Pardon me, but I’m almost 82, have been around a “long, long time,” and keep thinking that “IT” has to be me. Am I too old, impatient, cranky, selfish, and satisfied that everything that happens appears both unprecedented and catastrophic?
So what is “IT”?
Good question! Answer: the country, that’s what is “IT.”
So … what’s wrong with the country?
Again, good question! Answer: I don’t know, but something.
Some things have bothered me.
After the civil rights revolution, Martin Luther King, and “affirmative action” we are considered “systemically racist.” As the world’s only “superpower,” that won the greatest wars in human history, the Cold War, and forged history’s only Democratic World Order, we are “White Supremacists.” After the greatest prosperity in all of history, the businessmen who created this become “oppressive.” The values created by the most important political event in all history, even the country’s Birthday, are challenged as irrelevant and dated.
I keep wondering: what would I do if everyone else wanted to change my Birthday (March 1) and call me nasty names?
I don’t really know, but it would certainly make me think: why the Hell go on?
Which is about where I am now.
Certainly, the country had experienced bad times before. And survived them all.
How about the thing called “Civil War”? It killed 750,000 white boys (estimate) in four years. With 30 million white people, that’s about 2.5 percent of that population. The Civil War ended slavery but aroused “Jim Crow” and post-slave lynching. In the one hundred years since (1865 to 1965), an estimated 3,000 Black men were hung. So, do the math. What characterizes the culture more: the war that ended slavery or its aftermath? Some more math: what if 2.5 percent of today’s population died in a war since 2017? How would George Floyd or Harvey Weinstein “play” in the media against a background of 8 million body bags sent home from somewhere overseas?
Then there was the Great Depression. Over 9,000 Bank closings in ten years, 25 percent unemployment, bread lines, caravans of trucks headed west, soldiers camping out in D.C. demanding their war bonuses (forced out by Hoover and MacArthur), tent-towns (“Hooverville’s”) of unemployed families all across the land, farm foreclosures (with 90 percent of the population on farms), labor strikes everywhere, and socialism and communism dominating the culture.
Those were bad times, but, like the Civil War, life went on and the country flourished. Hitler and Japan ended the Depression. America won the greatest war in history (76 million total killed, about 35,000 men, women, and children each day), and, by war’s end (1945), the country had recorded the greatest prosperity system in the history of mankind.
I still go on, despite the “troubles” (old Irish saying).
But what about these “troubles?” How “bad” can they be? Are they “real” or “contrived”?
Or is it me?
Even I can remember the terrible 1960s: civil rights, Vietnam, 250 universities closed in ’68, assassinations, the Democratic Convention of ‘68, riots, vandalism, and anti-war protests almost everywhere. The country seemed “on the brink.”
Then came “Watergate,” Nixon (yesterday’s Trump), Gerry Ford, and Jimmy Carter (“malaise” in America). On April 30, 1975, the North Vietnam Army occupied Saigon, thus ending America’s 25-year commitment against Communism in Southeast Asia. Over 58,000 dead American soldiers, over a decade of daily combat in a mountainous jungle 12,000 miles away, two million Vietnamese dead, revolution and protest at home, three times the bomb tonnage dropped by the U.S. Air Force compared to all combatants in all (repeat all) theatres of World War Two. Against a jungle target no larger than the state of New Jersey!
Talk about strategy!
If there was to be a revolt in the country, why didn’t it happen then? Why is democracy “threatened” so much right now?
Again, it must be me.
Then, almost from the “Blue,” a former actor won in 1980, declared “morning in America,” devised a strategy against the Soviet Union and, almost overnight, world Communism came to an abrupt halt, the USSR died, the Berlin Wall came down with Gorbachev and Reagan as heroes, plus a final photo of Bill Clinton with his arms around a drunken (what else?) Boris Yeltsin.
And the media went crazy when Trump “played nice” with Vladimir Putin! (BTW: Gorbachev had twelve – repeat twelve – summits with Reagan-Bush).
So what’s wrong now?
I still cling to the issue as me: I’m just too old to “understand” the issues as they are presented day-after-day, all across the country, in print, on the air, everywhere one goes. Forget Gettysburg, Appomattox, the 1929 Market “Crash,” a full decade of the “Great” Depression, Tojo, Hitler, Stalin, the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy’s assassination, the others.
The list goes on, as momentum.
In searching for explanations beyond myself, I try the “Social Sciences.”
Can it be “Demography?” Since my birth (1940), the population has tripled, to 330 million. Imagine if your family tripled: how do you control twelve kids if you only had four?
How about “Economics?” The country has been generally prosperous, certainly compared to other countries and our own past. Is this an inducement for protest? Again, I don’t know.
“Sociology” – “isms” – dominate the culture. They take simple nouns (race, sex) and inflate them to “worldviews” that explain everything (and nothing). They create “targets” (men, whites, systems, etc.) and wage “holy war” against them; no holds barred.
“Psychology”: the “inner self” can spawn wholesale protest, both real and imagined.
“Politics”: does the lack of “survival” issues, as in war/peace, serve only to exaggerate issues that normally would be either bipartisan or even-tempered? By and large, the U.S. has been spared a survival issue since the end of the Twentieth Century, which might explain why otherwise normality becomes catastrophe.
Conclusion: basically, there is none. It is either myself or one of the “social scientific” areas mentioned. Perhaps it is even Biology: the Pandemic or the diffusion between races, nations, and peoples that so dominate the American psyche. It is, after all, not coincidental that America is the only country on earth dominated by “hyphenated” personalities.
I am an “Irish-American.”
Maybe that’s the reason!