May 132015

I Fear for America

I fear that my country is slipping into a period of unremitting schism. Well, we have escaped this fate for a long time, while certain other countries have had to live with it for centuries. Still, I have to believe that Americans will not stand for this forever.

I see the American people, as a whole, as relatively moderate and apolitical, which is fine with me except that those characteristics of the people are being suppressed. Who wants to sit around thinking about how certain groups are having their rights gradually stripped away? Who wants to sit around and worry about the possibility that our cities will erupt in flames, as Baltimore, Maryland did recently, and Ferguson before it? Who wants to sit around and worry about voting rights being abrogated through such devices as gerrymandering and excessive voter ID requirements? I don’t. But this is what we are faced with in this country, and no intelligent person with a conscience can turn a blind eye to these trends. 

A form of right-wing despotism is growing in this country, but it could be left-wing despotism (think communist China or Soviet Russia). Any form of despotism is damaging to our social structure and way of life.

Then, we have religious extremism, both in the form of Muslim extremism resulting in terrorism or Christian fundamentalism resulting in closed mindedness and the demonization of anyone who does not fit into the Christian fundamentalist mold. I, for one, would like to not have to worry about these trends, but to shut them out of the mind and take no action to counter them is simply irresponsible. I, too, would rather enjoy the World Series than be seriously concerned about growing political and racial schism in this country, and the abrogation of rights laid out in the Amendments laid out in the Bill of Rights: freedom of speech, freedom of religion or the right to refrain from pursuing a religious path, equal protection under the law, etc. But as a sane and responsible American with a conscience, I cannot turn my back on these concerns, and I cannot refrain from pursuing nonviolent action (writing is a form of action, too) to help preserve freedom and justice in this country.

The vast majority of Americans are good-hearted people who genuinely care for those who are experiencing personal, social, or political travail. Most Americans do not care to think of themselves as intrinsically “better than” members of another social group. But right now, our most admirable inclinations are being undermined by self-centered individuals who seemingly care more about amassing riches than making sure that other citizens have decent medical care, a job that will support a reasonable standard of living, and freedom to pursue a creative life free from constraints imposed by the political powers that be. As a country, we seem to be slipping back to a pre-McCarthy era in which a significant number of Americans were denied equal protection under the law and felt constrained from pursuing a unique perspective on life.

I, for one, believe that it would be a tragedy if Americans retreated to an era of excessive conformism, inequality of opportunity and extreme racial animosity, and I will do all I can to contribute in some small way to the renewed struggle to preserve freedom and justice FOR ALL. One of my mantras is “Act as if everything you do matters” (William James). I believe in that way of living with all my heart. I refuse to sit on the sidelines while political and religious games being played in this country which are injurious to so many Americans. Another relevant mantra: “I am involved with mankind” (William Blake). Finally, I like the thought Michael Connerly weaves into his crime-mystery novels: “Everyone counts or no one counts.”

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