Two episodes in recent days point to pervasive and persistent attitudes despoiling America the beautiful.
First, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, tweeted about positive employment numbers for September, “”Unbelievable jobs numbers…these Chicago guys will do anything…can’t debate so change numbers.”
Next, Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winner in economics, wrote, “The furor over Friday’s report revealed a political movement that is rooting for American failure, so obsessed with taking down Mr. Obama that good news for the nation’s long-suffering workers drives its members into a blind rage.”
Conspiracies to right of them, conspiracies to left of them, conspiracies in front of them…with apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, years of venomous disinformation campaigns from the left and right amplified by propaganda from pseudo-news shows and Internet sites have inflamed fanatics and sparked all sorts of conspiracy theories…conspiracies rooted in acrimony.
“I have covered political campaigns for a long, long time from the local level of mayoral races to the national level of dueling presidential candidates, but never before have I witnessed such acrimony,” wrote freelance journalist Al Martinez in September. “America, it seems, is at war with itself.”
Ever wondered about public attitudes leading to civil wars?
Describing the Spanish civil war (1936 – 1939), author Emily Kaufman writes, “with the aid of hindsight we can see that the acrimony of this period was nothing if not the prelude to war. Two opposing currents of thought and action – one conservative and reactionary, the other progressive and liberal – brewed menacingly over the Spanish horizon. The angry voices of parliamentary discussion can be likened to the rumbling of thunder, while the escalating acts of public violence were the bolts of lightening that in turn set off new rebounds of thunder. It was only a matter of time before the storm would unleash its deluge of hatred and death over the face of Spain.”
We have the acrimony, the opposing currents of thought and action, and the angry voices. Fortunately, we do not yet have the escalating acts of violence. But, ask yourselves, where else do ever-darkening thoughts lead if they are not diverted?
A reader wrote to me that the great sedative tamping down American social unrest is inertia. True, but violence seldom starts from the many; it starts with the few. A spark here, a flame there enabling a few fires here and there fanned by fanatics and you get the riots of the 1960s.
Who and where are modernity’s equivalent of Tennyson’s “six hundred” ready to charge bravely into the politically manufactured “jaws of death” and “mouth of hell” to save us from ourselves?
“Shatter’d and sunder’d” for now.
The notion of crowning good with brotherhood seems so far away.