It's that time of decade again. The political football that every four years inflates to the size of the Hindenburg has taken flight, and it's about to crash-land... oh the humanity. Come Christmas of 2016, one side or the other of the United States will feel like they just got Scrooged. Haunted by ghosts of elections past.
There's the ghost of Bill Clinton. And the ghost of Jeb Bush, who literally scared himself out of the running. There's the ghost of Evita Peron, reincarnated into the body of a peculiar old man promising free stuff to everyone. And then, there's the scariest of them all: the ghost of fascist past. Wait, what? Fascism in the land of the free? Oh the irony.
Freedom is a painful human illusion. It exists, but it is not what we think it is. To illustrate in real life, take a walk down the dark side of American history for a moment. But I have to warn you: to borrow a term from our champions of marketeering, you may experience disruption. (In case you don't keep up with our roving marketeers on LinkedIn, they have been tripping over themselves to see who can use the word "disruption" more often.) So get uncomfortable for just a minute, this disruption won't hurt. Much. Oh, and before you report me to the ghost of McCarthy: grow up. Everyone has a dark side. The sooner we confront it, the sooner we can truly honor our founders and work on that more perfect union. Now let the disruption begin.
During its first one hundred years as a "free" nation, the United States enslaved people. Legally. Then for another one hundred years it "segregated" them. A sanitized term if I've ever heard one. Good guys segregate, bad guys apartheid. Really bad guys apply the final solution. All in the name of freedom. And in the name of God. An odd God, if I've ever seen one. And quite a perverse definition of freedom, to say the least. (How's that uncomfortable feeling? Hold on a little longer, just one more disruption...)
Mine was the first generation ever in the history of mankind that was born into a nuclear age capable of mass annihilation. Mutually Assured Destruction was the sanitized term of our time. It was indeed a world gone mad. Complete with evil empires. But... here's the thing about evil empires: to earn that title, don't they actually pull the nuclear trigger? As in, drop the bomb on live, urban populations. Targeting not just military operatives but their families as well. Just as ghost of fascist past says we should.
Uncomfortable enough yet? I hope so. Because if there is no pain... you are receding. Into a very dark place, where they build very high walls. The kind that even Republicans like Ronald Reagan called on to tear down.
Disruption over, at ease. The founders of this great country, with all their human imperfections, were indeed some of the finest men this world has ever seen. I have nothing but deep respect and admiration for them. As I do for those who have made great efforts, and in some cases great sacrifice, to carry the torch. The innovation, imagination, work ethic, and scientific achievements of the United States are awe-inspiring. No, it is not the only nation in the world with impressive contributions. But the potential for another 250 years of great contributions to humanity is too important. By then, this great land will surely double in population, to almost 700 million people. Because history has consistently proven that leaders who tear down walls always trump the ones who build them.
Of the last two formidable fascists in the history of civilization, one was shot and hung for public display, the other took a bite into a cyanide pill rather than be captured and tried for the worst crimes against humanity the world has ever seen. The United States of America was instrumental in that conclusion. These formidable fascist enemies, by the way, were not Muslim, or Mexican. They were card-carrying members of the “master” race. And as for the “mother of all wars”… no, it hasn’t been “terrorism”, not even close. After the Master Racists, the Civil War killed more Americans than any other foreign enemy.
As I find a way to bring my thoughts here to a useful conclusion, I can’t help but notice out of the corner of my news feed that 700 people are lining up in the rain, right here in my own hometown, to hear orange wall-man talk about his great wall. If I were to walk over there and listen, I imagine I would be in an auditorium with 700 angry people chanting for the wall. Being surrounded by 700 angry people is surely a scary thing, been there done that. But a moment of fear is no match against a lifetime of it. In true Machiavellian, fascist form, wall-man is at this exact moment frightening 700 of my fellow hometowners that the 700 million are coming. And that only he and his wall can save them.
Fortunately for this great country, it will continue to be great, in spite of the darkness that men like wall-man create. And perpetuate. By Christmas of 2016, the ghosts of election past will all go back to sleep.
“The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.” (Charles Dickens, “A Christmas Carol”)