As an immigrant going on 50 years I have both admired and been perplexed by my adopted homeland and its citizens. This paradox has now reached a boiling point, so much so that I am actually deeply concerned about the future of our nation, home of my two beautiful children both of whom were born here; indeed, I am worried about our collective future. I have never seen us, the citizens, so divided; in fact so polarized it makes me think we are capable of the unthinkable, which is the basis for my article.
When my family first emigrated from Yugoslavia during the late 60s, the US was also in turmoil. It was the height of the civil rights movement along with countless demonstrations against the Vietnam War. However, both ended-up having positive effects on our society, it was as if as a nation we were evolving to a better, more spiritually-connected place fine tuning our collective moral compass. We intuitively knew that discrimination against people of color was as bad as dropping napalm bombs against innocent civilians. My father, a very wise man, used to say that nations, like individuals, mature and evolve over time to become better than they were before. He called it ‘collective national consciousness’ – and felt it was a good thing for nations to evolve and cited, amongst others, the Scandinavians – viscous Viking descendants who evolved into peaceful-loving people and societies. Same could said about the Turks and the Mongols, both descendants of some of the most brutal regimes in human history. His point was that at one time or another we were all savages!
However, I have NEVER seen such division, even hatred as I have during the past couple of years or so displayed by all of our citizens regardless of race, gender, age, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, etc. Republicans vs. Democrats; blacks vs. whites; old vs. young; rich vs. poor; minorities vs. authorities, immigrants vs. native-born and so on. I am not talking about disagreements or heated debates but deeply emotional stances that are mostly based on belief systems and not facts. And the media is a major contributor to this rising tsunami of hatred. Watching CNN/MSNBC is no different than watching Fox; each respective network pouring more fuel on the fire to keep viewers glued so each can make more ad dollars. Even El Chapo is envious, the drug that the media is dealing is LEGAL!
Every time I turn on the network news (which is very rare these days) I always see the same format regardless of the network I am watching. There is the host and the panel that consists of warring parties discussing their differences in a civil manner for all of 30 seconds or so. Then all hell breaks loose while the ‘host’ just sits there allowing the guests to go at each other’s throats and pretending not to take sides (they all do!). At times it looks a lot like watching another ‘Housewives’ franchise. Pathetic! Watch CNN, FOX, MSNBC, etc., and you will see feuding forces aligned against each other like military formations. The Hatfields on the left and the McCoys on the right insulting and bullying each other. And we wonder why bullying is so prevalent amongst kids. Monkey see, monkey do! And we are not just calling each other names, we are literally fighting with each other and against one another. It would be so easy, even tempting to blame our current ‘political leadership’ (note the quotations marks) but that is just fingering the symptom and not the decease. Like wild scavengers each side is just having a feast feeding off a warm body screaming for help. That warm body represents each and every one of us, especially our children. It’s no wonder the millennials are discussed with their elders, something I never experienced as a child growing up in a tiny village. We didn’t just respect our elders, we adored them!
On the surface, we brag about our democracy and freedom to choose the candidate that best represents our personal beliefs but the minute we name that person we get bombarded with insults, ridicule, even threats from neighbors, friends and family members. What has happened to us? When did we become so rude and disrespectful that we are more concerned about releasing our own frustration and anger than being understanding, respectful and compassionate about other people’s feelings? These are our co-workers, neighbors, family members we are talking about, not some distant terrorists or mortal enemies. Unfortunately and deeply regrettably, I too got caught up in it but decided there is higher road that I should take.
What happened to that ‘democratic process’ we tend to brag about and preach to other nations? No wonder no one is taking us seriously. One of the greatest things about our democracy is that we can vote for the candidate of our own choice, something very few nations on this planet can do yet we undermine the very process that makes us the greatest nation on the planet. And then we blame the Russians, an easy copout! Believe you me they are pointing and laughing, out loud.
Unfortunately, I have seen this before. Yugoslavia, the land of my birth, went through something similar during a decade of deep and divisive hatred resulting in a civil war that pitted neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend. It is now referred as the ‘Former Yugoslavia’ something my wise father would have never imagined. Sadly, he passed away and did not witness that the land he fought so valiantly for during WWII is no longer united. And the minute we take our democracy for granted we too shall become Brothers in Arms. We don’t have to be saints, just need to be civil. Would hate for anyone to refer to us as the “Former USA”. Speak your conscience and know everyone else is doing the same. And let’s not forget that former president Nixon was a disgraced president who ended-up walking on the San Clemente beach by himself while talking to himself. In the end Nixon got what he deserved as will all the presidents that think democracy is situational. They too will end up talking (or tweeting) to themselves. A beach, a golf course or perhaps even a federal property where the concierge is not so friendly. If we could survive Nixon pretty sure we can also survive this divide and prove Nietzsche right once again: “That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” Best…–bb