“It has become abundantly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.” – attributed to Albert Einstein. I might suggest that lots of things have surpassed our humanity including technology.
By the time this column goes to press the actual election will be over and, my guess, we will be in the “contested” phase which, I suspect, will continue in some form like a slow growing cancer.
I don’t know anyone who is not absolutely fed up and frustrated with our system in its current condition. I don’t know anyone who has not been negatively impacted in some way by the process.
The damage caused by this election may ultimately be irreparable. The credibility and veracity of our democratic process and our institutions have taken a huge hit. What has historically “brought us to the table” as the greatest and most successful country on the planet by many measures has been the simple concept of “rule of law” which was created by our founding fathers and which has been sustained and nurtured by our processes and institutions.
We are a country of laws – of checks and balances – not one where personal absolute power is held by kings, dictators, tyrants, or ruling families or houses, and because of this we are the world’s safe harbor of political, social and financial stability – or at least we were that safe harbor. This election has edged us closer to the tipping point where we become so polarized, so closed to opinions or ideas that are not congruent with our own that our democracy and our core institutions cease to function at a level necessary to sustain stability or viability. Frankly, it terrifies me.
The bad weather has been building for many years. The ability and willingness of both our political parties to effectively function and govern is at a nadir. Many politicians and elected officials from both parties have ceased to govern and mindlessly focus only on partisan posturing. A big part of the collateral damage of these phenomena is the corresponding diminishing credibility of the institutions and processes that sustain our “rule of law”.
Manifestations of this system-wide failure abound. The debacle with the FBI has now created a huge fissure in our trust in that institution. The seeming unending sequence of deaths involving law enforcement has shaken our confidence in municipal law enforcement to the core. Recent near shutdowns of the government over budget impasses nationally are viewed as just another unacceptable failure of Congress to do its job – at our expense. The damage caused by Republican refusal to facilitate the filling of the open spot on the Supreme Court has caused unimaginable damage to the public’s confidence in our process and the fundamental viability of the land’s highest court, which, arguably has been the bedrock of “rule of law” now for over 200 years. Politicization of the Supreme Court in any form is a terminal cancer and poses a fundamental threat to the viability of our country. Yet the politicians continue to play that dangerous card today at great risk to our entire system – and in near complete disregard to the welfare of the country.
I am at a loss to imagine what can change to correct our broken system. We cannot expect to continue forward with our institutions under siege, a debilitating polarized population, and an impotent Congress. This is not a Republican or a Democratic problem; it is an American problem and somehow we have to figure out how to fix it before it’s too late.
My sense is that the “change” required ultimately is going to have to come down to personal change – change in you and me – and the realization that it’s not all about “me” and how everything is working for “me.” It’s not just about “me;” it’s about “us,” and the sooner we somehow begin to put our opinions and points of view in a broader context and actively and deliberately make the decision to be more tolerant, more willing to listen to others’ opinions and be more respectful of them, the sooner the healing may begin.
Lincoln said that “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” The division is real and is destroying the very foundation of our great country. The good news though is that it’s not too late to reverse this course and repair the damage. We still have the opportunity to do this. Let’s not squander it.