cur-mud-geon: anyone who hates hypocrisy and pretense and has the temerity to say so; anyone with the habit of pointing out unpleasant facts in an engaging and humorous manner
On this Saturday morning, I began to reflect on things of the past; things of the past few days, of the past few months, of the past few years and of the past few decades.
Three or four decades ago, I recall that our lives were simpler. We had not as much technology in our daily existences and we seemed to talk more about more things with more people. We seemed to be happy permitting time to unfold on its own without wishing it to speed up unless for the vacation to arrive sooner, or Christmas presents to be opened sooner. We were, as I recall it at least, more civil toward one and other. Maybe that was simply the result of us being more attuned to local things and to our neighborhoods than to the things of the larger, uglier world.
Three or four years ago, I recall that we had become almost fully dialed-in to technology, that we were a nation of news junkies, that our political views had become more pronounced and that we were less willing to share those views with some in the fear of provoking a nasty confrontation. Our ‘neighborhoods’ had become much more broadly based geographically and we were largely ensconced in that ‘neighborhood’ in which we found kindred spirits; we had confined ourselves with those with whom we identified. We realized, or maybe we didn’t, that some of those ‘neighborhoods’ were politically-driven; some were belief-driven; some were vocationally-driven, some were social-strata driven, and some were gender-driven. We had become much more divided from our neighbors next door, or in the next community away from us, or in the country next to us. We were more insular; we cared strongly about us but less about our neighbor, and less still about those of the other political persuasions. We had become citizens of the nation and of the world rather than of a neighborhood or a locality or a state. We had become much more self-centered and that showed in our disdain for others with whom we didn’t wish to associate because of their politics or their opinions or their general distastefulness to us. We had erected walls so that we could limit our contacts to a certain select group in which we found commonality and comfort.
Three or four months ago, we had found that we were more stridently opposed to those with whom we disagreed. We demonstrated and we carried signs at rallies; we collected signatures to recall various politicians with whom we were at total odds. Our bumper stickers were more revealing of our deeper feelings about the issues of the day. Politics had gotten to be truly a ‘Blood Sport’ as a book title had suggested in the Clinton-era, which seems centuries ago upon further reflection. Demonstrators took to the streets in the neighborhoods where politicians lived and raised their families. National organizations bussed and drove their demonstrators and signature gatherers into our state to continue to fan the anger that had been fomented. Many tens of millions of dollars have been spent in this effort by all parties and that has yet to abate. Normally uninvolved people found themselves drawn to the demonstrations almost like moths to the flame. Our radios continually gave us the talkers who espoused one or the other sides’ issues, although mostly conservative since liberal talkers don’t seem able to draw sustainable statewide or national audiences meaning their shows come and go. We were immersed, not necessarily against our desires, in the cauldron of nasty political activities; things that really could no longer be labeled as civilized debate. Our capitol building became a camping ground for protesters, many of whom were the always-ready group of lifelong protesters readily available in our capitol city. They sang the old songs of racial demonstrations updated with new words; they beat incessantly on drums and blew their horns all intending to halt the business of the state and to show people that there was a very real price to pay anymore for the exercising of politics by the party that happened to be in power at the time. The judicial system became an integral part of the season’s festivities.
Three or four days ago, I found that I still was careful with whom I talked about what. I found that I longed for this to be over, while I feared it would never again be “over”. We, each of us in our own way, have permitted our civilization (if it deserves that moniker anymore) to devolve into something more reminiscent of medieval times with the witch hunts and public debasement of those accused. We have seemingly lost our ability, for a while at least, to talk constructively with one and other about any and all matters of importance without allowing our anger to take over our mouths and our minds. This has, unfortunately, caused family splits, splits between friends, splits within churches and splits within other groups of formerly like-minded people. We have devolved to what I fear might be a point from which it will take years to recover…even if we want to recover…but we don’t seem to have rounded that bend in the road at this point.
I wish it were different, but it does not seem to be, at least from my vantage point on this Saturday morning.