Photograph by Sam Felder
When you go to high school history class in a few years, or perhaps when your kids go to their high school history class in a few decades, they will undoubtedly be reading about an age in our American existence that was less than stellar. While I’m not talking solely about 2017, 2017 provides a capsule which exemplifies that hate and vitriol that can take center stage in the chronicles of our country’s narrative. In 2017, we witnessed:
- Hate groups being given voice to march and spew their bigotry not only on public ground but in every corner of the internet.
- A president responding to such vitriol with, well, nothing, further emboldening such acts.
- Increasing tensions with a rogue country when nuclear war is at stake.
- Sexual harassment and misogyny at its worst, as the acts of Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Garrison Keillor, Al Franken, and many others all came to light.
- The Secretary of State (rightly) calling the president a
- The lower and middle classes paying for a tax break for corporations and the wealthiest Americans.
- And on and on and on.
What’s perhaps more disturbing about this era in our democracy is the contempt with which those in charge of our government talk about one another. There is no spirit of helping the American people, there is only the goal to win. Trump, McConnell, [insert politician’s name here]. Republicans lower taxes on the rich, democrats will get elected and raise taxes on the rich, and around and around we go.
Kids, I hope that when you are older we will have moved beyond politics as a tug-of-war and will be closer to politics as a puzzle. Our country faces difficult problems for sure; wouldn’t it be great if our politicians looked to the data and research, and dare I say, science for how we might address our biggest problems? So that we are not governed by those who make moronic statements suggesting we could use a bit more of that “good old” global warming.
While I don’t know this for sure, my guess is that politicians think their voters are stupid. That if they repeatedly make false statements those statements will magically come true. However, I don’t have such a cynical view, because in 2017 we also saw some extraordinary events, such as:
- Between 3 and 5 million people participating in the Women’s March in January at locations all across the United States.
- The women who were victims of sexual harassments and crimes emboldened to speak, in many cases for the first time.
- McCain standing up and refusing to kill health care for millions of Americans.
- Support for transgender Americans serving in the military, even as the President tried his best to discriminate against this population.
- And 670,551 Alabama residents voting for Doug Jones (D) for Senate, who won by 2%.
This last event perhaps gives me the most hope that Americans, no matter which state they live in, are not preprogrammed to hate, contempt, and self-serving interests. This is because in 2010, the last year of a competitive senate race in Alabama, the democrat received only 515,619 votes, and lost by over 440,000 votes. These Americans saw what was happening, they voted their conscience, and they changed this country.
And that is what I hope for you: that when you read about this time in American History it will be in the context of how we have changed, learned, and moved forward.