America is not a decent country. Not today. Sure, there are some decent people living here. Many, actually. But there is an atrocious number of indecent ones, too. Terrible people. If you don’t believe me, just watch the hate rallies our president holds. Just listen to the angry lies that roll off his tongue. The rallies are a spectacle I never dreamed I’d see in America. But I was wrong. About America.
But don’t stop there. Ponder for a second the billionaires and multi-millionaires who hoard their money while kids go hungry. And consider the ways we use our allegiance to capitalism to justify cruelty. Ponder the number of kids who go without a proper education or health care.
Ponder the fact that all the wealth creation over the past several decades has gone to the people at the top of the economic pyramid, while the average Joe hasn’t gotten a real raise (after inflation) in over 40 years.
Drive through the poorest sections of our cities. And through much of rural America that is mired in poverty. Consider how the system enslaves them with debt. Pays them a pittance for their labor. Denies them adequate health care. And forces their kids to mortgage their futures if they want a college education.
Ponder the immoral war we waged on Iraq and its people. Ponder the torture our intelligence and defense personnel perpetrated on our behalf — the war crimes and other atrocities committed under the Stars and Stripes.
Ponder the corrupt political system we tolerate. Indeed, embrace.
Terrible. Decadent. Indecent. It’s who we are. Or at least many of us. Enough to control things, at least.
Perhaps we’ll all terrible, including those of us who feel like we’re better. Maybe we simply can’t see our own indecency. I don’t want to think that. I hope it’s not true. But I know we never see the log in our own eyes. So perhaps it’s true.
Maybe it’s just the way it is, always has been and always will be. Maybe we were never as virtuous and noble as I had been led to believe growing up. Perhaps it’s simply a matter of the scales of naiveté finally dropping from my eyeballs.
Maybe it’s a matter of perspective. After all, there are many good people in our midst. Courageous people who do extraordinary acts of kindness every day. Maybe it’s simply a matter of looking in the wrong direction. And focusing on the wrong things.
But, of course, it can’t be just that. The indecency and despicable words and actions are not figments of anyone’s imagination. Lies and offensive, crude lies emanate from the White House daily in a way they never did before. From Republican Senators and Congressmen, too. And from Hedge Fund titans and bankers who care about nothing other than accumulating more wealth for themselves.
Conduct is accepted today — at least, by many of us — that would have been unthinkable — indeed, unimaginable — in years past. Utterly deplorable things. The conclusion is painful yet inescapable: we are becoming more terrible. More decadent. Far less virtuous.
Perhaps it’s just a phase. Perhaps something will occur to bring us to our senses and reinstall some sense of right and virtue into the fabric of the public commons.
But perhaps not.
Who knows? Surely, not I.
So what is one to do? What can one do?
I suppose one must start by not succumbing. Not allowing decadent, ascendant cultural mores to pull us in.
We must endeavor to be virtuous. Honest. And kind.
I also think it helps to be stoic. To develop the strength within. And maintain perspective. And focus on that which we can control.
And to experience joyful things. To immerse ourselves in situations and with people who make us laugh. With people we love and who love us. After all, love is the best antidote for the hatred and anger that undergirds much of the decadence we see today.
Personally, I find spending time with nature to be helpful. Nature is my church. It pays to attend regularly.
It also pays to serve. To give. To help. To sacrifice. To nurture gratitude.
Will any of this make a difference?
Perhaps not for the country. But most certainly for the individual.
Therein lies my hope: that there are enough kind, caring, and virtuous people left in my country to turn it around. If not in my lifetime, then at least in yours, Vera.
In the meantime, while we work to make things better, we also shall play. And laugh. And allow the gift of life to flourish within our souls.