We begin to think that our country is nearing a point from which there is not only no return but also beyond which there is no repair.
Our sensation is based on many things, well beyond the political upheaval of the primary season. What recent primary elections around the country have demonstrated is the huge divide – one fed by anger, disappointment, fear, and envy – that exists and is building daily into a force that cannot be rebottled.
Americans have lost patience, not just with the rest of the world but with themselves and their friends. It is no longer often that we hear “He is my friend, with all his faults, and so I stand by him.” More likely we hear, “He was my friend, but with his faults our relationship is finished.” No mention, please note, of anyone else’s faults…the faults are not in the stars: the faults are on the ground, next door, in the supermarket, on the roadways, on the airwaves, in Congress, in the courts, internationally.
Benghazi, Libya, Syria, Iraq and Iran, ISIS, Russia and Ukraine. The IRS, The VA, the NSA, the border patrol, school systems and the common core, charter schools, unresponsive executives, unresponsive representatives.
Even that bastion of American pragmatism, the Supreme Court, yesterday issued a decision from on high so ridiculously selfish and other-worldly that we can only hope someone will retry the case and opt for a more sensible solution.
We refer to the case that did away with a thirty-five foot barrier between abortion clinics and their enemies. This, from a court sitting behind a barrier nearly ten times as large, safe from terrorists, predators, drones, not to mention other Americans who, says the court, simply want to discuss with their friends and neighbors important personal matters. (A) Confrontations outside abortion clinics are most often neither friendly nor low-key. (B) These confrontations can turn deadly. (C) To receive healthcare no one, man or women, should ever have to run the gauntlet of other people’s opinions. The Supreme Court itself never runs the risk of meeting its public as it hears and decides cases of national weight and importance. It is hidden, protected, kept separate from the public it in theory serves. Worse the Court’s world reflects the real world as badly as soapy water does blue sky. Its Justices are bubbled, living in a kind of atmosphere most of us thought had long ago disappeared.
But the inability, or refusal, by the court to understand real life conditions in these United States is only one flaw. Gigantic, but only one. We could all survive their ineptitude if ever they provided us with evidence that they understood the modern world perhaps less effectively than we, their subjects. But even here we see the dual nature of life in our country: for women needing health procedures, no protection. For themselves and everyone else, a second set of standards entirely.
Enough, what we’re seeing are symptoms of a not so silent but deadly disease. We have reached a point in our history where Americans have to be reminded that they are all Americans. This has never before been the case.
Which leads directly to our suggestion today that perhaps the wisest course the country could begin to take would be a complete do-over.
Let us all go back to the fundamentals, those democratic ideas that are enshrined on the Declaration of Independence and in the Bill of Rights, the Constitution entirely, and carefully compare where we have gone astray and where we might be able to somehow rework our ideals and habits into those more closely resembling what the Founding Fathers did actually have in mind for a burgeoning republic.
We are not advocating for a giant Constitutional Convention, a chance to rewrite the document in light of life today. That would, alas, only once again expose the faults and splits in our personalities, lives and stars. What we are suggesting is that – impossible, at least improbable as it may be – we select outstanding citizens of all ways of life to sit, for example, on panels to review what we have learned about the shortcomings of, for example, Article I (Free Speech) and Article 4 (search and seizures), and offer us changes that will clarify, make sense of conditions today vis a vis conditions when those clauses were first inscribed.
We have reached such a pass in this country as to instinctively feel nothing is beyond legislative redemption. Another way of saying that is that we can all sue. Nuts. We are not all exceptional. We are not all maltreated. What we most of all are is singular, greedy, headstrong, and so damnably independent that we have forgotten how to think of any good but our own.
If he doesn’t agree with me, I don’t need him. If she can’t see her way to understanding my point of view, too bad, we don’t need her. In fact, we don’t need anyone who doesn’t agree with us, period.
The problem is, we do.
Bogged down in everything but the World Cup, the nation slumps, panting, exhausted from arguing, tired of fighting, uncertain in which direction to turn. This is the perfect moment in our history to change our history to make the nation a better nation, its citizens better representatives of different points of view, more polite, more civil. Reconciliation has worked in other parts of the world. Why can’t we try it here? We needn’t pack the panels with politicians, but instead with farmers, druggists, nurses, doctors, teachers, roofers, retail clerks, police, accountants, gardeners, artists, construction crews, and veterans of all wars. Within these categories are men and women of good will, of limited ambitions but for the safety and welfare of their children. They are full of what the one per cent seems no longer to have: commonsense and common purpose.
The process may be lengthy, and no doubt various kinks and seemingly intractable problems would be exposed.
But unless we as a nation make a unified run at righting what has so tragically gone awry here in the past seventy years, we never will. And America will no longer seem beautiful. Rather, it will seem what it is today: divided, unreasonable, selfish, and completely unrealistic about how life on earth should proceed.