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"Republics decline into democracies and democracies degenerate into despotisms." -Aristotle
Dear (eventual) Grandstickies and Great-Grandstickies,
Humbug Alert: This is the third, and last, of a series of columns with outrageous and/or bogus headlines designed to capture an influx of new and unwary gentlereaders. In my defense, the big boys do this sort of thing all the time. This particular column has the unique distinction of having virtually nothing to do with its headline. It's a literary Hail Mary pass -- my humbugery, so far at least, has failed.
However, since it's standard procedure in some quarters to name the Donald as the poster child for anything/everything that's wrong/ever was wrong with the USA, there's at least a tenuous connection. See, this letter is actually about yours truly watching America, politically and culturally, decline in the course of my 39 years, but I don't blame the Donald.
My dear Grandstickies, that is, the four of you that currently exist (who knows what'll be going on when your kids are growing up), at the moment you are in the process of growing up in a wildly chaotic, politically/culturally polarized era. We haven't seen its like since the legendary sixties.
Let me clarify that a bit, modern America hasn't seen it's like. I hesitate to speak of/to/for other locales. The planet Earth has seen its like/is in the midst of witnessing its like -- often, and often much worse.
I was unaware of just how wildly chaotic and politically/culturally polarized the legendary sixties were even though I was busy growing up in the midst of them. I mean, I was aware there was a lot of wild shtuff going on but frankly, I thought it was, well, fun, and exciting. Give us a minute and we'll fix all the shtuff the grups screwed up. Most of my fellow Baby Boomers and I had no firm plans beyond that.
[Hey, wait a minute...]
Relax, Dana, I see it, I'm on it. Dana was about to object to the fact that the last paragraph implies that the Baby Boomers were an idealistic, united front for positive change. Nope. In spite of stereotypes and how some remember the period, culturally and politically speaking we were, and are, all over the map.
We came of age in the midst of an imperfect storm of cultural/political/economic/technological and who knows what all-i-cal developments. But we didn't conjure them out of thin air. We just happened to be there. And most of us didn't turn on, tune in, and drop out. Most of us weren't at Woodstock. Most of us didn't participate in, or get anywhere near, a protest or a riot. Etcetera.
But the thing is, as I've written repeatedly, the tot did get tossed out with the Jacuzzi water. The culture fragmented and the fragments are fragmenting. It took a long time for Rome to die. I can't help but wonder if all of our vaunted technology and wealth will help to destroy us in record time.
Being a callowyute I had no real appreciation of just how fragile civilization actually is. It wasn't until I was a grup that I had any notion that things could have gotten out of hand. Things got out of hand. Things are getting worse.
My fellow boomers and I were familiar with terrorism, but mostly from the comfort and safety of our living rooms. The Palestine Liberation Organization was founded by a world-class terrorist but they specialized in murdering Jews, overseas.
When your parents were coming up things got a bit more personal. and a lot more dangerous. Al Qaeda dramatically expanded on the concept, murdering any and all infidels. Also, inadvertently murdering fellow Muslims was considered acceptable collateral damage.
You're coming up in the ISIS age. They openly advocate murdering and/or enslaving anybody that doesn't believe in their nasty little version of Islam via any means at hand. A car or a knife is as good as a bomb, if less productive.
In the not too distant past the existential threat posed by those who embrace this cult of death, these Muslims in name only, would've united us. Though flawed, hypocritical, and having committed no shortage of sins (rather like the average H. sapien), America could (more or less...) play as a team, when they had to. Could (more or less...) compromise, when they had to.
The American body politic is suffering from two different but potentially deadly strains of bacteria that are coming at us from the (alt) left and the (alt) right.
As to who exactly belongs to what side and what they're advocating is impossible to define. Fragments of fragments are perpetually at war with each other as well as anyone identified as the other.
"At this shank end of a summer that a calmer America someday will remember with embarrassment, you must remember this: In the population of 325 million, a small sliver crouches on the wilder shores of politics, another sliver lives in the dark forest of mental disorder, and there is a substantial overlap between these slivers." -George Will
[Man..if I could write like that I bet I'd have more than a single patron.]
Unfortunately, the slivers are given outsized coverage by the salivating media. Keeping the pot stirred 24 x 7 is where the money is. Having a tendency to see my glass of beer as half empty I have to admit I sometimes don't share Mr. Will's optimism ("...America someday will remember with embarrassment..."). I hope for your sakes he's right. Poppa loves you.
Have an OK day.
[P.S. Gentlereaders, for 25¢ a week, no, seriously, for 25¢ a week you can become a Patron of this weekly column and help to prevent an old crank from running the streets at night in search of cheap thrills and ill-gotten gains.
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©2017 Mark Mehlmauer (The Flyoverland Crank)
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