What kind of country (and world) do we want?
May 24, 2020 10:57 PM   Subscribe

Before there was a viral crisis whose reality forced itself on our notice, there were reports of declines of life expectancy in America, rising rates of suicide, and other “deaths of despair.” This is surely evidence of another crisis, though it was rarely described as such. The novel coronavirus has the potential for mitigation, treatment, and ultimately prevention. But a decline in hope and purpose is a crisis of civilization requiring reflection and generous care for the good of the whole society and its place in the world. We have been given the grounds and opportunity to do some very basic thinking. Marilynne Robinson, The New York Review
posted by blue shadows (5 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
This can be oversimplified and overstated, but the United States did attract immigrants by the tens of millions. It did create great cities and institutions as well as a distinctive culture that has been highly influential throughout the world.

I wrote this back in 2016, the night of Trump's coup, and I still feel it is as true now as it was then:
I became a citizen of the United States in 2004, and the fascism I see America openly embracing today is not what I imagined would be possible twelve years later, let alone at any point in this country's future.

A future which, back then, seemed full of possibilities. But, now, I'm less certain.

Some elections we're invested in might go our way, some won't. You win some, and you lose some. And at the end we all figure out a way forwards and we're all still one country, more or less.

But then a bell gets rung that our country won't be able to unring, ever.

Installing a KKK-endorsed, openly racist, multiple-women-molesting bully as President in the year 2016 is one of those bells.

Another un-ringable bell is handing over unchecked power to the Republican Party to further expand their campaign of legalized violence and discrimination against Americans who do not meet their 1950s ideals of skin color, geographic origin, organized religion, and sexual orientation.

So if you're Black, Latino, Muslim, gay, or any person or group of people that right-wing voters have decided to target for violence and discrimination, I hope you can stay safe, that you can keep your kids and family safe. Because our country is now a much more dangerous place to our fellow Americans and to the world.

We cannot and must not give into the fear that right-wing voters want us to live in, but we must also be awake and aware.

Please be safe out there.
If you want an immigrant's perspective on your/my country: A hundred thousand dead people from a controllable disease, and nothing much has changed. The curtains are pulled back for a few. Others are doing their best to keep the curtains held back on the useful idiots.

Those of us who didn't support the racist pussy-grabbing trash person are still squabbling amongst ourselves over absolutely stupid bullshit, ultimately to their benefit.

If you really want something better, you gotta look at the big picture and go for the kind of future you want. No one is going to hand you shit. Republicans sure as hell won't. Not even a pandemic killing a hundred thousand Americans in a couple months will change Republicans. Psychopaths will never change. It will never happen.

You know. I know it. We all know it. You want better? You have to take it.

If we want a better America, if we want to help dig us ourselves of this, we gotta get over out petty shit, get off our asses, and work with others to get there.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:55 PM on May 24, 2020 [30 favorites]

Paging Lewis Lapham, your Harper's column has been stolen.
posted by benzenedream at 1:39 AM on May 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

The cult of profits uber alles is neither uniquely American nor its sole defining characteristic... but we are really, really good at it.

The United States of America, as a self-governing and independent body, is approximately 240 years old. Plus or minus a few, depending on when you define the actual beginning, but it's a pretty good sample size to work with as to who we are, what we stand for and how we treat others. It took four-fifths of our history for us to begin treating large chunks of our population (anything other than hetero male WASPs) as something other than a literal underclass -- culturally AND legally. To have legislation and court decisions in place saying, no, you cannot declare "you can't live where you want, do what you want, learn where and what you want, work where you want in the profession that you want, love who you want, marry who you want, earn what others earn, BE who you want" to someone based on their not being hetero male WASPs.

Four-fifths of our history to even approach basic rights and legal equality. We're not Exceptional, we're not a Shining City on a Hill, we're South Africa with a better PR department. (And let's not even go into what our forefathers did to the people who were already here when they got here.)

I disagree with the author that the last several decades have been a radical shift in direction; our history is full of the rich pushing hard for every advantage until systemic collapse forced some pushback. What it has been is an acceleration, the product of a concerted effort to rig the legal and political systems openly controlled by those who benefit from that acceleration. Deregulate everything. Push the prosperity gospel. Demonize and other-ize those who are in need of assistance or who are part of our various underclasses. Celebrate the channeling of America's wealth and assets away from the public and into the hands of fewer and fewer entities. Paint me-firstism as the natural state of America until enough people believe it to elect a "let's roll everything back to 1950" blowhard as POTUS.

One can only pedal-to-the-floor on artificial scarcity and exploitation of the commons for so long until something significant breaks. I don't know that we have it in us to produce politicians who can bring any kind of sweeping reform -- a Newer Deal, if you will. Those who make noises about those concepts tend to get hammered down convincingly when it's decision-making time.
posted by delfin at 6:15 AM on May 25, 2020 [13 favorites]

I believe we've always been more about our lofty aspirations than our reality. I believe there's always been hope, or at least the illusion of hope, that "the land of the free, and the home of the brave" wouldn't be caught up in trading one for the other. Delusion has been our savior, at least so far, because it has allowed us to hope.

It seems that we've arrived at an intersection of asperation and reality. How ironic is it that a "reality show" shill is the one we've chosen to lead us into our future? Well, iconic, I guess.

Toward the end of her essay, Robinson dutifully offered a few suggestions that might help us find our way back on tracks that might lead to realizing our lofty ideal. I'm not sure she appreciates the multiplying factor inertia has on greed, avarice, and hubris.

But there's always hope.
posted by mule98J at 10:03 AM on May 25, 2020

Not to mention forensic stichomythia, amirite ?
posted by y2karl at 3:05 AM on May 26, 2020

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