Archive for October 2nd, 2007

Turning Away From History

October 2, 2007

Have you ever had a favorite tv show that you’d been watching for years, had gotten to “know” the characters on, had become somewhat emotionally invested in them and their lives, and then one season the storyline involved one or more of them doing something (or having something done to them) that would have tragic consequences for them and for the show — so much so that you just couldn’t watch it happen? 

You had to turn away; stop watching?

I feel that way about the country right now.  I can’t watch.

I’m a political junky when it comes to policymaking.  (Elections, not so much.)  Have been for 20 yrs., give or take.  What we do as a nation (a national community) is something I care a lot about.  Reading and thinking about its history — political, social, legal, economic, religious, intellectual, and cultural; its trends and cycles and tendencies — up to and including current history, has absorbed the bulk of my adult life: full-time for the first 10 or so years, spare-time in the years since.  I am emotionally and intellectually (not to mention financially) invested in its story and characters; its themes and ideas.

Lately, I find I just can’t watch.  What we’re doing to ourselves is too sad, too tragic, to witness.  What the Founders and many European observers often referred to as “the American experiment” — a phrase that indicates the real fragility we Americans too often forget — is failing.  The country is dying. 

I’ve never felt that before, so I try to find parallels in our history; earlier times when the experiment was in similar jeopardy yet somehow recovered.  I can’t come up with one.  The nearest I can think of is the decades around the turn of the previous century — Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, and the Spanish-American War.  Even that era doesn’t seem as dismal for the experiment as the current one, however.  As many dangers and problems as there were, they were fewer, less dire, and less mutually reinforcing than now, and the resources for addressing them were greater and stronger than now.

All of that is my way of saying that political posts may become pretty scarce here at the Hippos.  Maybe my courage will return, but right now, I just can’t watch.  It’s too sad.