Eleven Jewish worshippers dead in Pittsburgh, senselessly gunned down in this time of general senselessness…this time of malignant discontinuity in America. The American dream has, for the time being, turned into an American nightmare. The dream, the American dream, indeed, the American experience, has always been based on a certain cohesion in this land. That cohesion, that sense of purpose, that phenomenon of a community pulling together as the world had never seen before is what defined American Exceptionalism as Alexis de Tocqueville observed it nearly two hundred years ago. That cohesion, has, for the time being, sadly, been lost if not destroyed.
The murder of Jews praying in Pittsburg, the attempted murder by bombing of various Trump opponents throughout America, the gunning down of Republican lawmakers on a ball field in Virginia, the slaughter of black Christian worshippers in Charleston, South Carolina, politicians exhorting their followers to harass their opponents, to kick them”, a Republican president crudely, yes crudely, hurling invective at his opponents in rally after rally throughout the country, and then lecturing us that there’s no room for civil disorder after the predictable offal hits the fan—it all speaks to our loss of national cohesion, to our growing and dangerous discontinuity. It is, for the time being, defining who we are and what we are becoming.
Election seasons in America have always been raucous and spirited, and sometimes downright unruly, but also often fun and a celebration of our remarkable rambunctious, unifying democracy. But that’s not what we’re seeing now. We’re watching a disuniting, not a uniting, of America.
We do not know a great deal about the wing-nut who committed the mass murder in Pittsburgh yesterday other than the fact that he bought into the fiction, hook, line, and sinker, that our way of life and, indeed, our very lives, are being threatened by a marauding tidal wave of immigrant invaders (who he said were coming to slaughter us) being ushered into the United States by, of all people, the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.
But of course, he (and we) had been told from on high that they don’t send us their best from below the border, they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists…” No, from what we’re observing, they’re overwhelmingly mothers and fathers and kids desperately seeking to get away from a desperate life.
Instead of focusing on how to efficiently process those seeking asylum or a better life in America, our national leadership, instead, is focusing, totally, on keeping them out and maligning these desperate souls in the process. We threaten to cut off aid to nations that do not stop the exodus or that allow immigrants to traverse their land on the way to America. Ironically, aid programs that improve life in those countries actually do reduce emigration from those very countries.
The cameras focus on the long line of souls literally walking thousands of miles to get to America as though it’s a phenomenon never seen before. Well, that mass of humanity is roughly equivalent to what we once processed everyday as ships arrived from Europe with their human cargos of equally desperate men, women, and children looking for a better life. The record, by the way, was just under 12,000 who arrived in one day at Ellis Island, 5,000 arrivals a day were pretty common. And those immigrants, and especially their children, made America greater than any slogan-emblazoned, hat-wearing politician.
It seems futile to expect the leadership we need to materialize in Washington. E Pluribus Unum (from many, one) seems, for the time being, to have been relegated to the comedy store, if not the trash heap of history. We are watching the disuniting of America, the very opposite of what the times call for.
No doubt, spin-meisters are meeting as we write to determine how best to tamp down the calls that are sure to come for sensible weapons control in America. They’ll tell us the best way to stop a bad man with a gun is with a good man with a gun. The President of the United States opines that what we need are armed guards at our schools and places of worship and, we guess, at our shopping markets, and on our buses and trains and airplanes, movie houses and ballparks and busy intersections and department stores and Walmart’s and Walgreen’s and flea markets and busy intersections and street corners and day-care centers, any and all places where people gather, but under no circumstances should we interfere with the everyone’s right to accumulate an arsenal of handguns, long guns, semi-automatic guns, small, medium and large magazines and even machine guns as long as they were manufactured before May 1986.
We have an election in nine days. Voters should ask themselves which candidates will work to bring us together and which candidates see discontinuity as a winning strategy. We had better choose well.