Fault Lines

These aren’t new ideas for me, though I’ve often tempered them when expressing them. I don’t mean to be fatalistic. No more so than Sisyphus, anyway.

First of all, I want to say that this isn’t about partisan politics, this is about the future of our country. I don’t mean to point any fingers, I am merely explicating the origins of so many of the problems we face as a society. Tragic deaths are far too often turned into political capital–that is the last thing I intend to do.

Plenty of people will say that gun control won’t solve any of these issues. They’ll talk about how “assault rifles” only mean “automatic rifles”. I don’t know why they do this. I suspect it’s a defense mechanism:  They don’t want to own up to the reality of the situation. They don’t want take responsibility for the pain and suffering of their fellow Americans, they want to be “self-sufficient”.

Self-sufficiency isn’t a virtue. I have absolutely no idea why we think it is (well, I do, but it mostly has to do with historic moral failings. That’s another discussion). We should all be a part of the same community. Shifting responsibility and hiding behind semantics isn’t just infuriating. It’s destructive. And it’s fucking pathetic and cowardly. We are all responsible for each other. When the hell did we all collectively forget that?

I don’t want to go down the gun control argument route. I’ve been down that path many times, and it doesn’t go anywhere, because Americans are ignorant and stubborn. I’m going to call our country out for something else, something much deeper, something that has been hiding beneath the surface for generations, something that is tearing our country apart.

I’m beginning to believe that many of these problems are insoluble, because we’ve failed on so many basic levels as a society. I don’t see any future for a progressive, liberal democracy in a country that is this incapable of learning and understanding its own history, this incapable of making changes, this incapable of doing anything except kowtowing to the agents of fear, hatred, and ignorance. We’ve been weighed down by the ignorant, hateful, intransigent, reactionary elements in this country for far too long.

They hide behind their ignorance and their self-sufficiency, claiming that they have no responsibility for anyone except themselves. “Mind your own business!” they say. Well, I’m fucking sorry, but we’re all in this together. We used to be part of a community. Our fathers and grandfathers and great-grandfathers fought for the unity of this country, they fought to create a liberal democracy where anyone was welcome and people would have equal opportunity, where liberty and justice weren’t just ideals, or weren’t just for the wealthy and privileged.

Well, they failed. They failed because there has always been an incredibly strong, incredibly violent, incredibly ignorant faction of white Americans who have resisted change at every point in our country’s history. Quit blaming the yuppies and the people born in the 80s and 90s for our problems; quit blaming the baby-boomers. The real problem in this country is ignorant white people, and the reactionary and destructive forces that they harbor, inculcate and spread.

Yes, every country has them. Unfortunately, because of our unique geography, and our bizarre system of checks and balances, these reactionary forces are localized in areas that give them an inordinate amount of control over millions of people’s lives. Reactionary elements in Germany don’t get to decide women’s health issues for millions of people. Racist factions in the United Kingdom are relegated to the sidelines because they’ll never have enough power in Parliament.

In the United States, however, we have people who have been uneducated and willfully ignorant for generations making decisions that adversely affect the lives of millions of Americans, both within their states and in other states.  We have people deciding the future of our country who couldn’t tell you the difference between Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who couldn’t explain to you how our system of checks and balances works, who can’t subvert their own opinions and ideas in order to do what is right for the country (an essential trait of any good statesperson; our system used to ensure that every presidential candidate had this trait, before we broke it beneath the weight of “direct” democracy), and who honestly believe that owning a firearm is a God-given right, that people shouldn’t have to help each other, and that the way to fix this country is to become more insular and reactionary.

Our country is largely controlled by reactionary, willfully ignorant people who have been co-opted by millennial (the original sense of the word) evangelism, fearmongering hate groups (the NRA), amoral and manipulative politicians (the Tea Party), and, now, finally, as the shit-icing on the shit-cake at the Grand ol’ Shit Party, we, as a country, have coronated a demagogic reality TV star as one of our candidates in our ceremonial once-every-four-years puppet show. Yes, I say “we”. Unfortunately, we, too, as decent human beings who want to progress towards a more inclusive world and want to strive continuously to improve the lives of other people are shackled with this decision, as we are shackled with very decision made by the reactionary elements in this country.

Think about that. That’s where we are as a country right now. Is that the country you want to live in?

Our country is broken. The communities in closest proximity to the white reactionary elements in this country are those that have failed the most. The economies in these areas are no longer dying, they are dead. The education standards in these places are abysmal, in some cases almost completely non-existent. And the people? They live in willful and painful ignorance, never given the resources necessary to pull themselves or their communities out of their self-created mire, stuck in a weak equilibrium of impotence and apathy, of fear and anger. They’ve been taught to believe that community is collectivism, that grace is weakness, that charity is unproductive, that love is reserved for your blood kin and no one else. They’ve been taught a Hobbesian tribalism, and it’s worked. Forget the stupid conspiracy theories. Look at the history of the Republican Party, and you’ll see a grand example of how to pacify and make ignorant an entire demographic of people, how to bend almost half of an entire nation to your will by playing to people’s emotions.

I honestly believe that the only hope for a progressive community in the United States is to break up into smaller republics. I have harbored this idea for some time, without giving it much credence. I have not been surprised by anything in the last eight months, though I have been disturbed by much of it. I believe our country is an experiment in the process of failing. We can hold on for a while longer—another generation at least. Perhaps demographics will be on our side, but as long as half of the population of this country is willfully ignorant and hateful, unable to change or compromise, controlled by spineless reactionary politicians who only care about votes and money, the hatred and the violence will continue. Change will happen too late, and, even after it happens, it won’t be backed up by substantial legislation or the weight of judicial rulings. But you better believe it’ll be influenced by lobbyists and gerrymandered legislative districts.

There’s no balance in this country between progressive and conservative forces. The conservatives win the vast majority of the battles. We are the most conservative developed nation in the world. I really wish there was some way that the good people in this country, who have been paying attention and giving back to it, who have been developing their economies and improving their education systems, could get out from underneath the yoke of the collective white ignorance in this country. Or is it our duty to drag the ignorant, reactionary elements of this country along with us, kicking and screaming, like we’ve been forced to for most of the history of this bloody country?


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