“We Just Lost Our Country!!!”

If there is a more overused and inaccurate phrase in contemporary political discourse, I don’t know what it is. I do know that there is no surer sign that you are an ahistorical buffoon than uttering this phrase. As I wrote earlier this week, things have rarely been better in America. Because most Americans have a knowledge of American history that is about as deep as a puddle, they view each challenge and controversy in contemporary society as the fucking end of times. Nothing has ever been more terrifying than ISIS!!!! You know, other than the Nazis, the Soviets, the British Empire, Napoleonic France, China, or damn near any major state actor ever. America has never been more divided!!! Tell that to Andrew Jackson supporters after the “Corrupt Bargain.” Or perhaps you prefer the original American political schism between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Do you think this is the first time Americans thought they were losing their religion? You might want to read up on the Second and Third “Great Awakenings,” which brought us movements like temperance and the “Social Gospel.” Kids today are lazy and entitled!!! Said literally every generation of Americans. Very little about our world or its challenges is all that unique. There is nothing new under the sun.

This is not what you see and hear in most media (traditional or social) outlets today. According to these folks, we live in dire times. The darkest timeline. Franklin Graham says it so often he should trademark the phrase. Nutbag economic writers scream it (erroneously) all the time. Must have meant 2016, not 2014 with that apocalyptic prediction, eh Jim? Speaking of nuts, this is Glenn Beck‘s favorite topic! Beck’s nonsense here is the norm. And he even points out the stupidity of his position (unwittingly, of course):

We grew up in a different time, in a world that made sense. We would sing this in our school assemblies. I don’t even know if it made sense to us when we were kids. We were in the Cold War. We were burning cities down in the 1960s. But at least, in those days, man was trying to reach beyond the primordial slime and reach to the heavens, reach to the moon. There was something great to aspire to. Is there something to aspire to together today?

There is much to still aspire to, Glenn. Hell, we are still exploring space– take NASA’s efforts to reach Mars. People are working on amazing stuff all over the world. It is just that dolts like you have no idea that people are working on them or you cynically think that it somehow doesn’t measure up to the sort of stuff we did in the 1950s. By the way, if you really want to talk about the heyday of innovation and the great technological leap forward, you are about thirty years too late (do yourself a favor and read Vaclav Smil).

It isn’t just right-wing talk radio or bloviating evangelicals promoting this crap. There is a whole swarm of bloggers and social media posts echoing the sentiment. Take this  post from “renowned Keynote Speaker” and President and CEO of The Silent Marketing Partner (couldn’t squeeze one more meaningless title in there?), Kyle Reyes, “Enjoy your transgender bathrooms. We just lost America.”

A word of warning up front: Reyes is a really poor writer and knows absolutely nothing about American history or contemporary politics– this piece is little more than a madlib of political talk radio lead-ins and Facebook memes.

The theme, insofar as one can be identified in this rambling mess, seems to be that America is falling apart while we are all asleep at the wheel. Sound familiar, Beck fans? Like Glenn Beck, Reyes remembers an America where things were “different.” He grew up in an America that was strong and united! A nation that could win World War III!!! Apparently he was not afraid of the use of nuclear weapons, like every sane foreign policymaker and scholar of the era was. Like Beck, he unwittingly stumbles upon the right conclusion, but utterly misunderstands what it means.

Perhaps my fear, and the anxiety of so many others, is that we were wrong.

Well, no shit you were wrong. Your childish notion of what the United States is and has been was rooted in mythology, not facts or measured analysis. Instead of growing up and dealing with the notion that you had a shallow understanding of a very complex topic, you have chosen to become despondent that the myth has been destroyed and seek out some insidious force to pin it on.

Have we ever faced a time when our country was so polarized?

Yes. Literally every era of our history is rife with polarization and bitter partisan fighting.

Have we ever faced enemies so dangerous?

Seriously? The Soviet Union’s ability to wipe out life on Earth was pretty fucking dangerous.

Have we ever been on such a precipice that a frightening and painful energy radiated through each of us, tying us together in some disturbing, unifying, powerful and yet simultaneously divisive way?

Right, I’m sure that the tipping point for the abolition of slavery or civil rights didn’t freak people out at all.

I’m angered to see that we live in a country where we have gone soft. We’ve become hypocrites, and we’ve become pansies.

These sentences have no coherency or point. Just nonsense about the current state of masculinity. Again, he is dreaming of some mythical time in American history where society was “tougher” and more honest. This time never existed.

We forget that our grandfathers stormed beaches to protect freedom. Instead, we demand that the freedom now come in the form of a shelter from hearing words we don’t like.

Bad analogy. Compare the soldiers storming Normandy to the soldiers serving in Afghanistan. Do you still want to call the men of today feckless cowards? Can you actually tell me one thing that college students or domestic social movements agitated for during World War II to compare the safe spacers to? There are plenty of examples. Go read a book.

We flip out because our $7 coffee comes in a red cup.

People said a few words in rage or jest about some silly thing in pop culture? That’s definitely never happened before!

We cancel concerts and cost people jobs because we don’t agree with a law that the people of the state passed.

This is how freedom works in democracy and capitalism. If you do not like what someone is doing you can refuse to do business with them. It is called protesting and it is a pretty tried and true approach to social opposition.

We care more about protecting where someone can take a leak than we care about the safety of our children. OUR CHILDREN.

You know, other than the fact that you can’t really stop them nor are there any records of this being a threat to OUR CHILDREN!!!!!!!

We give out trophies to kids who come in 8th place. Eighth freaking place.

Been doing this for a generation. Sure seems like our athletes and the competitive folks who rise up through the business ranks have not been fooled by this “everyone is a winner” shit. So where exactly is this practice causing problems?

We dig up the graves of people who have been dead for a hundred-plus years because they had something to do with the Confederate flag, and that offends someone NOW.

That flag offended millions of Americans then. Over half a million men lost their lives fighting against that flag and the treason and immorality it stood for. But I’m sure they are not the kind of Americans you imagine in your utopian fantasy.

We say we hate what Democrats have done to the country, so we elect a House and Senate full of Republicans who proceed to also place THEIR heads up their collective asses as well. It seems as if both parties forgot what they were supposed to be doing and whom they are supposed to be representing.

This bullshit equivalence is one of the major problems with “centrist” discourse. The media is particularly bad at it. Presenting both sides does not always make them equal. In this case, one party has actively pursued their agenda, which was clearly outlined to their voters (Democrats) for the past several decades. The other has not moved the needle on any of their supposed central policies and simply obstructs government at every turn. These are not equally dysfunctional parties.

We pick sides and parties and teams and defend them to the ends of the Earth, ignoring the facts, pointing the fingers and hoping someone else will cover the cost of our skyrocketing and borderline pointless health insurance.

Tribalism is ugly, but far from new.

We talk about the number of homeless vets who we have to feed and clothe and house when it’s convenient for us to leverage them like pawns in a game – yet tomorrow, so many will forget to feed and clothe and house them.

Again, this ignores context. One party does this (Republicans). They trot out the homeless vets whenever we talk about aid to foreign people. As the author points out, they don’t care what happens to the vets, they just want to use them as an excuse for not taking action elsewhere. The other party roundly votes in favor of mental health funding and expanded care/coverage for veterans.

We ignore the simple facts about our dangerously open borders and the lack of a vetting process for refugees, then we stand in horror as ISIS attacks and we ask our politicians how they could have let this happen. And then, of course, we put a fast lane in for more to cross the border.

This is fear mongering nonsense. Refugees are the most vetted people in the world. They are vetted more deeply than our candidates for office. Just because you are ignorant of the process does not mean it doesn’t exist.

We put in place more gun laws to prevent the bad guys from doing bad things. Because for some reason, we believe that bad guys give a damn about laws and that giving them an open shooting range on a military base or school campus will somehow protect our citizens. But then we completely ignore the massive problem of mental health in this country. We’re more worried about the tool than we are the person. We cry out that police are our enemies … and then we beg them to protect us from the likes of ISIS.

More false equivalence. There is no connection between arguing for gun control and fighting terrorism. We don’t have rules against carrying weapons on a military base out of some partisan concern– it is because our military idenitfied having untrained personel armed on base increased the odds of a bad outcome (this was passed under George H. W. Bush in 1992). Note the hilarious contradiction between his preening about bad guys not caring about signs and laws when it comes to guns, but somehow signs and laws will keep bad guys from molesting OUR CHILDREN in the bathroom.

And we cry out against the police for their overly aggressive tactics and apparent racial prejudice. As we should. The police serve at the discretion of the people. They are agents of the state in a democratic society. They are and should be subject to our scrutiny.

We celebrate court rulings with rainbow flags that speak volumes about how far we’ve come and how inclusive we are as Americans … then we tell our neighbors to remove their American flags and stop saying “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Hanukkah” because it offends us.

I’ve never heard anyone try to stop someone from saying Merry Christmas. Ever. And I live my life in some of the most liberal places in the country. The “War on Christmas” is something Fox News drums up to get folks like you worked into a lather.

If it was not clear already, this rant is not about divisiveness in our country– it is about cultural conservatives not getting their way.

We send billions of dollars overseas to help the homeless in impoverished and war-torn nations while we cut the funding for our own food banks and homeless programs.

Remember that shit about using the veterans for leverage above? You are doing it again here. Making this a zero-sum game is not about feeding or sheltering the poor at home. It is about shutting down foriegn aid.

We get into fistfights about “under-inflated balls” while gorging ourselves on beer and wings at football games … while millions of Americans wonder how they’re going to pay their mortgage and put food on the table for their families.

These are often the same people. Perhaps the anger over sports is about more than the game…

We fight tooth and nail over whether someone dying of stage four pancreatic cancer should be allowed to use medical marijuana while drugs like heroin are running rampant in our schools.

I have no idea what point he is trying to make here. I assume he is saying there are common sense solutions to both. There are not. Like all drugs, medicinal marijuana is a big business and has enormous potential for being abused. And if you have an easy way of stemming the tide of heroin use, particularly in our poorest communities we’d all love to hear it.

We teach kids that there should be no boys section or girls section at the store, but our kids notice that we won’t sit down with our neighbor for a beer because they have a different skin color and we’re too busy fighting over what is and isn’t racism.

Again, these things are not connected. The boys and girls sections at stores are meaningless distinctions meant to help people shop. If people decide they want it organized differently, business will promptly respond. Who cares? And yes, Americans, liberal or conservative, have a hard time dealing with the issue of race in America.

We hold massive rallies demanding $15/hour for flipping burgers … but we sit quietly on the sidelines when our men and women protecting our country who make $11/hour aren’t getting paid because Congress is debating their funding.

Millions of Americans are criminally underpaid. And we as tax-payers end up subsidising that through social safteynets. We need to do better for our service people and we need to demand better from our corporations.

And lets not pretend that debates over funding the military are about paying the troops. It never is.

We change our profile pictures to colors that represent solidarity with a country that was attacked by terrorists … then we attack our neighbors for being concerned that the same could happen here.

No one is attacking anyone for being concerned about terrorism. People are trying to tell you not to trample on Constitutional rights in your reactionary panic. When someone tells you that banning all Muslims from entering America, refusing to take refugees that we are legally (by international agreements we have made) and morally obligated to take in, or using torture to obtain information are unacceptable practices they are telling you that our freedoms and ideals are more important than assuring you against your reactionary fears of terrorism.

We’re terribly focused on what matters to us as individuals. Marriage. Cell phones. Birth control. On and on and on. We’re so worried about what matters to “me” that we forgot that in order for us to have a “me” … we have to first have an “us.” A safe “us.” A unified “us.” An “us” that can at least find some kind of middle ground.

There has never been a unified “us.” People are individuals. They have identities and belong to multiple communities. I am a WASP. I am straight. I am male. I am an academic. I am an ally of the LGBTQ and black communities. I support reasonably free markets, but also want to be a responsible steward of our global environment. I am from a small town. There are a lot of other identities and communities to me as well. And my identity and community relationships are pretty simple compared to many other people I know. Creating policies that find a “middle ground” when there are so many perspectives and agendas involved requires a lot of hard work, difficult discussions, and complex solutions. And it always has. That is the nature of democracy.

As stupid as Reyes blog post is, unhinged rants like these have become shockingly common. It is both a screed against the bifurcated political process and a prime example of how we got here. He screams for the use of common sense and finding “the middle ground,” but cannot see that his own perspective is far from centrist. Reyes is scared that the simple, quiet, peaceful, and safe America he grew up in is gone. It is. But not because we lost it. It simply never existed.

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