Last Saturday Chris Arnade wrote this about the public discourse on Twitter (and, presumably, much of the political discourse in the country these days):
THIS COUNTRY IS GOING TO HELL!! (but it is not my fault)
This rant, and ones like it, are popular these days and, in fact, are fueling the candidacy of one of our presidential hopefuls.
Mr. Arnade went on to add:
That is the irony of a democracy: when shit goes bad it is both everyone’s fault and nobody’s fault.
When I was your age, Vera, the world was on the verge of nuclear annihilation. Or so some people thought. It didn’t happen. But of course it could some day.
No matter the age, we’ve had our share of doomsayers. And I suspect we always will.
People seem to like it. They even seem to wallow in it. Sometimes I think some people will be gravely disappointed if the wheels don’t come off and the entire fabric of society doesn’t come unraveled. Some people seem to long for the worst. They’d rather be right than pleasantly surprised to the upside.
I don’t know what our country will be like when you’re my age, Vera. No one does. About the only thing certain is, there will be some good times and some bad times between now and then.
It’s highly improbable we’ve seen our last major war. Or last threatening virus. Or last of anything that instills fear in people. Or that undermines our optimism.
In the meantime, the best we can do is to work to make the world a better place, not only for ourselves but also for our fellow earthly inhabitants, both present and future.
Of course, we differ in our opinions about what will make the world a better place. That’s to be expected.
But those differences need not cause alarm or despair or serve as an excuse for defeat. Rather, they are something to be addressed and worked through. That’s what caring and compassionate people do. Indeed, that’s what wise people do.
I have no reason to think our country is “going to hell.” But, if I’m wrong and it does (whatever that means), the fault will lay at our individual and collective feet.
“United we stand, divided we fall.” “We the people.” These are simple concepts, yet they remain illusive today, ripped from their moorings by the false gods of money, power and individualism, the same gods that have engendered a mean-spirited country these days.
You can’t help but cringe when you see some of the vitriolic, unfounded trash thrown about, even by people you’d think are smarter and would know better. But these are the times in which we live. People seem to get off by hating. And calling each other names. Bullying is now in vogue. Some people will say anything to advance their own selfish cause. We have fallen for false promises.
But this too shall pass.
The earth is a majestic, awe-inspiring abode. As I hike its mountains and gaze at its glorious vistas and skies, and walk in the footsteps of humanity’s ingenuity, dining on the fruits of our hard work and dedication, a feeling of immense gratitude overwhelms me.
I feel blessed to live in America. It wasn’t my doing; it just happened to be where I was born. You were lucky, too, Vera.
When I reflect on the country around me, I don’t think of hell. Sure, I see problems and challenges, but none is insurmountable. And none destroys the most worthy principles and values that undergird our democracy.
Neither individually nor collectively do the challenges confronting us convince me that we are doomed.
When I see the Twitter rants and the mean Facebook posts, op-eds and campaign diatribes, I wonder how we can experience the world so differently. I wonder how people can think that the antidote for despair is anger, hatred and lies.
When I spend time with you, Vera, it’s impossible to think our country is going to hell. But it’s easy to believe the antidote for despair is love.