“You can’t control what’s happening, but you can control how you react.” Not sure where I read that - or when - but the words have become more personally important given recent political and social violence in our country.
While the phrase is certainly true, so is this: I’m having more trouble controlling my reactions. As violence escalates and our national political stew rots, efforts to control reactions to them have taken more personal strength and have sapped more willpower to keep my reactions under control.
Violence in our society is not new. But, in the last couple of decades, it’s become more prevalent - more pervasive - more deadly. Now, with the bloodshed of recent days flowing across our nation, it seems to have picked up intensity and has become more far-reaching - involving more and more of us.
One fact is extremely clear: we are in a national state of flux in all segments of our society and we are never - never - going back to where we were even four or five years ago. In anything.
It’s hard to describe. One way I’ve come to visualize it, is to imagine the largest, thickest bank vault door ever built, slowly closing on our nation, blocking from sight everything comfortable and familiar. At the same time, imagine a door of similar size beginning to open to reveal - reveal - what? That we don’t know, but you can be sure it will be a country and a society unlike anything we’ve ever known.
Here are some examples. We twice elected a President of mixed race. From day one, he’s been blocked, undercut and pilloried while doing his job. His performance in office can be debated, but one thing cannot: he’s been the target of the most vicious racism we’ve seen directed at a national public figure. Oh, it’s not called “racism.” No. It’s been couched in more politically acceptable terms like “typical two-party politics,” “liberal versus conservative” and “the normal friction found when one party occupies the White House and the other control the majorities in Congress.” Pure B.S.
I strongly believe the vision of a “black” man in the White House has become an excuse for racists and extremists of all stripes to come out from under their rocks and openly challenge authority without reprisal. Whether it’s Bundy or the NRA, Mitch McConnell, the apparent revival of the KKK or quickening pace of murdering Black Americans, it’s less about politics and more about race.
Another case: the dissolution of the National Republican Party. In about four decades, the cancer of extremist thought and the purging of anything different have gutted the GOP. The emergence of a dangerous buffoon like Trump is not surprising. He and the GOP have been looking for each other for years. The only questions is “what took so long?” And states with Tea Party-backed governors have seen resources squandered and several are so awash in debt they’re considering bankruptcy. Kansas, anyone? Michigan? Arkansas? North Carolina? Florida? Texas?
Another: Democrats have failed miserably to create a “loyal” opposition, have not been effective dealing as a minority party in Congress and have not built a “bench” team of up-and-coming people to challenge the majority for years to come. Anywhere.
Another: Both parties are becoming less viable as national representatives of voters at-large. Both are losing members. Both are less in-touch with Americans than just five-10 years ago. That trend will continue. A week ago, the respected IPSOS polling firm found 21% of registered voters - more than one-in-five - want someone other than the leading presidential candidates of both parties. That number will go up before November. Bet on it.
In some instances, this nation is close to becoming one run from the streets. The Dallas police killings and the documented and recent unwarranted police murders of several black men are galvanizing people of more races than just Black America. Whatever accountability - if any - that comes as a result of these slaughters will come because people in the streets stayed in the streets and demanded it. That’s not how an effective and lasting society works for all but that’s where we are. It will get louder and more violent in those streets until justice comes. In whatever form.
Maybe worst of all, the November election will have little, if any, positive effect on all this. The day after will be just as disruptive, just as raucous, just as violent and just as filled with national seething as the day before.
No one individual has all the answers to our national quandary. No one can make good on “taking the country back.” Our nation is in the throes of great change in every area of society - change that, at the moment, is undirected and uncoordinated.
One huge vault door has closed. The other is slowly opening. Behind that one is our national future. Unseen. Unknown. Out of full sight. But the first glimpses are not comforting. Not comforting at all.