How Did We Get Here?

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On this first day of the Lenten season I find thoughts careening through my head like marbles rolling uncontrollably around a room. There are so many concerning events taking place throughout the world that it is difficult to focus on the spiritual. I suppose that this is the reason that so many of my FB friends are leaving their walls for the next six weeks and will not return until after Easter Sunday. Sadly social media has become such a hotbed of angst in some regards that even people like Lena Dunham have sworn off of sites like Twitter until she feels safe in its environs once again. 

As far as I can tell we theoretically still have First Amendment protections of our speech but somehow the respect for our various and sundry ways of thinking has deteriorated drastically. Far too many individuals use the worldwide web as a kind of voodoo doll in which they stick sharp pens into the ideas and philosophies of those with whom they disagree. Speaking out for a belief can result in vicious attacks not just on the premises of thought but on the character of the person voicing the considerations. Those who disagree often resort to intimidation, smears, and language that borders on violence. The old ways of polite dissent are no longer with us. The result is that most people simply remain silent about critical issues that actually should be discussed if we are ever to reach consensus on how to deal with them. 

Our national discourse has come to sound more like the childish banter of an elementary school playground. Real debate has been replaced with insults and accusations. The din is often so loud that it would be impossible to hear new ideas much less to consider them. It’s quite sad to me when I read a post from a Hillary Clinton supporter urging her progressive friends to be kinder in stating their reasons for backing Bernie Sanders instead. It seems that the temptation to be snarky is stronger than the need to be civil in our discussions. Our words on the Internet have become screeches and babble to the point where friends are attacking friends. 

We’ve always known that sending written messages without face to face interaction can be lethal. There is inevitably the chance that the words will be misconstrued in ways that were never intended. It’s difficult to so perfectly craft our writing that everyone who reads it will know exactly what we mean. Sadly the commentaries on the various social media outlets too often devolve into forms of demonization. Strangers pile on wise cracks and insults to anyone whom they deem to be wrong. There is no actual enlightenment or exchange of ideas happening but rather a kind of verbal row that rarely leads to any positive outcomes. 

I must admit that I am disappointed by the results of the New Hampshire primary that took place yesterday. I certainly admire the voters of that state for going to the polls in record numbers, often enduring less than ideal weather conditions. I love that we have such noble rights in this country that each man and women is entitled to his or her opinion, but I find it somewhat disheartening that a man like Donald Trump would actually win and be well on his way to a nomination as the presidential candidate for the Republican party. For most of the summer and fall I honestly believed that the American people would ultimately turn away from his bombast but instead his strength only seems to grow. 

Here we have a man who is less about plans than about insults and fear. He speaks in sweeping statements that often denigrate entire groups but has few ideas that will ever materialize. He claims to want to Make America Great Again but he seemingly thinks that doing so should exclude much of the populace. He wants to build a wall on the border. I would ask him how high and how long it will be? How many people will he have patrolling it? What is his estimate of the cost and where does he intend to get the money aside from his ludicrous idea that Mexico will pay for it? Does he realistically think that he will be able to round up millions of people who have entered our country illegally within our lifetime? Where will he get the manpower and the funding to embark on such an enormous project? Why would he even bother when he has already indicated that he will let “the good ones” back in? 

He continually falls back on the concept that he will get “the best people” to make his dreams a reality but he rarely has any concrete designs. He won’t leave any Americans to die on the street but he won’t be using the Affordable Care Act to help them. He’ll figure it out. All we need do is trust him. He is after all a very rich businessman. He tells us that he knows how to make a deal. We forget that his casinos in Atlantic City were a flop and that he has had to declare bankruptcy numerous times. Are we so trusting of this man and his boasts that we will let him experiment with the laws and the finances of our country? 

What bothers me the most is his insensitivity. I’ll be the first to admit that the political correctness that has taken over universities and even the press has gone way too far, but the answer is not to descend into a kind of bullying language. Donald Trump has called women bimbos when they disagree with him. He insists that Dr. Ben Carson is an intellectual lightweight and a rather mediocre physician. He considers most immigrants from south of our borders to be criminals and rapists and he doesn’t even know how to differentiate Mexicans from Venezuelans. He not only wants to use waterboarding to interrogate possible terrorists but even more terrible methods, thus committing war crimes in the name of keeping the country safe. He is a bully with racist overtones and seems to think that he will be able to enjoy diplomatic dealings with countries that are already appalled by his behavior. He is so unfamiliar with foreign policy and the Constitution that many of his ideas are contrary to the law. He pretends to be a very religious man and then proceeds to quote the Bible incorrectly. The fact is that he is little more than a modern day Wizard of Oz, a man standing behind a curtain of smoke and mirrors. Why those who support him cannot see these things is beyond me and so on this morning I feel not only sad but also a bit afraid for our beloved country. Since the opposing side is not a great deal better I wonder how we came to this state of affairs. Are we really so angry that we would entrust the highest office in the land to a man who has no idea what he is doing, a woman with questionable integrity, or an avowed socialist whose ideas are almost as far fetched and undoable as those of the Donald? Surely we have not become so desperate.

So on this first day of Lent I suppose that I will turn more attention to the spiritual. I will ask God to guide us all and to help us to learn how to live together once again without so much bickering. I will pray for peace in war torn parts of the world and in all of our hearts. It is time for the wars to end whether they be fought with guns and bombs or with words and hurtful insinuations. That will be my Lenten prayer. Hopefully we will begin to once again engender the spirit of the founder of Christianity. Maybe we will also remember the intent of the imperfect men who imagined our country and learn to live in a state of compromise and respect once again. We are not a nation of trolls. We are learned and thinking people. Let’s be rational and eschew the emotional outbursts

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