For years – centuries, no doubt – Americans and others have been seduced by the notion that all we human beings need to become aligned with each other is a common enemy.
After all, in wartime, we all seem to coalesce. World War II is a stellar example. Americans and their allies joined hands against the darkness they saw saturating much of the rest of the globe, and they valiantly resisted as one.
That kind of alliance and reliance didn’t exactly prevail in wars since. Korea, Vietnam and Middle Eastern conflicts didn’t exactly cause Americans to throw their arms around each other and declare solidarity against what were sometimes regarded as only “so-called enemies.”
Still, the concept would seem to have validity. If we are bound together in our opposition to someone or something, that feeling of togetherness would seem unbreakable.
But what if the opposition comes from within? What if the symbol of that allegiance is so repugnant to half of us that it drives the spike deeper and deeper into our national community?
The Founding Fathers knew and even valued disagreement. Thus, politics was a natural product of our development as a nation. But who could have foreseen what we’ve become in recent years?
Politics is no longer a subject that can be casually discussed and debated. The unspoken rule in gatherings these days is to avoid at all costs bringing up politics. It will only lead to acrimony, and maybe worse.
And the worse keeps getting worse. We’re watching in horror as, every week, more people who have little association with a despicable shooter – likely, none at all – are gunned down by him.
Whereas that trend years ago would have been the subject of intense discussions about what to do about it, today we’re not sure we should do anything.
Should we limit weaponry throughout the land? Should we seriously intensify efforts to find and treat the mentally ill who may be on the verge of taking up arms themselves? Are there real, effective steps we can take to ward off more sickening instances of inhuman, sub-human behavior?
We can’t even bring the subject up without offending some elements devoted to one political posture or another. Better to let dozens die every week than to find a remedy and apply it, apparently.
Many of us are committed to the idea that, 240 years ago when our Founding Fathers were laying out plans for the nation, their devotion to self-protection via muskets meant that they must surely have intended for anyone centuries hence to have unobstructed access to guns that could mow down dozens of passers-by in seconds. It’s incontestable, that group believes.
Humans are the leaders of this planet because we are the smartest and most resourceful of its occupants. But our leadership has failed miserably, and it’s getting worse.
We can’t agree on anything anymore. We can’t repair, we can’t prevent – we can’t even seriously discuss our options.
The more we know and the smarter we get, the worse we’re becoming at finding ways to work together to head off disaster.