bottle. To think otherwise is naive in my opinion. Because of it, I can’t ever see America getting “fixed”. America’s democracy is in decline and I believe faction is THE root cause. It’s sadly alive, well, and thriving.
It's difficult to keep a country as diverse as ours a democracy. It requires that everyone has a right to speak their mind and vote their choice and the changes in the last 50 years in how the news is presented, every single minute, is mindblowing. FOX is on from morning to night in many homes I enter now to socialize and visit. When I was younger not only wasn't that the case but news came on in the early morning and then again at dinner and in NY again at 10pm Seemed to be enough for most people. As life went on, and heated debate happened about how we should respond to events in our lives, much changed. I remember when the clique of Southern Senators told Johnson they'd vote for his bills but he'd pay the price.....the Democratic party of the south was done....and so it was. For me that was the beginning of the end of diverse working together on bigger issues. Women's Rights and the Vietnam War exacerbated an already fractious world, at least mine. Still, their was civility and friendships. The end truly came when everyone was walking around with a internet phone and cable news. Just some ideas. Fix it isn't easy and requires overlooking national politics and seeing what each of us can do in our town, city and state.....Republicans and Democrats used to be happily married to each other.....not so much now. Got to go to take care of life in my home.
As a member in good standing of the Boomer generation, I take some responsibility in helping to screw up the country. We were too greedy with Social Security payouts and we inflicted the hippie subculture on the world. We wanted revolution without consequences. And life doesn’t work like that. There are always consequences. Finally, Boomer pols have stayed in political office too long. Maybe there were too many of us.
On the other hand, there was/is rock n’ roll. The Dead, Led Zeppelin and the Allman Bros. We ended the Cold War and started in on Vietnam. Growing up, I was, as they now call it, a free-range kid. My mother said to be and my brother: Go outside and play. Come back for lunch and dinner. Now parents are accosted by child welfare for letting kids play.
These days everybody’s uptight. You say the wrong thing and people are in your sh*t. Cancelled.
People ought to lighten up and let people lead their lives in peace a quiet. We need more of the good ol’ pioneer spirit. More independence. Take care of your neighbors.
I don’t have a good solution to societal disintegration. If you’re a parent, teach your a little patriotism with a recognition of our faults. Save your pennies. Follow Poor Richard Almanac’s precepts: “Early to bed, early to rise makes a man...” Be upright. Work hard; play hard. Have good friends. And, for goodness sakes, stay away from the law.
Be civil with others..
We do like to hear ourselves talk, don't we?
Having said that, I'll be brief. The answers: Hugh Hefner & the so - called "Sexual Revolution" The fix: all people residing in the U. S. should be required to read "The Screwtape Letters."
An old Poem .
The Redcoats are coming the Redcoats are coming !!
Kill an overpaid cop -- Join the Tea Party.
They dont call them PIGS for nothing;
first to the trough.
After the Revolution read your Whiskey Rebellion history,
where GW & Alexander(central bank)Hamilton
slammed a federal excise tax on the poor corn farmers
& backed it up personally with the military force !They are not patriots they are revolutionaries.
As was the case the first time , this time also the Tea Party will lead to the destruction of the nation.
Though both the latter & the present were not against their mother country they naively thought
that they could have a revolution without separation, killing bloodshed, violence, war.
If you do not know history it will repeat itself.
NO THE TEA PARTY DOES NOT LIKE AMERIKA It is a sick bird; AN ILL EAGLE !!!
Also for goodness sake, ENLARGE THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. I think after 2+ years of freaking Zoom meeting for everyone else, our august citizen-leaders could take one for the team and, I don't know, expand the house to like 7000 or 8000 members. It's quaint and adorable that we have this old fashioned notion that all of the House members need to share meatspace together. Maybe in the 19th century, dude. But, _move over bacon, there's something meatier_ (twss)
Then all of the crazy lunatic fringe could get their nutjobs on OAN every night and we could get back to the business of running the country.
I'm gonna go with 24 hour news cycle and cable news networks. That's the point when politcs became _performative_ and not about, y'know, government.
A democracy requires free, fair and extensive voting AND accurate information on both candidates and the current condition of the country. If any of these fail, the democracy fails. Gerrymandering voting districts to fractions of a person, restrictive local and state voting requirements, done under the ruberick of election integrity when there is no evidence of a failure of integrity, fictitious news posts masquerading as truth, money at the truly Drug Lord level poured on various candidates and an increasingly polarized electorate made dumb by their partisan political intransigence. I could go on. This is not a deep and abiding mystery. This is America today, you had better enjoy it because it will not be the America of next week. Chris Wileys book, Mindf**ked, is really an essential read. Don't put too much stock in the characters of the time - there is no candidate for public office not doing the same today. And you, my fellow reader, are the target.
Madalyn Murray O'Hara, Artificial intelligence and it’s Algorithms.
Growing up (I’m 37) my parents or society in general seemed to abide by a common social rule, you generally don’t discuss politics or religion. I’ll stick to the politics side because I don’t really know or ever talk about religion. I don’t know when, or if, that norm existed and/or was broken, but for at least the past 5 years, it seems we look and talk about basically everything threw our politician world views. Obviously there are times when politics are important to discuss, and perhaps I’m just too young to know any better, but it sure seems to me that no matter what the issue is, both sides pick their sides and go from there. As a result, whenever I’m discussing whatever the issue of the day is with someone, I can guess with something like 85% accuracy who they voted for in 2020. And because of this, often times simple discussions about trivial issues can turn political, real fast, which in my experience isn’t good for anything, as most people are pretty entrenched in their political views with no room for persuasion, hence the norm that I vaguely remember of keeping your politics to yourself. It seems to be uniquely American as well. I lived in Mexico for 10 years, which also coincided with beginning of covid. Among the hundreds of conversations I had with friends and family in law, covid related issues never turned on politics, they generally stayed to actual merits of masks, vaccines, what activities should air be doing, etc, without some diatribe about whatever AMLO happened to think on the issue. Where as when I would log into my American generated twitter feed, those same issues tended not to debated on the merits of a shutdown, or mask mandate, or whatever, but rather “owning” the other side, whichever you were on. Anyway, I ramble a lot, but I wish we didn’t paint politics over every issue of the day, and could have more honest debates about x,y or a without first checking what our teams position is and then arguing backwards from there.
When political service became a job. To be a politician used to mean service to one’s country. It was something done temporarily, before you returned to your ‘real life’. Now it serves to feed one’s family (or line one’s pockets). It has become a way of living for many (most?) politicians. A career. And because they now depend on it, they will fight for it, no matter what the cost. This means they are now more susceptible to lobbying, influence and bribes and less concerned about serving the people and country they swore to protect. The answer? Term limits, across the board. Two terms max, with no chance for re-election beyond the limit.
To the original question, Boss:
We’ve trended poorly for a while. The point when the “conservative” party in the US — which purported to value CHARACTER — shoved all in for Trump?
I’d say that was it.
Anyone who watched the news from 2017 forwarded, and voted Trump in November 2020?
YOU voted for January 6.
Well. Having arrived for gym class after a day of blue-collar math, working class physics and industrial arts projects, I thought I'd take a quick look to see what direction the balls took since they were rolled out this morning, and if any from-behind-the-shoulder headshots had welted a noggin or bloodied any noses. A quick scan reveals no blood, no welts and no seriously bruised egos in need of a towel full of ice. So far. But since it takes a minute or three to even semi-seriously run a pair of eyeballs over a couple hundred plus nuggets of wisdom, I may have missed a detail or two. But I did discover that the monkey wrench thrown into the gears of America could have been anything from the 17th Amendment (I'd have gone with the 18th, but then we came to our senses and ratified the 21st, so I guess that's out) to all things internet (surprise surprise) to Romney's failed 2012 campaign (no surprise) to Bro Country music (you call that music?) to Rupert Murdoch...wait, Rupert Murdoch? But he's not even an Americ...oh, yeah, Fox News. Sorry. I'm old and sometimes forget things.
Anyway, there seem to be more than enough reasons and culprits responsible for America's sorry state of disrepair. And they've been enumerated and parsed and discussed in a pretty thoughtful, respectful and an even civilized way.
What the hell is wrong with you people?
I loved gym class. Especially when Mr. O stepped out not only to smoke but to flirt with that cute English teacher. Funny how her break always coincided with his gym class instead of his history class. The only rule at such times was "Don't break anything". At least in the way of school property. So in that spirit, let me weigh in on who / what broke America. Heads up...comin' atcha'
America is not, in fact, broken. Your car isn't actually broken if it's still running and drivable. The check engine light may be on, and the muffler may have fallen off. But that means a problem with a couple of component parts, not the entire vehicle. It may be running a little rough and making a lot of ugly noise, but if it's still rolling down the road under its own power, well it's not really the vehicle that's busted.
And America, not being a run of the mill production model but rather a concept vehicle, has a lot of complicated component parts to deal with, some of them quite exotic due to their cutting edge design, even though some of that design may be perhaps less than optimal after a couple of centuries and then some. There aren't any off-the-shelf replacements available if one of them starts causing a problem, and no warranty to pay for them or a mechanic, even if they were. But the basic design and build job are indeed sound.
I'll admit the check engine light is flashing red instead of yellow, and the noise is getting uglier by the day. But the test drive we've been taking is still under way, in spite of all the detours off the main drag. So, while I will readily say that we definitely need to become more skillful, resourceful and dedicated mechanics and, as every generation before us has done, find a way to make the needed repairs to those parts causing the problems, I will not go along with the idea that America is truly broken until it no longer moves at all on the road of freedom and liberty that its designers and builders set it on all those generations ago. Nope. Nope nope. Not gonna', and you can't make me.
This head now available for pot shots.
The over-insertion of religion into politics, and politics into religion is what broke America. It’s crushing both civil society and organized religion. In keeping with the spirit of your opener, lets get back to the days of my religion being my business, everyone else’s religion being their business. The actual separation of church and state as discussed in JFK’s speech to the ministers in Houston in 1960. We were all better off when we could be as “religious” on a particular subject as we wished. We can go back to whipping red playground balls at each other too. It certainly kept people on their toes, and there was less obesity. I can do without the smoke breaks, but you do you.
If anyone or anyone is to blame it is all of us for not demanding better leadership. I mean is it really too much to ask for aspirational and positive vision from our leaders? Apparently so, as no one requires it and both sides now play to grievance.
She's not broken, she's just ebbing and flowing like she always has.
Maybe John Dewey and the advent of “progressive” education.
The question to America is in short: "Who Hurt You?"
Well, Matt, I've put a lot of thought into this, and written much of it down. Here's one such missive.
Based on history alone, it appears it is much better to be the leader of a totalitarian government than it is to be, say, a homeowner.
The difference is astounding.
When you invade a country, you’re deemed a hero and a powerful strategist if not also an evil leader. The same is not true with homeownership. At least not in the suburbs. When you extend your fence beyond the surveyed property lines, or perhaps annex a part of the driveway entrance by parking your car in front of it, you’re not considered a hero or a dictator. You’re just considered a dick.
For those of you evaluating your future career options, including taking a role as a dictator, perhaps one of the biggest considerations is that if you are a traditional suburbanite, you can’t assassinate your neighbor for not properly caring for their lawn the way you think they should, or for placing the fence at a distance from your house you don't think is far enough away. But as the leader of a powerful country, you can do so, seemingly with impunity.
Nonetheless, people are taking to invasions before diplomacy these days, not just in the suburbs, but across the world.
Let’s say that your HOA has a rule against storing toilets in the backyard of one’s private property after uninstalling them. It seems more common for HOA leadership to forgo community improvements and snow removal in exchange for suing the homeowner with a shitter in their yard–instead of just having a cup of coffee and a conversation with them to propose a plan on how they can live in peace.
Now, I can’t say if this is based on a true story, but you suburbanites–you know what I’m talking about. Sooner than anyone would have a friendly conversation with a neighbor, they’ll serve papers (and I’m not talking about toilet paper).
So as the duly elected official who gets the benefit of not only tendering the most votes, but also receiving the most votes, you have the opportunity to exercise your power over the person who has to do his own plumbing between work days to make ends meet.
It must be nice to be a dictator.
Listen, sometimes swift and decisive action needs to be taken. From time to time, you may need to drive your semi-truck to the capital to make a point, and if there is enough funding, you might need to set up camp for several weeks. Maybe even with a professional sound system and hired speakers to rally a crowd.
Taking the offensive strategy makes sense to the person who’s angry, but before you know it, the offensive strategy may cost you more than the original infraction you are complaining about. Just ask the three guys sentenced to life in prison for killing Aumad Arbury for jogging in a white neighborhood.
Hindsight is twenty-fifteen. I only say that because over the last several decades, I’ve had nearly perfect (or slightly better than perfect) vision, and plan on it never degrading. But when I look back on life and examine the ways I did what I believed I needed to do to make a point, or the times I made an example out of someone, no matter how right I was, it usually did nothing to solve the problem. In so many cases, when I could see the details more clearly with twenty fifteen vision, it would have been better to have a beverage with the person I was at odds with. Much like the beer summit of 2009. Despite then Vice President Joe Biden drinking a non-alcoholic beer, the gesture diffused what could have been a major dispute based on matters of race and jurisdiction.
Unfortunately, the race riots of 2020 were an example of things going in a much different direction. 2020 saw too much of this sentiment, only to be capped off with an invasion of the US capital.
Swallowing your pride is hard to do.
On the 28th of June in 1914, the Archduke of Austria, Franz Ferdinand was pursued by members of Young Bosnia, a revolutionary movement. After attempting to bomb the Archduke and his wife on a drive to the Governors house, the grenade lunged at them leading to unsuspecting people nearby being injured instead.
When the two went to visit the injured in the hospital a Young Bosnian assassin, Gavrilo Princip came upon them and took his opportunity. He shot the Archduke’s wife in the abdomen, followed by the Archduke himself in the neck. The two died shortly after, igniting World War I which killed 40 million people.
I don’t know what this tells you about running an HOA or Canadian trucking company. Or your dictatorship for that matter. I’m simply saying it is worthy of reflection to determine if the cost of making a point through offensive tactics is worth the price.
And is it necessary?
It only takes one Franz Ferdinand assassination to start a World War, but it takes less than two non alcoholic beers to end one.
The Algorithm. More than just "the internet." People have always had to choose what to read, digest, and believe no matter what the media was, is, or will become (although it's true we're in hyperdrive now). I remember when Facebook (I'm oldish) was just about finding old friends and having OMG's together. Then I started getting Walmart posts. I was so naive -- I tried to remember when I had accidently followed Walmart. The scales fell -- Oh! They are just trying to make money! -- I learned the word "monetize." Then I learned about "feeds" (apt description, that). You like this?!? Watch this!!! Are you mad about this? Well, let us show you what rage looks like!!! Many of us no longer know that you need an anchored tether to pull yourself out of a hole. You have to know you're in a hole, for starts. We are being spoon-fed whatever seems to give us the jollies until we are bloated with rot and can no longer climb. I have a friend who is now questioning why we're still getting Polio vaccines. She listens to "recommended" podcasts. Good Heavens.
Roe V. Wade. Liberals scored one of their greatest victories ever with Brown V. Board of Education, but sadly the lesson they learned was "Hey! We don't have to worry about changing hearts and minds, or even winning elections. All we need are the courts." If Roe V Wade had gone the other way, abortion would have worked its way through state legislatures one by one. There would have been tough fights. There would be more restrictions than liberals like, and abortion would be more available than the pro-life side wanted. But we would have decided it the way it should have been decided: through the legislative process. Each side would present its argument repeatedly and the voters would elect representatives to decide it. Instead the left has stood smugly by pointing at Roe V Wade and taunting opponents that they couldn't do a damn thing. And the right has respnded by taking a sledge hammer to the Supreme Court. And it's broken us. Supreme Court appointments used to be boring. Now they're a blood sport. And each side keeps upping the ante. First it was Bork. Then Clarence Thomas. Each confirmation gets uglier and more partisan. Nobody cares anymore if the appointee is qualified. All that matters is "Are they on MY SIDE when it comes to Roe V Wade. And we've degraded ourselves in the process of the fight. Feminists were all to willing to turn a blind eye to the egregious sins of Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton, all because they were on the RIGHT SIDE of the abortion fight. So, they sexually harassed some women. Left one to die in a car trapped under water. Possibly committed rape. But they voted to keep abortion legal so the hell with the rest. And the religious right whored itself out in service to the most profane man to ever occupy the oval office. So what if he brags about grabbing women by the pussy? We need those judges! Babies are at stake here! We will support anything or anyone. We will ignore any crime or any sin. Just give us those judges so that we can keep/overturn Roe V Wade.
The 24 Hour news cycle. That is a hungry beast. And after 15 minutes, when they are through recapping whatever disaster de jour is top of the list; throw in another 10 for weather and sports. Then they start on their opinions about just about everything. The bulk of the CNN, MSNBC, and Fox content is just what the talking head of the hour considers “Possible”. Seasoned with how they feel about things. Just Trash. No wonder people think that feelings rank up there with facts.
Politically…..gerrymandering is the root of all evil….
Watching the short video where some poor kid took a really hard one directly to the "cookie jar" triggered a terrible flashback for me.
I was primarily a school administrator but I liked to "keep my hand in" by teaching a couple of afternoon classes of Phys. Ed. for the middle school kids. In addition to the fact that they needed it, I told myself that it gave me a more "non-authoritarian" relationship with the students.
One time before beginning a unit on floor hockey I went out and found some special foam pucks. They were about four inches across - very soft and none threating. When I introduced them to the students I squeezed them and bended them to demonstrate their softness. Then spontaneously, I did a back-handed wrist flip toward a row of students sitting along the wall.
The big fat puck sailed like a frisbee and hit a student right on the very tip of her nose. I don't think that I could duplicate that shot if you gave me a whole year to practice it. The girl emitted a surprised sound and clasped both hands to her face. When she finally took her hands down there was blood everywhere!
The girl was fine and her parents were very understanding. There was no mal-intent; it was a totally freak event - which I had long ago suppressed - until I saw that video!
We are broken, and there are three touchstone moments when our undoing began. The first was the assassination of JFK in 1963. The Warren Commission did a lousy job of covering up the truth about what happened and people began to be skeptical of government. The next was Ronald Reagan affirming the government was an enemy for Americans when he said the scariest words in the English language were, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help." The third was what happened on a Texas prairie when the ATF raided the Branch Davidian compound and began killing people without justification. David Koresh was a crazy religious nut, but several previous investigations by Texas state government found he had not violated any laws; there was no evidence of child abuse or illegal weapons. People were there because they had chosen it as their religion and believed his garbage, all of which is enabled under our constitution. But then the tanks rolled in and children died in a fire. The Oklahoma bombing was a consequence of what happened at Waco and the distrust of government has only grown. When a society no longer believes in its basic organizing principle, it is doomed. We don't. We cut funding for our most basic of institutions and invest only in defense and warfare. We deserve what we are allowing to happen.
I don’t know if we are broken. We’ve been worse. We’re no longer enslaving people to grow our crops, lynching people to enforce a racial apartheid, denying Chinese folks citizenship, forcing Native American children to act white, denying women the vote and the right to contract, making war on Philippinos in the name of empire, interning Japanese citizens, sterilizing people in the name of genetic purity, saluting the Nazi flag in Madison square garden, or jailing people for having sex with people of the wrong gender
But we could be better. We stopped joining things and we turned politics into a religion where the other side isn’t just wrong but demonic. Turn off and tune out the merchants of outrage and join a church, a softball league, a food pantry, a knitting club, or the Rotarians. That would help.
Everyone thinks it Roger Ailes and Fox News . But I think it was unwittingly Ted Turner and the quest for the 24 hour News channel . This created the jones that could not be fed by real news, nor real journalists !! So we get drama and personalities !! And a jones to push the envelope. It’s like a video Enquirer !! It was so much easier when I could just ignore it at the checkout !
How so we fix…Read more,watch less !!
And learn to be civil once again.We can disagree all day but when I want to punch ur lights out… then I have crossed that line . And calling a guy a moron probably not helpful either (he may well be BUTI need not say that).
Novel huh ?
Okay, Matt - you asked for it.
1. Rebellion against the Crown - was it really necessary?
2. Separation of church and state - freedom of religion has morphed into freedom from religion
3. The assassination of Abraham Lincoln - "With charity toward all and with malice toward none"
3. Freeing the slaves - without any follow-up effort to integrate them into white society - just leaving them to fend for themselves - and then resenting it when some eventually succeed.
4. Reconstruction excesses in the South - which led to the Klan and the rise of racism
5. The Klan and the rise of racism
6. Professional sports - where people earn millions for producing nothing we really need
7. Hollywood - where people earn millions for producing nothing we really need
8. The music industry - where people earn millions for producing nothing we really need
9. Diversity-Diversity-Diversity; without a shared agreement on truth and morals
10. The private (special interest) funding of elections rather then public funding
11. Political parties, the partisanship that accompanies them, and the control that party chairpersons have over the legislative and the confirmation process
12. General political hot-doggery and posturing any time a camera is turned on
I have others, but this is probably more than enough to get me lynched.
I’m voting for Rupert Murdoch. He did a pretty good job breaking the UK, too. We should revoke his citizenship and shun him. Since he bears such a resemblance to William Hearst, maybe we can strap him onto a sled (arms and legs restrained), send it hurtling down an Olympic ski run and see what happens. That wouldn’t fix America but I think I would enjoy seeing it and probably many others would as well.
Seriously, I would suggest teaching civics, financial literacy and personal plus communal responsibility every year from K-12.
I posit that most of the difficulties discussed below tend to be caused or exacerbated by the significant concentration of wealth that has occurred over the past several decades — this has correlated with (caused by?) the increasing influence of money (wealth) in politics and policy.
Thanks for listening.
I’d rather be fishing. 👍
Qualified immunity didn’t break America, but it sure isn’t helping. It enables any government employee to do whatever they want without any legal consequences except for the most egregious acts (like killing somebody). Police brutality, rogue CIA and FBI agents, obstructive regulators, bad teachers, crooked cops, etc would all improve if the people responsible were held accountable.
"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."
John Rogers, American screenwriter
My vote is for Ayn Rand. Her screwed up meritocratic delusion has inspired more victims of Dunning-Kruger Effect than the idiotic digital games that make people think they could be real, no-bullshit warfighters.
Her vision of noble self-sufficiency and the victimhood of the gifted has made every person who says "I want to talk to the manager" think they are on a crusade of righteous rightness. In the end, it has left us a group of individuals who see no value in the shared vision; the trust in those of us who see the same aspirational future and who are working to achieve it; the belief that more for you does not mean less for me; the willingness to be inspired by leaders who face the same confusing and contradictory dilemmas but who wade in with confidence that we can overcome together; the hope that even if we don't live to sit in the shade of the tree we are planting, someone . . . our children, our grandchildren, anyone who needs to rest . . . will.
Has our atomization, our abandonment of community, our fear and mistrust, taken us so far apart that we are just loose molecules without meaning and purpose?
Maybe Zelensky has shown us what we are remembering, missing now? God helps us, does it require existential threat? And if it does, who would wear our green T-shirt?
First thing that came to mind was Trump and his enablers, including but not limited to political cronies in D.C., right wing media like Fox and OANN, Facebook and dark money PACS. Fix it by holding him accountable. It appears that he may never be and will return to the White House in 2024 if that doesn’t happen. It sickens me.
Something broke America? Dang. Why didn't anybody tell me?! I had plans for it this weekend. Please: put up an "Out of order" sign or something.
UPDATE: Ok, misunderstanding: MORE broken now.
Is it though? Materially we're doing OK. My mother didn't have indoor plumbing or electricity as a kid.
In previous eras, I would have been dead many times over, from my many ailments.
I heard the N-word every day of my senior year of high school. (With reference to other people.) Women were treated....
I think America's broken DIFFERENTLY than it used to be.
If I had to name one factor? Technology. A cursing in disguise.
(Except: See above.)
Facebook and Twitter
I'm generally against monocausal explanations because there are many such "hinge moments" in our recent history: The Kennedy assasination, Vietnam, the Clinton Impeachment, 9/11, to name a few. But in my mind, the thing that unleashed the furies was the touching of the orb by Trump, the Saudi King and al Sisi. Google it. It'll blow your mind.
Bro-Country Music broke America. Luke Bryan. Sam Hunt. Florida Georgia Line. “Shake it for the birds, shake it for the bees, shake it for the catfish down in the creek… country girl shake it for me” was the line that sealed the deal with the devil.
That and premature Christmas decorating.
“Me first!” broke America. The idea that my rights, my freedoms, my religion always trump yours. The greater good means nothing anymore. Compassion for those less fortunate? Nope, they’re losers and lazy. Welcome other races or refugees to our neighborhoods? Oh hell no, ya can’t trust ‘em, they want what’s mine! Take a damn shot? Not on your life. I can go on and on. We’re a selfish, greedy bunch and it’s getting worse. How do we fix it? Too late for the adults. Maybe if we could instill it in our children in the schools…oh wait…the adults would ban the books. Never mind.
Well bless my soul what questions.
Thank you to every soul here who has given your thoughts and ideas.
I am gaining insight from every single one of you.
I confess I am not ready to venture mine.
Am actually in the thick of writing a book on my dream for America.
How I believe we all can become strong, free and loving builders.
Am wrestling every day with all these questions.
So I am taking a rain check and chickening out at the same time.
But I respect each of you who have had the guts to speak up.
Have to share with y'all that I actually dreamed last night
that I was in a room with all us readers of Matt!
We who comment and communicate with each other here.
We were sitting together on the floor.
I suddenly felt a compulsion to speak,
my thoughts welling up in me as I rose.
I had been thinking constantly about the suffering
of the people in Ukraine (which I do),
and as I got up these words poured out of me
with great urgency and feeling:
"I'm sorry, but I must speak...
We are all ONE!!!!!!!" I cried out to you.
I was trying to convey
that we the American people
and they the Ukrainian people...
we the freedom loving people of ALL the world...
We are ONE now!!!
This attack on Ukraine IS our wake up call!!!
We have this golden opportunity to overcome our brokenness
as we unite to stand up and defeat this butcher, this psychopathic dictator.
And as we do, we must also stand up to and defeat
the would be dictators in our own country
and the extremists at both ends of our political spectrum
who attempt to break and intimidate and silence all balanced and tender voices.
I believe in your capacity and mine
to rise and rebuild our unconquerable center.
Together let us give our beloved America a new birth of freedom.