I’ve read two insightful articles this week. The first, by Yonatan Zunger, was an objective breakdown of President Trump’s first eight days in office. In his analysis Zunger suggests the actions taken by the new administration are evidence of a trial run at a coup d’etats that would ultimately put foreign powers at the helm of the United States of America.
The second article, by David Karpf, is in opposition with Zunger’s suggestion. Instead, Karpf posits that the actions we’ve seen in the last week are in fact the result of a man not ready, willing or able to bare the responsibility of holding the highest office in the country. Because of this lack of preparedness, we are now witnessing his very public mental breakdown while he scrambles to reclaim the perceived affection he felt he possessed during the campaign last year.
Both opinions are well founded and well researched. After reading each analysis, the reader is left with a feeling of some understanding that provides them the capability of putting their feet back on the ground. Albeit temporarily. However, because both opinions are plausible, it presents a paradox. Are we being sieged by an invading force or are we being led by a megalomaniac that has the temperament control of a two year old?
I’ve listened to talking heads debate the facts. Sometimes the alternative facts. Text messages exchanged daily among family and friends question which rights are going to be stripped. It’s not a question of when, but how many. There is an occasional click-bait headline suggesting that impeachment is just days away. Even if that were true the replacement would probably be just as bad when it comes to policy.
In a digital world it’s nearly impossible to avoid the bombardment of information we receive minute by minute. For those that do not use social media it’s probably more simple, but that also means they’re less likely to use the internet to research articles or find multiple sources to back up a claim. This explains, at least somewhat, the growing divide between the opinions of the general public. If your only source is news from cable networks, the likelihood you’re getting a clear, complete picture is minimal.
How do we know what to believe? I think that’s a great question. Certainly there is a large cohort that believes anything you read in the newspapers or see on television is completely fabricated. I think that’s a little extreme. Biased? Almost guaranteed. But one hundred percent false? No. To complicate matters, navigating around the national headlines that filter down into our local news is becoming more difficult. It’s important to keep our ears tuned in to national events. But it’s dangerous to only focus on what’s taking place in Washington when so many other policies are being made in our back yards.
For instance, my hometown is in the middle of a battle over where a new county jail will be built. Overcrowding and cost to house inmates in other municipal jails are major issues. The proposed site for our new jail is right along a riverfront where, for the last few years, an organized group has been promoting the creation of a public space with new parks and potential businesses. The county wants to drop the jail right in the middle of that plan. And we wonder why it’s difficult to recruit people to live here.
Also, because our city is desperate for revenue, proposals have been submitted at the state level that would allow a casino to be built. Politicians claim this as the cure-all for a decaying job market and cite that it will bring more business to the area. A quick search of the effects a casino has on any municipality will reveal the opposite. Not to mention, for a community that has struggled to overcome the nickname “Sin City of the Midwest”, building a gambling facility doesn’t really seem to fit that mission.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that each day I wake up more worried than the last. I worry about what national policies are going to affect my family, my friends. Being a parent just multiplies the anxiety. What kind of a world are we creating for them? Confusion, frustration, worry; these are all things so many of us are feeling. If you’re not, you’re either not paying attention or you believe a complete upheaval is exactly what this country needs. A mindset that I just can’t bring myself to consider. So many are asking how we got here. An examination of local politics will tell you exactly how we got here. We stopped paying attention. We stopped being involved. We got complacent and threw our arms up in the air in denial of the fact that the way our communities work is solely based on our own participation. We gave in to the lull that is a false sense of security and then we were surprised when we discovered it was a lie.
The bottom line is that both Karpf and Zunger are right, the opposing views are not a paradox. This is our total reality. The leader of the “free world” is in fact a man that has no control over his own ego AND there is likely a team waiting in the wings to fill the void in leadership he is creating each day. So what do we do about it? I’d like to say we could just sit back and watch Congress flail about while they try to come up with some sort of containment plan. Unfortunately that’s not going to happen because the legislative branch of the federal government has become an obstacle of sorts, like the Hoover Dam. It can’t go unnoticed that our “representatives” got to their positions because we put them there.
Y’know that quote that gets pulled out of context all the time that we hear politicians throw around? Something like, “Evil succeeds when good men do nothing.” That one? Guess what team, it’s time for us to be the good guys and stop relying on others to do it for us. There is no right answer when it comes to looking for a place to start. I don’t know what’s going on. What I do know is that we’re witnessing a cultural awakening. And it’s about damn time. The worst thing any of us could do is nothing.