After a tumultuous week that included letter bombs, a swooning stock market, a caravan of migrants approaching the border, and a deadly mass shooting at a synagogue, the US finally sought out professional help.
Hello, Doctor. I am so grateful that you agreed to see me at this late hour. I am at my wit’s end with the latest turn of events and could really use some consultation. Yes, I would be happy to recline myself on your fine couch, thank you.
Tell you about myself? Well, alright. My name is Uncle Sam and I manage a political entity known as the United States of America, perhaps you’ve heard of it. It’s a sprawling democratic franchise that is home to some 325 million restless souls, each with their own endless desires and demands. They always want something! As for myself, I turned 242 years old in July, and I guess you could say I’m struggling with a mid-life crisis of sorts. Although my friends say I am sprightly for my age, ongoing events have taken a toll on this body and mind. And now with this maverick Donald Trump in the White House I haven’t had a moment’s rest in a long time. Why, I barely recognize my own country anymore!
Of course there has always been some degree of bad blood between the Democrats and Republicans; that’s to be expected. But these days the partisan split has become so severe that civil discourse has nearly collapsed. Even the mundane act of eating out at a restaurant, as White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders recently learned, is loaded with risk. Better to order takeout! It’s as if the entire country were sleepwalking towards the abyss. There is already hushed talk of civil war, which is ironic since the so-called ‘social justice warriors’ have recently begun to tear down our Civil War monuments – at the very moment when we need to remember the lessons of history!
Last week, for example, some nutcase from Florida, one Cesar Sayoc, mailed 14 letter bombs to a dozen prominent members of the Democratic Party, including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Luckily, this guy appears to have been a real amateur as none of the crudely improvised devices exploded. But what exploded instead was a feverish outbreak of political opportunism, spleen-dripping vitriol and of course conspiracy theories. What struck me the most was that so many high-profile Republicans – not your average tinfoil-hat UFO watchers, mind you, but rather well-known mainstream commentators – suggested the letter bombs were a Democrat-orchestrated ‘false-flag event’ to improve their chances at the polls.
What worries me, doctor, is not necessarily the conspiracy theories, but rather what they represent, which is the total collapse of trust and civility between the two dominant parties. You’d have to go back to the days of the Civil War to find such an intense level of partisanship among the political elite. Meanwhile, on the street level, the chess pieces – pawns as they were – are being manipulated for a bloody showdown. On the left, there is Antifa, and on the right the Proud Boys, two representatives of the growing wave of intolerance and violence that recently squared off in New York City. When dialogue in the political realm is non-existent – as is now the case – such acts of senseless violence will only intensify. What concerns me is how we got to this point in US history, and where will it lead us? I am inclined to believe we are being primed for imminent disaster.
Tucker Carlson, a commentator with Fox News, hit the nail on the head when he asked: “How’d we get to a place where it’s normal that two parts of the country despise each other? That you can imagine the other side encouraging terror? Our thinking changed. We stopped debating politics & ideas & started attacking others for things we can’t change, for who we are.”
No sooner had the smoke of white-hot rhetoric cleared from the Florida ‘bomber’ story, real tragedy struck. On Sunday, a gunman went on a shooting spree inside of a synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 members of the congregation, making it the single deadliest attack ever on America’s Jewish population. The gunman, Robert Bowers, reportedly yelled, “All Jews must die” while carrying out the rampage. I tremble for the future of my country amid such episodes of unbridled hate.
Now in the background of these violent acts is a ‘caravan’ of up to 10,000 people, mostly from Honduras, making a beeline straight for the US border. Doctor! Do they really expect me to bring in more of these poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free? How can I afford to take care of them? Just look at the West Coast, from Seattle to Los Angeles. We’ve already got tent cities amid grinding poverty popping up everywhere. Despite what the world may think about the United States, the economic indicators are only gold-plated for a select few at the very top, while much of the bottom 99 percent continue to spin their wheels, going nowhere in a hurry.
In the United States, the top one percent of families – those who earn an average of $421,926 annually – took home in 2015 some 26.3 times as much income as the bottom 99 percent, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). Meanwhile, corporate executives hoard the massive profits of their enterprises. Why, you ask. Because they can!
“CEOs are getting more because of their power to set pay, not because they are more productive or have special talents or more education… Exorbitant CEO pay therefore means that the fruits of economic growth are not going to ordinary workers,” the EPI admitted.
CEO pay has increased from about 20 times the typical worker’s pay in 1965, to 312 times greater in 2017, the EPI reported.
And despite all the talk about terrorism and foreign enemies, our real killer is much closer to home than we realize. Since 1999, there has been about 30 percent increase in the number of suicides in the United States. In the year 2016 alone, nearly 45,000 Americans took their own life. How much of this is related to economic factors is difficult to determine, but statistics would suggest some correlation.
Well doctor, it was very good to talk with you, but I see that my hour is up. I guess we should settle accounts now. By the way, I fell behind in my medial insurance payments so perhaps I can just pay you with cash? How much did you say? Oh dear, I’m afraid I don’t have that much with me. I’m on a tight budget these days, considering that I am $21 trillion in debt. Perhaps you’ll just put this on my tab? Thank you, you are kind indeed. See you next week!