Joseph Conrad, author of Heart of Darkness, wrote about “fascination with the abomination.” It explains people rubbernecking when driving past auto accidents. It also applies to how I watch the news these days.
When this man was elected president, some of my friends, people I respect at the top ranks of the Lehigh Valley’s business community, implored me to give him a chance. I tried to soften my disgust with the election, knowing that this country was in deep trouble with this megalomaniac at the helm, finger on the button, cellphone in hand.
I understood why some voted for him: there was stupidity and racism to explain some. They’re the ones who buy more guns when there is a mass shooting. Maybe some others might be so greedy that they believe that they could amass more wealth with a silver-spoon-spoiled lunatic at the helm, so who cared if he was a silver-spoon-spoiled lunatic? Others hated Hillary Clinton that much.
Add to the equation the millions of adults who claim to love their country but don’t bother to do the most important civic responsibility intended to keep their country great: vote. Despite all of that, I still don’t understand how this man is occupying the highest office in the land.
That ugly potion has produced the most scary era in the history of our nation. The species is at risk: our world is being baked into oblivion by our own behavior, we have enough nuclear weapons to turn our planet into dust, wealth and income disparity are a threat to the peace, xenophobia is turning our country into an isolated nation losing what little respect we have left around the world. And our president is calling the victims the perpetrators.
America, take a deep breath. To my friends on my left, put away the clenched fists – they won’t last long against the wackos among us who are armed to the teeth. To my friends on the moderate right, stop buying the lies that poor people like to be poor, that Latinos don’t want to learn the language or that African-Americans are lazy, or that we can fry the planet and still be happy.
To my friends on the left, taking every nickel from the lucky few in this country won’t work – they have money, they can afford to leave. To my friends on the right, you are not paying far too much in taxes and we are not spending far too much to support the many – and growing – among us who are being left behind.
What would it take to get everyone to stop lining up on one side or the other and start rethinking the positions we have taken? Is it asking too much for each of us to start thinking sacrificially? What can we give up and turn over to others? What would be the damage to my own position to consider how every decision I make might affect my neighbors?
Too many of my white acquaintances take the following attitude about racism: “I don’t own any slaves, so why are you blaming me for your problems?” This is a reflection of never having put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Do you understand that how we govern and fund public education in this country is the most powerful way we lock inequality into our society? Do you understand that you can be as much as 25 times more likely to be poor in the Lehigh Valley depending on where you live? Do you understand that land use planning that requires minimum lot sizes on which to build your home is designed to exclude certain people? Do you understand that being excluded from the board of directors of a nonprofit or not being invited to join a country club cuts you out of the social network that opens doors to economic opportunity? Do you understand that very few unarmed white people have been shot by a rogue cop?
Friends, it is time to heal. Those of us who rightly worry that the American Century is coming to an end because our status economically is threatened by countries like China should be just as worried that it is coming to an end because we are a nation increasingly divided along cultural, political, religious and economic lines.
Do you have a young child? Do you know someone who does? Put down this newspaper or turn off the computer and go look in that child’s precious eyes and tell me why you would stick them with this world.