This election, if it hasn’t brought out the worst in us, has brought out the worst in our opinions of other people.
Suspicion of the government — an American tradition and, I believe, a prime indicator of a healthy society — has devolved into suspicion of and contempt for our fellow citizens — a prime indicator that you’re in the next-to-the-last chapter of Lord of the Flies.
The candidates are so bad that they can’t contain their own badness, and it’s leaking out into the general public. Political candidates have been unpalatable before (actually, it seems like it’s more often than not), but this time they’re warping the traditional process the way a black hole bends light or the presence of Auntie Anne’s Pretzels changes my route around a mall.
Normal Democratic/Republican loyalties have broken down as people in those groups have split into multiple sub-groups, which have then set about blaming all the other sub-groups for the state of things. The accusations boil down to, “Outside of my sub-group, everyone is stupid or corrupt or both, nobody cares about America, nobody cares about good government, and we’re in this mess because the Republican establishment/Democratic establishment/millennials/white working class/professional social justice warriors/big name pundits/radio talk show hosts/crony capitalists/entrenched bureaucrats want nothing other than to have their hand in the cookie jar.”
These perceptions aren’t completely without merit. The loudest voices in public discourse are also the complainiest ones. Anyone perusing the mass media on any given day is exposed to more screaming and irrational demands than Veruca Salt’s parents. It certainly seems like everyone’s lost interest in building up America and instead they’re just stripping it for parts.
But I don’t think the loudest voices are always the most representative ones. As I’ve mentioned before, most Americans care more about living their own lives than any kind of politics or activism. Through all of the riots and economic stagnation and political duplicity and stupid regulations and international chaos, there are still a lot of people showing up to work, raising their kids (and adopting other people’s kids), volunteering in their community, giving to charity, and on, and on.
We’re a great nation, with a great and generous citizenry. We’re in a rough patch right now, but there’s no other country I’d rather be in a rough patch in (good sentence structure there). I urge my fellow citizens not to give up on their fellow citizens. They want to do the right thing, even though sometimes they find themselves in situations where there are no good options (of all the years for the Libertarian Party to run a complete ninny — I shake my fist at you, 2016!).
New days have a way of providing new options, though. Long term, I’m still willing to bet on us.