I’ve spent most of the day asking myself that question, filled with such a deep sadness it hurts to my core. Why is this happening? What drives someone to inflict such horror and destruction on perfect strangers? This is certainly not the America I grew up in.
I don’t know the answer. Whether this was home grown or not, it is not simple. But I do know we won’t fix it with a government that has divided us, while replacing decency, principle, and doing what’s right for America and others with greed, corruption, and doing right only for themselves. It’s no wonder despair has replaced hope for so many.
With few exceptions, nearly every experience is easier and/or more enjoyable if we are fit and well-nourished. Whether we are playing, working, fending off disease, or surviving a disaster or accident, being in shape helps us both enjoy the good and cope with the bad, and can make the difference between an average or exceptional life, or be the deciding factor in whether we live or die. So why do so many of us choose to be slugs?
In ever-increasing numbers, today’s first-world human is a physical wreck. Modern life has gotten so easy as to nearly eliminate any activity that would cause us to perspire, and the majority of the food consumed is a nutritional nightmare. Most people have heard the expressions, ‘You are what you eat’ and ‘Use it or lose it’. Never have these been more relevant than today. The human body needs more than a greasy hamburger and carbonated sugar water to continually rebuild itself, and bones and muscles only stay strong through use.
The villain in all this seems to be our innate drive to make life more comfortable and to taste better. Madison Avenue, not giving a damned about our personal well-being, has turned that against us to make a profit, resulting in a population addicted to sugar, salt, soft chairs and TV, and we are suffering from a growing list of chronic lifestyle diseases with barely enough strength and energy to climb a couple flights of stairs.
If you aren’t happy with what you see in the mirror, you might consider another of my favorite expressions: ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ Nobody will fix this for us. It’s mostly our choice if we want to do it for ourselves, but the deeper we sink into the couch, the harder it will be to get out.
This morning’s news was consumed by stories about the shooting at the Congressional baseball practice. This was a horrible incident, and my heart goes out to those injured. I wish them a speedy recovery.
I am both shocked and saddened, but there really is no surprise. An angry despair has spread across America. A despair caused not by some external influence, but one from within. Once one of the most respected institutions on Earth, our Congress has devolved into nothing more than a bickering, partisan mess driven by systemic corruption and lack of integrity, with members worried more about campaign contributions than solving the country’s problems. Their approval ratings are at historic lows.
This is being felt internationally as well. A friend in Germany recently said to me, “… there is some sort of vacuum where US leadership used to be. And that is a potentially dangerous situation. … the new star is China. [The US has] handed world leadership to them on a platter. And they gratefully accept since they anyhow see these last few hundred years as a fluke. Otherwise China always has been the greatest nation in the world. So that’s where we’ll all have to look in the future.”
I believe incidents like yesterday’s shooting are driven by a sense of hopelessness, a feeling that we can’t fix this. A lack of hope causes people to either give up or it drives them to extreme actions. We are seeing both. Initial reports of the shooter indicate he was emotionally distraught, in part due to this governmental chaos and associated divisive rhetoric.
As expected, we are already hearing about how to provide better security for members of Congress, including increased police and Secret Service details. It seems to me, however, the best security would be obtained simply by Congress cleaning up their mess. Maybe by becoming respectable again, by eliminating the corruption, stopping the petty politics, and getting back to actually working for America (and setting a good example for the world) fewer people would be compelled to violence through desperation. And just think of the problems we could solve.
President Trump tweets almost daily, bragging about how big he thinks his dick is, but it has been five days since the hatred-motivated shooting in Olathe, Kansas, and he has yet to even acknowledge publicly that it happened. This is all we need to know to understand the measure of this man. It is not OK. Not for me, not for any of us.
A good friend who is a citizen of New Zealand recently asked me that, becoming aware of the growing ‘separatism’ here in the US over our politics. My response to her:
It seems a number of factors have come together to form the ‘perfect storm’ over here, but my personal belief is it’s driven mostly by the systemic corruption that has taken over our government. I understand that corruption has always existed, but big money has now become the primary incentive motivating our elected officials, leaving the business of working for ‘the people’ as a mere footnote, and almost everyone is feeling the effects and is sick of it. And even though we have this common cause, our two-party politics has created this great divide as each side points fingers at the other. The adult skills of listening and compromise have completely been forgotten as the sides get more deeply entrenched. … Even the media has taken sides, with money driving the need for better ratings, and each source pandering to their chosen side of the divide. It’s very frustrating these days to simply figure out what the truth is. … And then there is this recent election, which was more about voting for the lessor of two evils rather than for whom you liked, simply because decent, honest, intelligent people don’t want to get involved in our corrupt politics, so they don’t run for office. Thus, our choice was, 1. the same old corrupt establishment that was Hillary, or 2. the narcissist billionaire who promised to stop the corruption by ‘draining the swamp’. The promise of change won out, but that change may be more than we bargained for. All this craziness has awoken even those who never paid attention to politics before, and they find themselves caught between wanting to do their patriotic duty by voicing their opinion and staying quiet so as not to alienate friends and family who have differing perspectives. As they say, it is history in the making.
It appears the decades-long political apathy that has existed in the U.S. may be at an end. That apathy which has allowed our government to reach systemic corruption, with our representatives filling their own pockets – unchecked – with little regard for the desires of their constituents. Americans have finally gotten fed-up with it all. Not since the Vietnam War have I seen so many people actively concerned about the state of our politics. And it is certainly not a bad thing, since a democracy, after all, is a government by its people.
But ‘waking up’ has come with a price. Too many years of not paying attention – whether due to job focus, lack of interest, or simply not wanting to offend – have eroded our skills in civil discourse and thinned our skins. It has reached the point where healthy debate over political things that matter quickly devolve into unproductive arguments, name-calling, and strained relationships. This has been magnified by the impersonal aspects of social media, where a person can sit behind the shield of their computer and say things they would not typically say directly to someone’s face. This situation is made even worse by the explosion of ‘fake news’, causing people to fight over things that simply aren’t true.
I feel it myself and worry how many of my friends and family have had enough of my thoughts. Probably more than I want to know. Where is the right balance between being an educated, involved citizen and not driving those around us completely nuts? I have tried to read differing, well thought-out perspectives and the debates that ensue, and sometimes add my own opinion. I think it helps. These are the debates that will hopefully bubble up to hold our elected representatives accountable and drive them to find the compromises that serves us best. But the number of those debates and the ugly confrontations that frequently result are becoming too much for most of us these days, myself included.
We need to find a balance between staying silent and speaking out that allows each of us to remain part of a healthy, respectful discourse while not turning us into enemies. Because it is the discourse that is needed to fan the flames of our re-awakening and let those we elected know their party is over. We have learned that apathy doesn’t work.
From Congressional representatives who sell out their constituents for corporate campaign contributions, to contractors who quote a price knowing they will charge you more, to marketers who collect a paycheck for developing deception, to scammers who suck the savings out of senior citizens, to the average Joe who cheats on his taxes, to Craigslist buyers who promise to be there at noon tomorrow and never show, to someone who robs your house. These are all acts of screwing someone else for personal benefit – firmly entrenched in our American culture.
If I had to name one thing that is sucking the life out of this country it would have to be the astonishing lack of principle and personal integrity. How have we drifted so far from our roots? How can these people look in a mirror and smile at what they see? How can they be proud of the example they set for their children? (Is this why there is so much depression?)
There are lots of excuses, none of them any good.