American Uniqueness

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Blog 7 – October 2020 M. Hines

Unless you’ve been visiting Rip Van Winkle, it is common knowledge this is an election year.  As one of my callers observed, “2020 is a year like no other,” and it’s not over yet.  Many people have lost loved ones, and it is estimated more still will.  It is odd that for many, the reaction to a virus responsible for so much destruction doesn’t seem commensurate with the damage it has and still is, inflicting around the globe.  I suppose it is easier to dismiss something we can’t see, are afraid to see, or just choose not to see.

When I was younger, images of the Viet Nam War were broadcast into our living room.  TV brought the world into our home as never before.  We could ‘see’ without being there. We could experience – vicariously – the horror of war from sofas in our living room.  Did these pictures begin to desensitize us to violence as a nation, or did they compel us to speak out?

We pride ourselves on American uniqueness, yet instead of the independence that concept might afford, our human nature consistently draws us into like-minded packs or groups.  Not long ago political views and religious beliefs were topics “polite society” didn’t broach at work, social gatherings, or in public. They remained sacred; not cheapened as common topics of ‘casual’ discussion, or weaponized to further personal agendas.  Nowadays, most of us are assailed daily with opinions on both.  The boundaries that used to keep these passions ‘publicly’ separate have blurred; the power and force of one consumes the assumed compassion of the other.  This may seem an innocuous progression, but the repercussions of this union (politics and religion) have rooted deeply; affecting the hearts, minds, souls, and actions of many. 

Passion is a forceful entity. Whether in life or love it runs the gambit of extremes, bringing us to the heights of joy or depths of despair.  Passion can move unchallenged like a runaway train or it can be tempered with compassion and understanding.  But combine passion with belief, whether political or religious, and as History records, it holds the force of an atomic bomb.

American uniqueness and compassion become challenged by this force of nature. The ‘sound and fury’ resulting threaten us into forming opinions and making choices out of fear or anger instead of fact and faith when both become weaponized. It is our nature to survive, though lately, it isn’t our uniqueness or independence that we turn to, but apathy and assimilation; alienating or demonizing anyone who isn’t of a like-mind.  Our ‘uniqueness’ has become collateral damage, a lost commodity, and our actions (or lack thereof) mirror other like-minded nations influenced by the same uncertainty and fear. 

So, why is 2020 so threatening? The virus?  History would reply, ‘we’ve been here before.’ The economy?  History replies, ‘we’ve been here before’.  Hatred?  History replies, ‘we’ve been here before.’ 

What seems to be missing are the lessons learned from the past.  History is a hard taskmaster. Does it seek to right the wrongs; relentlessly returning us to the same problems in a seemingly endless circle? Easy to recognize for those paying attention, and a clever change of clothing to deceive those who aren’t. The same unresolved issues resurrect to demand our response, and we do so with the same broken solutions: ‘lather, rinse, repeat’. While we may not have the knowledge of what to do, we ignore the lessons of what not to do again and again. Stuck in the lather and repeat cycles, we are unable to move forward and rinse ourselves clean.  It’s not like we’re unaware of what we should do, but our passions and beliefs are miss-used as obstacles that paralyze and prevent. They argue ‘our pack’s way’ is the ‘only’ and ‘best way’. The inflexibility and lacking compassion for others keep us from finally advancing forward and off this endless carousel.

‘Pack,’ ‘Group’, ‘Coalition’… concepts sharing the same potential to divide and revile uniqueness and individuality. Covid isn’t the first threat to challenge America or the world. Unfortunately, the results recorded on our time-line between tragedy and solution will most likely reflect a comparable paralysis to the past pandemic. In 1918 the USA and other parts of Europe had simultaneous cases of what became known as the Spanish Flu: “…more U.S. soldiers died from the 1918 flu than were killed in battle during the war. Forty percent of the U.S. Navy was hit with the flu, while 36 percent of the Army became ill, and troops moving around the world in crowded ships and trains helped to spread the killer virus []. The popular but unoriginal, ‘knee-jerk’ response of assigning blame offers no solution, it only feeds the flames of hatred and division. And while cooler heads should prevail, human nature rests upon an insecure scale. It doesn’t take a lot to knock us off our emotional balance.

Our relentless History has called our note -once again 100 years later forcing us back to ground zero, “Are we there yet?” While not an unexpected visit, it certainly is not a welcome one. Why does History haunt us so? Does it force us to repeat familiar crises, holding us captive until we face and resolve these issues? We’ve eked our way through the past, allowing things to ‘sort themselves out.’ Soldiers know It takes more than one victory to win a war. But we allowed ourselves to become vulnerable. We didn’t regroup or prepare for the next assault. Instead, we continued, and continue to, sweep our problems and issues under the rug, “out of sight, out of mind”; save it for the next group to resolve, the crisis has passed, we’re comfortable now. But pesty History keeps lifting up that rug and exposing our dirt because we continue to sign our proxy over to Fate.  

American Uniqueness: our indefinable right to cast a ballot- unobstructed! To be given by birth the right and responsibility to have a say in matters that affect not only our lives but the lives of all other Americans (and potentially the lives of others around the world); whether we agree with them ‘on everything’ or not.  When in our history of a nation, or our world history for that matter, has any country or group ‘agreed with everything’? To my knowledge, History doesn’t contain such an event.  But it does document that:

  • Those most successful have devised ways to move forward, despite disagreements.
  • Those most successful have retained their compassion for others. 
  • Those most successful have learned we are only as “strong as our weakest link”.
  • Those most successful have learned that passions and compromise must learn to work together.
  • Those most successful have learned that unless you speak out against injustice, it will thrive and prevail. 
  • Those most successful have learned that love unites and hate divides.
  • Those most successful have learned, “A House divided against itself cannot stand”.
  • Those most successful have learned everyone has a right to their opinion, but in a ‘civilized society’, unsolicited political opinion is best submitted quietly in the ballot box.

While our efficient Democracy may appear able to run on autopilot, leaving this responsibility solely in the hands of a few, assuming it will function for the betterment of all, is a dangerous gamble that will only net horrific loss.

Remember to vote!