When people say, “In times like these…” with a sense of foreboding, I like to remind myself that people have been thinking that the current times are the hardest times in every time. It always seems that way when you’re in the thick of it. But if one applies a modicum of a sense of history, one will be reminded that today is nothing special. In fact, against any rational yardstick, we are better off today than we ever were.
In America today, we are polarized. But we have been this way before and we will be this way again. We have a President of color. Regardless of how far we have come, that is bound to ruffle a few feathers. Rush Limbaugh has been pontificating for more than 20 years and, while it has colored the national dialog, it has not had a very lasting effect beyond creating a minority of pissed off white guys.
I read an article about gridlock at the FEC on Sunday. It featured a statement by one of the Republican members saying that he was more scared of his government than his neighbors. I realized that this is the difference between him and me: while I am not scared of my neighbors, I feel like I would rather have my government protecting me from them than the other way around. There are plenty of protections from the government enshrined in the constitution. The problems arise when my fellow citizens buy their way into the halls of power and begin to make laws. The shrewd businessman, the law abiding gun owner; I am neither shrewd nor armed and don’t like feeling like I have to be in order to survive in twenty-first century America. It shouldn’t have to be a dog eat dog world today. That is such a waste of our talent and energy. I don’t begrudge the entrepreneur his ambition, I just think it is only fair to him and me to have someone there to guard against his baser instincts.
I believe that is what makes today better than times past. We have some of those protections. In the Wild West you had to live by your wits and your six-gun and it sucked. People like me got eaten alive and those who were left were the shrewd ones, the eaters. They weren’t the sensitive ones, the artists, the thinkers. But I don’t think living in a world of merchants is a worthy national goal.
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