I did not ever think that the conduct of my country would be compared to that of the Nazi regime under Hitler. Now, however, it is everywhere and it is unavoidable and it is undeniable. The conduct of the government in creating internment camps for children is really only the last and most obvious emanation of a disease that seems to have infected the entire nation. Trump is only doing what he thinks his followers want, and his followers, including many otherwise reasonable legislators, are doing nothing to dissuade him from that thought.
We are all to blame. Liberals listen only to liberal views and write off opposing views as idiocy or worse. Conservatives listen only to conservative views and write off the liberals as anti-American, defining that term in almost military fashion. Politics is no longer the art of the possible but a battlefield weaponized by money and rhetoric.
I felt this deeply when, not long, a good friend and neighbor of mine were talking about not much. Another neighbor came along, and my friend said to him, while pointing to me, “Don’t talk to him. He’s a Democrat.” We use terms these days like “tribal” and “transactional” to reflect the fact that we are enemies rather than partners in the task of determining the best way to realize the ideals on which the United States was founded. We don’t talk; we yell. We don’t reason; we insult. We don’t compromise; we objectify.
So where is the hope? Are we simply doomed to become yet another historical moment of the failure of ideals? I don’t think so. I think the hope lies, no thanks to my generation, in the young.
Last night my son-in-law called me. He told me that he was attending a business conference, one that he said was his favorite event. The conference featured speakers who addressed, not how to make more money, but how to identify and pursue real human meaning in running the business in question. We talked for a long time about how to communicate that this business was in existence primarily to improve the lives of its clients.
One could pervert such a conversation. One could say that an attitude of sincere concern for the lives of those clients was nothing but a good advertising ploy. One could adopt the old joke that sincerity is the key, and that if you can fake that you will be wildly successful. That had nothing to do with it. This man, and the group to which he was speaking, was genuinely committed to the idea that real value, real meaningfulness, lay in our dedication to others.
I am older, and I fear that my generation bought into the notion that we are defined by our possessions and our power. In this sense, we all voted Donald Trump into office, because we made it possible for a large portion of our population to think that self-interest was our primary goal, our defining principle of action.
I see hope, however, every time a young person speaks. I see hope when the school children rail against the school killings. I see hope when women fill the streets of Washington to decry injustice for all. I see hope when groups gather, like the business conference I mentioned to discuss, not increased profit, but increased meaningfulness.
Here is the point. We got ourselves into this mess. We, by our inaction and indifference, created an atmosphere where Trump and his ilk could be allowed to claim that their blatant self-serving was actually what America was all about. We can get ourselves out of that mess, but it takes effort. The young are making that effort. Where are you? Well, if you’re not going to help, at least get out of the way. For the times, as Dylan said in another time of renewal, they are achangin’.