Hurtling Toward an Inevitable Conclusion

Arianna Huffington’s op-ed on the HuffPo today is a good read. She traces the history of the populist rage that’s plagued American politics since… well, since we decided we wanted to be our own country.

She makes an ever better point that the vitriol currently simmering across America (cough, red states) and being fanned by the unholy trinity of Beck, Palin, and Bachmann will inevitably have to meet some kind of conclusion. Unfortunately, our track record for peaceful resolutions seems conspicuously empty. Almost always, someone does something utterly stupid, resulting in an unnecessarily tragic event that snaps us back from the brink of our insanity. And almost always, innocent people get hurt in these misguided displays of “patriotism.”

It’s all fun and games and tea parties until someone gets hurt.

I think that’s what frustrates me most about the misspelled anger being brandished on these homemade picket signs. It’s hard to take these folks seriously when few are bringing forward reasonable, actionable ideas. It’s even harder to take them seriously when their message—however valid—is being drowned out by not-so-idle threats. But what’s scary is that these folks are, thanks to Bachmann, now “armed and dangerous.”

At times, I wonder if our older industrialized siblings just watch us from across the Atlantic and laugh. In the long scheme of civilization’s history, America is relatively young. Many times we act like the petulant teenagers of the industrialized world—lots of money, power, and resources but also the maturity of a 10-year old who doesn’t get his way. Again, only in the last 100 years have we allowed women to vote and desegregated our communities. (Incidentally, I wonder if that’s the time period some of these folks want to “take the country back” to.)

I hated studying history when I was growing up. The consistent warning I received from everyone: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” These days, I’m afraid we as a nation might need a collective crash course.

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