Every morning I get up hoping to do some philosophical work but I make the mistake, (or is it a mistake?) to read the headlines and op-eds in the New York Times and Washington Post. Here is an expert from just one of them, Roger Cohen’s “If This is America,”
If this is America, with a cabinet of terrorized toadies genuflecting to the Great Leader, a vice president offering a compliment every 12 seconds to Mussolini’s understudy, and a White House that believes in “alternative facts,” then it is time to “keep your head when all about you are losing theirs.”
If this is America, where the Great Leader threatens allies who do not fall in line, retweets the anti-Muslim racism of British fascists, insults the Muslim mayor of London, dreams up a terror attack in Sweden, invents a call from the Mexican president, claims the Russia story is a “total fabrication,” then you will have to “bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools.”
If this is America, less than a year into the Trump Presidency; yes, if this is still America, where Representative Diane Black, Republican of Tennessee, thanks the Great Leader for “allowing us to have you as our president,” and Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, says Trump’s will be the greatest presidency “maybe ever,” and the Great Leader celebrates a tax cut that saves his family millions but allows CHIP health insurance to expire for sick children, then you must “force your heart and nerve and sinew to serve your turn long after they are gone.”
I could go on and list insightful pieces about the end of American democracy by conservative commentators like Michael Gerson’s, “The moral authority of the presidency is in tatters” or Jennifer Rubin’s” Now we know why Republicans are attacking the FBI,” or those from more center-left sources like Painter and Eisen’s “The Four Threats to Robert Mueller,” or E. J. Dionne’s “The age of betrayal is back.” But I must stop, at least for now.
I need to live my life too, not with my head buried in the sand but remembering my old friends the Stoics who taught me long ago to do my duty—love my wife and kids and grandkids, keep learning, write my posts, etc.—but remember that I can’t control the consequences. The world is a very big place and I’m a very small being.
It causes sadness to know what the selfish or ignorant do not, but such is life. Sometimes I think being educated and conscious is the greatest burden of all. I sometimes long for the innocence of childhood when life felt secure, comfortable, and rational. But the fact is that we all barely survive because of a thin layer of atmosphere that shields us from the radiation of an unimaginably large, cold, and dark universe. Life’s fragility and contingency accompany us on our journey. This morning Shakespeare captures my thoughts:
But man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d;
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven,
As make the angels weep.
~ Shakespeare, “Measure for Measure“
3 thoughts on “What Happened to America?”
I do have one deeply insightful thought to add to this piece, based on this statement:
“Every morning I get up hoping to do some philosophical work”
Do you don your heavy philosopher’s work boots with steel toes, your philosopher’s greasy coveralls with the word “Aristotle” sewn over the front pocket, and, the most important part: your philosopher’s hard hat inscribed “Make Plato Great Again”?
you are very funny.
I have recently been rereading the stoics and found a comfort there that was only theoretical at best in previous times. Your post sums up too much for comfort.