Maintaining faith in the American experiment is growing ever more difficult in the era of Trump. We’ve moved to the point at which the country is dividing into red and blue, with facts making no difference to the ideology. Take the issues debated these days, and the position that people take on them is an expression of political faith, not something that would stand up to logical analysis.
Democrats have staked their flag on corporate money, and no matter how many times progressives point out that voters are tired of establishment politicians who work for donors, and they keep pushing gun control, despite the lack of evidence that such policies would do any good. Republicans deny science and insist that cutting healthcare money so that rich people can have yet another tax cut is better than going with the models in countries like Canada and France where the costs are half what we spend per capita and everyone is covered. And they shill for donors even more than corporatist Democrats. Try to point out the facts, and they get filtered through the screens and deflections of ideology that won’t allow any challenges to deeply held beliefs.
So what do we do about this? In the actual Balkans, the conflict among the various groups took almost a century of violence and tyranny to reach the current state of affairs in which the region is divided into tiny countries that are trying to work together as a part of the European Union or that hope to be. And the continued success of that union is still in question.
In the United States, we made the decision, perhaps unique in human history at least at the time, to found a nation not on ethnic identity, but on the concept of free people who come together to build a great society. And now we have to figure out if we’re going to keep the experiment going.
I can’t claim to have any special wisdom in this matter. In my experience, many people are impossible to reach. One example of this happened during the writing of this essay. In a discussion on Twitter (@gregcampnc) about the Senate Republican attempt at taking healthcare away from millions of Americans, Nick Searcy, actor and fellow son of western North Carolina who did a fine job playing Art Mullen in the series, Justified, responded to my tweet that “Republicans are seeking to kill people to give rich people a little more money. They have to be stopped,” by asking if I had plans that needed to be reported to the FBI. When I said that right wingers have shown the propensity for violence — and yes, the right wing has a much larger problem with this—he responded by saying, in reference to the Alexandria shooter, “No, liar. Hodgkinson was a Bernie Bro. You’re really pathetic.” Well, at least he spelled “you’re” correctly. Now perhaps he’d like to find any comment of Bernie Sanders in favor of violence against political opponents, but let’s use his line of reasoning. He apparently believes that I do favor such violence. Since I enjoyed Justified, does that mean that Nick Searcy is responsible for my actions?
Rational people understand that Bernie Sanders is no more responsible for the Alexandria shooter than Nick Searcy is for whatever I do. And the good news is that in the same discussion on Twitter, I did talk to several people who were willing to consider the fact that many countries provide good healthcare to everyone for about half of our per capita costs. That gives me a measure of hope. But does this happen often enough to save the country?
If only the supporters of Trump and the Republicans were to suffer the conseqences of their platform, the schadenfreude might be worth the guilt that I’d feel over doing nothing to help my fellow human beings, no matter how much they deserve those consequences. But the suffering won’t be limited only to those who have asked for it. And so people of good will, regardless of party or ideology, have to work to make our good wishes reality.
The facts matter. Logic matters. And we can’t tolerate attempts to get away with assertions that are bullshit. Taking healthcare away from millions of Americans will result in deaths. Continuing to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere will heat the planet more, resulting in growing damage to the environment that human civilization depends on. These statements are formed with facts and logic. And the good news is that public opinion is coming around to recognizing that, as in many other examples. No matter how dire the situation looks with Trump occupying the White House and his party holding Congress hostage, if we all continue standing up, and if we insist that politicians have to work for us, not for the wealthy few who have bribed them, change will come. But that will only be the case if we devote ourselves to making the American experiment work.
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Find me on Twitter: @gregcamp