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,
    2018 America


  1. There was a fever over the land. A fever of disgrace, of indignity, of hunger. We had a democracy, yes, but it was torn by elements within. Above all, there was fear. Fear of today, fear of tomorrow, fear of our neighbors, and fear of ourselves.

  2. Nice turn of phrase: pixel the electronic ocean.

    To paraphrase Sam Johnson: Impending disaster sharpens the mind.


  3. In something related, that is scary of the SE Cupp findings on Sinclair monopoly of the news to keep it right wing. And usually she's mod. conserv herself.

  4. It's funny (not ha ha) that 25 years ago Fukuyama was writing about the End of History, meaning that democracy and capitalism had "won" the race to find the perfect system for organizing human affairs. And ever since, we've seen the ways in which that system doesn't work, how the conflict between "one person, one vote" and "one billion dollars, one billion votes" has played out to the detriment of so many of us.

    We then went and elected the embodiment of that conflict, someone who (supposedly) has a billion dollars and would be free of financial pressures, someone who should be admired for gaming the system and enriching himself. But it turned out he didn't just game the system, he profoundly didn't care about it, or any of the people the system is designed to protect. And here we are.

  5. When Reagan was elected, I thought, this is it. This is the lowest we can go. A guy who played co-star to a chimp and has a mind consisting of 3x5 cards. This is the nadir of the American republic. We have reached the absolute bottom of the Marianas Trench. American politics cannot possibly get more ridiculous.

    Was I naive or what?

  6. 2060 will be here in the blink of an is to 2018 as 2018 was to 1976, the Bicentennial year, which I remember like it was mere months ago. Getting 33 MPG in my decade-old VW Bug and driving all the way to Ann Arbor on five bucks worth of gas, with Peter Frampton on the tinny one-speaker AM radio. And having yet to turn thirty.

    And when I'm 113 and the oldest person in the world and America is 284, maybe things WILL be better. At least I, too, hope so. But I'm beginning to believe that by 2060, America as we now know it will not exist in its present form. There may not even be any life on this planet at all, if the maniacs blow it up, damn them all to hell. I would not want to be ten or twenty years old right now. Or even about to turn thirty. Those folks will have to deal with the consequences of what we do now, or don't do at all. Most of us here will be forgotten dust. Maybe we're the lucky ones.

  7. From 2060: "Interesting preview to the apocalypse. Appeasement for another madman?"

  8. Greetings people of 2018. I am writing to you from 2060. I'm either 105 years old or I'm dead. I'm not sure which it is, but I know smell bad.
    There is nothing I can tell you about the years 2016 through 2020. It's as though the years vanished, or never existed. We refer to them simply as "the black hole years" because they've confounded us since we boomaranged out of them 40 years ago. All events during this time have been proven impossible to observe. Until we stumbled upon this blog, we had zero information about these "years".
    We appreciate Mr. Steinberg's heartfelt apologies, but we would really like to know more about this "Trump" fellow. Did he really exist? He was elected president? How is that possible? We are an advanced, intelligent...hey, wait a minute...a president of the United States watched Fox News? This is a prank, right? Ha ha, you had me going. Trump, geez. I guess we'll never solve the black hole mystery.

  9. Exactly why I am still glad, as of today, that Trump won over Ted Cruz. He would have been much more efficient in impending his malicious agenda.

  10. Don't be so hard on the Brits' fears of Turks, ask an Armenian or a Kurd. Once I might say that a free society could teach a refugee from such a place, but I'm not so sure in todays world.


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