A collision between the partisan hopes of the left and the nationalistic delusions of the right is intensifying in the United States. Which will prevail, the Constitution, or authoritarianism?
It doesn’t matter much beyond these shores. Pax Americana and the post-World War II order are already history.
Russiaphobia on the left has more basis than it did with the right during the McCarthy era in the 1950’s, but it has even less relevance to the human prospect.
Putin’s malignant regime messed with the American election to be sure, but nationalistic hyperventilation from the left, moaning about “what Russia did to us during the election” without any genuine national soul searching, has become insufferable.
The latter-day czar’s trolls wouldn’t have been able to fan the flames of Hillary hatred if misogyny and racism didn’t have fertile soil, and if the Democrats had recognized Clinton fatigue and put forth a more viable candidate. And that doesn’t even address the anomie and alienation that drives the mindless mob behind the Donald.
In January 1990, when I went to Russia on the invitation of the leading proponent of perestroika (economic reform under Gorbachev), Russians were waiting with open arms for Americans to help them build a market and democracy.
Few Americans know, as I didn’t know until I went there, that the United States saved hundreds of thousands of Russians from starvation while Lenin was still in power by a food relief program directed by, of all people, Herbert Hoover before he become president.
However the Russians, having long memories, remembered, and believed Americans would help them rebuild their country as communism was collapsing and leaving the shelves bare across the country. Their affection and trust was our squandered capital. Now they hate us.
Both sides missed the boat however. American ‘sole remaining superpower’ arrogance and Russian pride carried the day, and the world went from the Cold War quasi-order to the present-day disorder.
Like most Americans, when I hear the crying and gnashing of teeth at how the Russians interfered with our election and helped elect Donald Trump, I shrug. Putin didn’t elect Trump, Americans did. The right relishes it, and the left denies it.
Let’s move on. For the first time in human history, we have the possibility of a simultaneous creative emergence in all three dimensions of human being–spiritual, philosophical and political. And since in this climate there is the possibility, there is the urgent necessity.
The fat lady hasn’t sung, even on our age. But if you believe in your heart it is too late for humanity, it is too late for you, and you contribute to it being too late for humankind.
The idea that it’s too late flows from inward enervation, not environmental reality. When a people perish, as Americans perished with the straw that broke the spirit’s back here after the first Gulf War, the vast majority of people experienced it as the death of humanity. But it wasn’t, and isn’t.
That doesn’t mean there’s reason to be optimistic about our age, or about Homo sap. But to give up on humanity before the end is to give up on oneself in the end.
Today I passed a group of young men—boys really—on my way into the park for a meditation. They were at the end of their run, standing in front of the bathrooms mocking people that went by.
There was something more than the usual ugliness of callow 20-something males acting like adolescents, a narrowness and darkness in their eyes that gave me a chill. They reflected and embodied this godforsaken culture.
How much of our present predicament (and I’m referring to the West as a whole and not just
America) is a failure of imagination? A great deal, but the failure of imagination also stems from spiritual exhaustion.
Certainly imagination is required to create anything new, but it isn’t the first thing. Insight is.
Americans used to fire the imagination of people around the world. Speaking just of California, is enough life left in people here to help humankind through the transition to a new age, even a new human being?
The cynics, the despairing, and the walking dead mumble no, if they reply at all. The living look to humanity within them, and hold the question.