It's actually 2016 here in Baltimore as I'm writing this. I'm fond of saying that years ending with a 6 have been lucky for me because, as a general rule, they have been. I find myself not so sure that this year will be a lucky one for this country. It may instead be the beginning of its end.
I'm not talking about the seemingly unending presidential race when I say this, although anyone who's watched the Republican side of this process, as it has unfolded through the media, might understandably believe that I'm referring to that. I'm not even talking about political leaders generally. I'm talking about we, the people, and our national temperament.
Our politics, the medium through which our democracy is supposed to mediate and resolve its problems, has become little more than a vehicle for dividing us to an extent that seem, at the moment, to be irreconcilable. This has happened as a consequence of more than thirty years of trickle-up economics. Give to those who already have so much, and those folks will transform it into more for all of us. That was the theory. It is not the reality.
The reality is that giving the folks who already had so much simply gave them the wherewithal to do what they have always wanted to do: to effectively purchase the rest of the country. This is so painfully obvious that even the poor, undereducated white male voters that make up the GOP base have turned on their former masters. Thus far, their former masters have kept them at bay largely by reminding them of how much both the exploited and the exploiters hate the people who act like they have all of the answers because, in fact, they do have many of them--educated liberals, who are also compassionate enough to help even people who hate them.
But this process of reminding hasn't restored the former unity between the exploiters and the exploited. It has simply filled the exploited with a burning desire to buy as many guns as possible, and shoot anyone and everyone they don't like, whether those people have a "D" or an "R" after their names. And it has even raised the question not only of whether democracy can survive, but also whether or not the United States itself can survive. You need only read articles like this one, as well as this one, to understand why I feel that way. I would be surprised if, after you read them, you don't feel the same way as I do.
And if in fact the U.S. were to break up into one or more nations, there is no guarantee that the breakup, or its aftermath, would be peaceful. It has been decades since this country has seen any kind of systematic violence from the left. But no one should think that the potential for that brand of violence to re-surface doesn't exist. That potential, right now, manifests itself in relatively small ways. But those small ways are the tip of a giant iceberg of anger among many on the left who feel, not without reason, that their nominal leaders have largely abandoned them.
Whither America in 2016? Jump ball, in my opinion. The proverbial hinge of fate could swing either way. No nation is guaranteed an indefinite life and, given the fact that decay is the natural order of things, no one should assume that our nation does not have an expiration date.
But, to borrow the last line of the movie "Gladiator," not yet, not yet. Or, at least, I hope not. Rather, I hope, and I pray, that this year ending in 6 will good for us all, as well as me.