Today I am getting serious. No jokes, no humor, just sadness and disgust. I am shocked and appalled by where we are today as a society. I cannot believe what I am seeing on the news each day. Every day I ask myself “How did we get here?”
I grew up during the days of the counter-revolution of the 60’s. In those days, minorities and women were fighting to establish their rightful place in society. In the 60’s there was definitely a feeling of “us vs them.” Both the liberal progressives and the conservatives felt strongly that their way was the right way. There was violence both in America and abroad as people fought for their right to live a life of equality.
Then, lines were crossed. The nation was shocked when they watched children killed in a church bombing; when dogs were called on peaceful protesters; and when political and social protest leaders were assassinated in a seemingly endless series of violence. The national shock over these occurrences caused our society to enact change. Eventually, laws were enacted that protected the rights of all people.
In the decades that followed, life settled down. There was always violence and behaviors that shocked, but the country seemed to be trying to treat everyone fairly. There was progress. At least, that’s how it looked from this white woman’s eyes.
Then, unrest started roiling again. Thanks to modern technology and social media, our country has been forced to look at the ugly underbelly of our society. Almost every adult in the country carries a cell phone which has a camera with video capability. As a result, we now see videos of interactions between people that in the past were a matter of one person’s word against another’s.
It’s winter time now and the racial divide always seems to settle down when the cold weather hits. However, every summer for the last four years has been rife with violence. We’ve seen videos of police brutality against black men and women of color whose punishment, up to and including loss of life, was far more severe than any infraction called for. Instead of outraging the country, these actions divided us. A line was drawn that either you were for the police or against them. I don’t understand why we can’t see that no one deserves to be killed for a traffic ticket, no matter whether they insult the officer ticketing them or not.
Our country once offered refuge to the huddled masses. Coming to America was the dream for people all over the world who were suffering unrest or abject poverty in their home country. There were times in history when it was a struggle for the new immigrants to be accepted, but they were still allowed in the country. I had thought that we had reached a level of acceptance in our country where we could accept and appreciate the diversity we enjoy.
Until it was decided that all Muslims were evil terrorists and that all Mexicans were taking our jobs. To say that all Muslims are terrorists is akin to saying that all Christians agree with the Westboro Baptist Church. To say that the Mexicans are taking our jobs would infer that the person complaining would be willing to earn a living doing strenuous physical labor. I sincerely doubt that even the most ardent conservative would agree that those can be assumed.
In 1999, there was a mass shooting at Columbine High School. Two disturbed students brought an arsenal of weapons to school killing 13 people and wounding 20 others before turning their weapons on themselves and committing suicide. It is a hotly debated subject as to exactly how many mass shootings have occurred in our country since then. I will go out on a limb and say one is too many.
We have had both parties in control of the White House and Congress and neither party has done squat about preventing more shootings. We are paralyzed by a debate on gun control and the 2nd Amendment. It is shameful that while politicians debate more children are dying. The Constitution was meant to be a living document and we should be able to adjust as technology takes us into areas our forefathers never dreamed of.
Our political parties are completely divided and no longer are willing to compromise. As a result, we have a political system that is accomplishing nothing. Bills are written without debate, and protecting your party seems to mean more to most of our national politicians than standing up for your country. Instead of Republicans and Democrats, I think our entire political system could be named the Paralysis Party.
It’s becoming more and more evident that the Russians hacked the 2016 elections. Donald Trump’s election was a product of that hacking, he may have willingly participated in the hacking, and he is doing his best to deflect attention from the intervention, but he did not create the situation. A society that gets its news from social media that feeds into a person’s bias gave the Russians a fertile field to plant their seeds.
When I was growing up, the media did it’s best to honor the pledge to be balanced when reporting news. Today we media set up to feed into specific political leanings. I make myself read reports of the same occurrence on both the liberal and ultra-conservative news sources; there are times I cannot believe I am reading about the same event. If all you ever watch or see is news that agrees with you, you are never going to be challenged to really think.
Unfortunately, this old woman doesn’t have a solution that will change these issues. It feels like no one wants to do anything unless it is the perfect solution. With respectful debate having been thrown out the window I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to reach a fruitful compromise, much less a perfect solution.
All I know is that 16-year-old me would have never believed what 60-year-old me is seeing.
(Originally published in February 2018 on my previous blog site, Jasmine Petals Thoughts, as “News Flash.” Artwork: This Too Shall Pass, Jean McGuire 2016)