Thursday, April 5, 2018
Letter to the future
Dear 2060 America:
I was reading an article in the New York Times today, about the echo chamber between President Donald Trump and Fox News, and how a group of Central American immigrants moving through Mexico became, in the little fear-shriveled minds of the president and his supporters, a terrifying invasion.
And it occurred to me, in not all that many decades, when our country is certain to be 25 percent Hispanic—it's already 18 percent Hispanic now—you'll look back on this period and wonder how it could have been possible, how such an important element of this great nation could have been allowed to be abused. How such an often great nation, the United States of America, could have elected this unfit clown, this unashamed hater, whose thoughts and policies used to be found on vile booklets left on bus station urinals, as president of the United States.
You've got to wonder: What was wrong with these people?
I wish I had an answer. It amazes us and we were there the whole time.
Not to be glib about something so wrong, so dangerous. If you're wondering whether we knew that something horrible was coming, that all wouldn't be staff firing and inane misstatements of reality, well...
Yeah, we knew. Or we should have known. People have already been hurt, our country has already been damaged, at home and abroad. Did we know that worse was to come? Yeah, we knew. Or should have known. Or let ourselves guess and then pushed the knowledge away. Or denied the obvious.
At least I know. If I had to summarize the Trump presidency up to today, I would say: we've been lucky, so far. If Trump were a skilled tactician, if he actually had a malign agenda beyond aggrandizing himself, and saying anything to please those who support him, he could have caused enormous damage.
But that might be coming. Probably is coming. Because each day we drift away from what we used to be, a normal, fact-driven, respectable society that at least paid lip service to notions of fairness and equality. That's gone, and while you can argue we've had some pretty dark chapters in our history—the bad stuff is oddly a comfort now, a reminder that we've done some heinous screwing up before—at least we weren't being led by such a ridiculous asshat. At least we weren't what we are now. Something both ridiculous and terrifying, our usual courage led by the pants-wetting swagger of the chronically terrified.
In our defense, there is a lot of that going around. We didn't invent prophylactic surrender of our ideals. The British dropping out of the European Union because they were afraid they'd have to let in Turks. The rise of nationalism in France and elsewhere. The Philippines electing a murderous madman. Israel lurching further and further to the right under the wildly corrupt Benjamin Netanyahu. Even segments of Germany are thinking, "That whole Nazi thing, it wasn't so bad for us..."
This is terrible time for democracy all round.
Yes, we used to lead the world, not catch its every ailment. Now we don't (lead) and do (catch). Now the rest of the world looks on at us with fear, confusion and pity.
Maybe you do too.
Anyway, I don't want to belabor the point. Usually I write for people today, but I wanted to drop this note in a pixel bottle and toss it in the electronic ocean where maybe you'll find it or, more likely, you won't. Assuming you'll care and, given what's happening in 2018, I'd expect a bull market in not caring about much of anything.
A pity. You should know, millions of Americans in 2018 were aghast and ashamed and eager to do whatever they can to winch our country out of this ditch of idiocy it has slid into, upside down, wheels spinning. It's a big task, and I am certain the aftershocks of our folly will be felt by you in 42 years. My hope is, not too much. Try to understand the improbable nature of the threat, and the way amazement and disgust blinded us to what was really happening. Be kind, and forgive us. I figure, by 2060, when I'm 100, kindness will have come back in style. At least I hope so. Because it's sure in short supply now.
With apology, regret and best wishes,