So. New Year’s Day. Happy 2019. Traditionally, a time to look backwards and forwards, see where we’ve been, take a guess where we’re headed.
I wish I could say I was optimistic about the future but I’m not. I’m going to hit 70 this year; cranky old man time. Not, I think, unwarranted.
Let me state my prejudices upfront; I’m a Democrat, a liberal, and I despise Trump. I thought he was a joke the first time he ran for President and now I think he’s a disaster. He’s a narcissist and a liar; he must think we’re fools because we can fact check a lot of the lies. They’re on video. He doesn’t care. He lies, lies some more, and double downs on the lies. He is racist, homophobic, misogynistic and delusional. As the old gag goes, “And those are his good points.”
His presidency is going to do a lasting damage to this country. While I think there’s a fair chance the Democrats in the House will impeach him, I think there’s little chance the Republicans in the Senate will convict him. Unless he ups and quits or just drops dead, Trump will be in the White House, continuing his mischief, until at least 2020.
And I don’t think the damage can be undone.
Trump’s election and the number of his supporters (usually somewhere between 30-40% in the polls) reveals fissures in our Body Politic. He didn’t create the fissures although he is certainly exploiting them. The fissures were already there. And they’re serious. Trump is saying what his followers are thinking and feeling and that is a large percentage of his power; the bad blood was there before he went to the White House and it will be there after he leaves. We fought the Civil War to settle the question of slavery but it has not settled the question of race. You would think that Wade v. Roe settled the issue of abortion and a woman’s right to control her own body but we live in a time when the court decision could be reversed. A Handmaid’s Tale could become a documentary.
I’ve read a fair amount of Civil War history and our current level of national antagonism reminds me very much of what this country was like just before the Civil War erupted. There are too many people, both in our country and outside of it, that are looking to exploit the anger and the hate for their own purposes. Our institutions are under attack and trust in them are being degraded, sometimes unwittingly, sometimes deliberately.
I don’t know as it can be undone.
It’s like my other big concern, climate change. Report after report have come out just this year of the degrading of the planet and what its effect is and will be. For those who don’t believe the reports, there’s the evidence of your eyes. The number and severity of hurricanes, the rage of wildfires, the droughts around the world – as a writer, I take what is given and I project what could be and it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to look down the road. We have twenty years, maybe only twelve, maybe less than that, to change before – we are told – the damage is irreversible.
I don’t see that change happening. I don’t see the political will to make it happen, at least not in this country. It would take a mammoth effort and there are too many people with a vested short-term interest in those changes not happening. It would negatively affect their bottom line.
I think, similarly, the degradation of our Body Politic is also going to be irreversible. Elect who you will; the fissures will still be there and so will the bad blood, the underlying anger, the hate – wounds that haven’t, that won’t, heal because it suits some folks that they continue and these people stoke the flames. It benefits somebody.
Right now, we are still the pre-eminent country in the world. Right now. But every great civilization, every empire, in the history of the world has declined or died. Every. Single. One. We have at least two Big Powers (Russia and China) who are gunning for us (IMO). They won’t be the ones who bring us down; we’ll do that ourselves.
Sorry to be a downer on New Year’s Day. Generally, it should be a day of hope – a brand new year full of promise. I don’t feel that way, however, and if I don’t write honestly of what I see and feel and believe, I shouldn’t write at all. I’m not ready to stop that just yet.
And maybe I’ll be proven wrong. You have no idea how much I want to be wrong.
Let’s see where we are this time next year.
Happy New Year, y’all.
John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. It’s been awhile since he’s been here, but now John’s back with a new column at a new blog, PopCultureSquad, where this piece first appeared (before Christmas even, but we’ve been on a break so you get to relive the holiday now). You can learn more about John and his many masterworks HERE