Stop Me If You’ve Heard This Before

The unraveling of America. Not that we were ever as knotted together as we think we were.

Image by Mediamodifier from Pixabay

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Road Rage
A group of teenagers (or adults) is beating up another teenager (or adult) in a public space, and no one who is witnessing it attempts to stop it. Instead, everyone pulls out their phones and start recording the event, and some even live stream it. Another human being whose video of the incident later gets 225,643 likes steps over the victim on the ground because they have places to go. The victim is so severely injured that they are transported to the hospital, where they suffer needlessly or die. Maybe, they'll get five minutes on the news. 

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Mask Fights
You’re seventy-three years old and high-risk health-wise, and you go to the Urologist’s office in Orange County where you see a waiting room of other senior-looking men and a few women who you assume might also be at risk health-wise considering their age and the reason they are there and the intake person is a young woman who is not wearing a mask in the middle of a pandemic and chatting up a storm to those coming to the window, and then you look over and realize that other staff around her (also young people) are not wearing masks, and you’re shocked, and you quickly retreat to the furthest corner of the office lobby hoping that you’re going to be okay and wondering “Is this a doctor’s office?” and why weren’t you warned and you swear that you won’t ever come here again because it’s apparent that they just don’t give a shit about you or your health. Kind of like walking over your dead body because they got better things to do than protect your health in a doctor’s office. 

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Spirit Airlines passengers brawl inside Detroit Metro Airport
You’re at the airport waiting at the gate for your flight when all of a sudden you hear shouting from the gate next door, and you turn and see a full-fledged rock 'em and sock ‘em battle to the death by would be passengers hauling blows upon the airline staff behind the counter as the victimizers curse their mommas and daddies and complain “Whatcha’ mean the flight’s been canceled?” and people get their cell phones out and are recording the action, some even streaming it live, and you’re thinking to yourself, ‘Where’re the cops?” and “Aren’t you supposed to be wearing a mask at the airport?” as you watch the victimizers not wearing masks because they want to be able to shout their obscenities filled rants clearly and loudly so they can be heard and some of the people shooting videos have lowered their masks because they’ve determined that somehow the masks get in the way of their live streaming the battle royal. Later one of them will learn that their video has received 525,674 likes after they’ve stepped over the airport damage and some little old lady innocent bystander who’s writhing on the ground in pain (“Fuck ‘em).

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

I was thinking about all of this when I came across the headline America Is Falling Apart at the Seams, an opinion piece by David Brooks. The headline scared me because I’d been saying it for the past seven years (Actually, way longer). Brooks lamented the seeming breakdown in society’s weave and wondered why.

“But something darker and deeper seems to be happening as well — a long-term loss of solidarity, a long-term rise in estrangement and hostility. This is what it feels like to live in a society that is dissolving from the bottom up as much as from the top down.”

David Brooks
Image by joanbrown51 from Pixabay

There’s a long list of signs that America is unraveling, but he offers no solutions, “As a columnist, I’m supposed to have some answers. But I just don’t right now. I just know the situation is dire.” I agree. Things seem bad. So bad that we just don’t have an answer to what to do about it (Besides just shooting some video and stepping over some person’s dead body).

It must be so bad that I found other columnists bemoaning the state of America: Rudeness Is on the Rise. You Got a Problem With That? by Jennifer Finney Boylan. Others are looking into the possibilities of the next American Civil War: Imagine another American Civil War, but this time in every state reported by NPR’s Ron Elving or In the coming second American Civil War, which side are you on? an opinion piece by Chauncey Devega.

These pieces mirror the news headlines we see every day announcing the latest battles around COVID or Race or White Supremacy, guns, crime, fights on planes, and my favorite, Wokeness (I wish someone would define that for me). Dogmatism has replaced compromise because the extreme wings of our political and social discourse have hijacked the process.

On the right, the politics of the last twenty-two years since the Bush-Gore debacle have grown more feverish, commanding, and powerful. Strategically, they have worked hard to take the levers of power in more states and localities than the moderates and progressives can ever have dreamt. Ruthless and dogged while inciting in mostly White Americans (Black and Latino adherents are a separate story) the need to kick some ass on their way to their thrones of power.

On the left, there has been a desire to abandon dialogue with the right and moderates because, well, what has that gotten them? The victories of the sixties through the end of the twentieth century are threatened and, in some cases, have already been pushed back by conservative legislatures and conservative judiciary. The left asks, “Why are we still fighting for social justice in 2022?” and they are frustrated to the point of To hell with compromise.

Some on the left, like their counterparts on the right, believe the only thing this country understands is what comes out of the end of a gun barrel. It may be time to kick some ass.

But the reality is, that as long as I’ve been alive, I’ve witnessed this conflict of conscience where some people don’t give one cent about their fellow humans. Anyone who has studied American history (not the whitewashed homogenized version) knows that this is not the first time in our history that the hands of Americans are at the throats of other Americans and that they didn’t give a shit.

However, something feels different now. It’s not just the pandemic, or that’s there are just more of us with smartphones and access to and influence of the thoughts of millions of other Americans who just can’t stand other Americans and also don’t give a shit. Fuck ‘em as I walk over their dead bodies.

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

This is sad. Not surprising, but still sad. You just feel that something is missing. An emptiness of character, a deficit of human empathy. That there is no hope.

Damn, there just has to be.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

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