Sunday, May 28, 2017

The War Has Started. Are We Willing To Fight It?

Perhaps I should say that it's re-started.  Or, perhaps I should acknowledge an uncomfortable but now inescapable fact.  The Civil War never really ended, any more than there were actually two World Wars instead of one with a two-decade time-out.  We've had a time-out of almost a century and a half, with a few intermediate skirmishes.  But it seems to me that the skirmishes are over and, from the pace of recent events, the actual combat has resumed.

Some of it is relatively low-level stuff, and even borders on the ridiculous.  Consider the recent incident in which a man, wearing one of Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" hats (the ones that are made in China, like much of Trump's merchandise), insisted on being compensated with three additional seats because he couldn't get a seat upgrade he had previously requested.  When his request wasn't honored, he decided to turn the confrontation he had created into a political war, as though wearing the hat made him a martyr--or, perhaps, as though voting for a billionaire entitled him to being treated like one.

Or consider this one, with slightly uglier language.  As you can see, Trump voters feel that their vote got them more than their man in office.  It conferred on them an unqualified right to behave badly in public, regardless of who they hurt or why.  Of course, as in the case of the Walmart incident, there were (and, elsewhere, are) very specific targets:  anyone who isn't white, basically.

And, sadly, the ugliness doesn't stop with language.  Nor does it stop with voters.

Consider this incident, from Trump's recent overseas trip, which he himself modestly described as a "home run" upon his return to the U.S..  On top of an arms deal with the nation that supplied most of the 9/11 attackers, and the revelation of more shenanigans involving the Trump family and the Russians, he berated the leaders of the European countries who served for decades as a buffer during the Cold War, and a home for many of our citizens (civilian and military), and culminated his misbehavior with this.  Somebody needs to tell him that wars have been started over less.  But, if you remember the violence that accompanied many of his campaign rallies, should you or anyone else be surprised/

And then, of course, there is this.  Not just an assault on a reporter by a candidate, but an assault on a reporter by a candidate that is subsequently justified by the media supporters of the candidate. Bias, it turns out, is not bias if it's on behalf of the conservative cause, or one of its candidates. But, perhaps, the saddest part about this story is the fact that the candidate won.  Granted, most of the votes were cast prior to the attack, But we'll never know exactly how many of the votes for the candidate were cast because of the attack.  And there's no doubt that some of those votes were cast for exactly that reason.

It is the Montana special election outcome, and the failure of many reporters to come to the defense of their attacked colleague, that should make all of us join The New Republic in wondering whether the institutions of democracy are strong enough to withstand the current assault.  And stop incidents like this one, in which we are sadly reminded that wars produce casualties.

Who should worry about this?  All of us.  The Civil War was originally defined by geography.  Today, technology has rendered geographic limitations meaningless.  The haters are everwhere.  And their hatred has no boundaries.

I'm reminded of the movie (and, later, the Broadway show) "Shenandoah," about a Virginia farmer who thinks that his family can afford to ignore the combat that surrounds them--until, sadly, they can't.

We are all that family now.  And we have no choice but to recognize it.

This is not a problem that is going to be solved by removing Trump from office, nor from any kind of "blue wave" that may or may not surface in next year's midterm elections.  I almost hate to say this but, at the rate at which our civilization seems to be deteriorating, it's an open question in my mind as to whether we will have midterm elections next year.

Does that seem like hyperbole?

A few years, or even months ago, would any of the incidents I've described here have seemed like anything other than hyperbole?  No doubt, but they aren't now.

There's a much more essential question right now.

Are you willing to fight?

Are you willing to sacrifice, as others have sacrificed before us?  That's what it may take.  And, on Memorial Day weekend, there's no better time to ask the question.

I hope the answer is yes for all of us.

I know it is for me.

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