Yes, the Dow Industrials are through the roof, and the full employment we were enjoying at the end of the Obama administration is now, well, even fuller. But the neighborhood has grown very cranky. Racism and Anti-Semitism and xenophobia are in full renaissance. We’ve just impeached the President of the United States. We’ve begun the process of trying him in the United States Senate for high crimes and misdemeanors, for which, if found guilty, he would be removed from office—removed from office ten months before an election in which the people will/would determine whether they want him to stay or go. Yes, people are cranky.
The very heart of our democracy, the Congress of the United States, convenes in Washington to engage in tactical warfare—party against party, Republican against Democrat and American against American. No one wins in this war of wills. Little of value to the American People gets considered, let alone enacted. The Capitol is the battleground and We the People are the battlefield casualties.
Derisive, ugly, and ignorant name-calling has become rampant across the political spectrum. And who is the name-caller-in-chief? Yes, it’s a rhetorical question, but it is a very serious question. Political discourse has deteriorated to the lowest level in memory, indeed, perhaps in history. Political opponents are described derisively, as disloyal, dishonest and dangerous. Our senior-most distinguished military leaders, who have faced the enemy on the field of battle, are held up to outrageous ridicule by their Commander-in-Chief who never served a day in military uniform, except in high school.
Most Americans, we believe, are embarrassed that we have abandoned our allies, the Kurds, even after they provided the boots on the ground in our war against ISIS, and lost over 10,000 men and women on the battlefield. That wasn’t a military decision, at least not one made by the men and women in uniform who are responsible for defending our nation. That was a nonsensical decision made between tweets and after a telephone call from Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who wanted to cleanse the area near the Turkish border of our allies, the hated Kurds.
Tranquility is obliterated over and over again by the sound of gunfire in our communities, in our schools and our churches and synagogues. Gun violence has the nation tied in knots. Mentally ill Americans, and Americans of sound mind, but cold heart, gun down fellow Americans with increasing regularity. We watch in real-time on television as yet another mass shooting takes place in some American community. We wring our hands and shake our heads and lament that we can do nothing. That the right to bear arms shall not be infringed, which when enshrined in our constitution really meant the right to bear muskets, now enshrines the right for, well, just about everyone to bear, pretty much, whatever they choose, AK 47’s, 30 cartridge magazines, long guns, short guns, a few guns, an arsenal of guns—it doesn’t matter. So, every few weeks Americans are gunned down somewhere in America. Shamefully, the best we can do is talk about divining who, in this nation of 330 million souls, is mentally disturbed enough to gun down other Americans.
The calculated invective directed against the press day by day, almost hour by hour, is as ugly to the ear as pornography is (or should be) to the eye. The founders, those present at the creation, the first of our great generations, did not enshrine freedom of the press in the most important first amendment to our constitution so that the nation’s editors would be free to praise them—but so that they would be free to criticize them. The press was mean and cantankerous from the beginning. This from Thomas Paine, writing about none other than President George Washington. “the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an impostor; whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had any.” In response, President Washington said nothing. There is no question that he was hurt by the attacks in the press, of which there were many. Some historians believe the press attacks against him were responsible for his decision to retire to Mount Vernon after his second term in office. But he also knew a free and unencumbered and unrestrained press was critical to the democracy he played such a great role in creating. He knew America’s free press was always the grand recourse of the people and never the enemy of the people.
America, by far the wealthiest nation in the world, can’t manage to live within its means, so we are borrowing from everyone who will lend us money, including our designated economic enemy-number-one, China, to whom we are indebted more than any other foreign power. And why are we in such financial straits? Because we’ve seriously reduced revenue (through tax legislation that was supposed to generate revenue) while vastly increasing spending. We’re now spending over a trillion dollars a year more than we take in, and we’ll be doing that for as far into the future as we can see. Not a pretty (let alone, beautiful) sight. And there will be a day of reckoning. There always is, and that’s something we seem to forget with regularity. That’s why the people, as well as the nation, are head-over-heels in debt.
So, no. It’s not a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Sorry, Mister Rogers.