This issue is bigger and more important than a recap of our last RV trip, or how to simplify our lives. It has more long ranging consequences than how best to invest your money or whether we should move to a retirement community. It is not part of a satisfying journey to a fulfilling retirement. But, it must be talked about.
It is the issue of the moment and one I believe may be putting at risk our way of life as we know it. It threatens to tear the fabric of society in a way that cannot easily be stitched back together.
Last December I wrote, Are We Really So Afraid? , after watching one of the first Republican debates. The blog comments were excellent and even now, three months later, there is an occasional fresh comment added to the discussion. Generally, the feelings expressed were that the fear is felt by a small segment of the population during a period of a political season where such feelings are encouraged. The vast majority do not feel the type of fear that was talked about.
I believe what has happened over the last month or so has changed the importance and meaning of that question. We are seeing things on TV we haven't experienced since the bloodshed during the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968.
Recent scenes of near riots, physical assaults, secret service agents rushing to shield a candidate, even threats, have all played out over and over again. Appeals to an anger and disenfranchisement that have festered beneath the surface for decades are erupting. Just a few days ago a "warning" that riots might erupt if a certain candidate is denied the nomination were aired, pretty much guaranteeing that outcome.
The way society has become splintered between the "have-it-alls" and the "we have been shut out" segments is driving some of this resentment. The middle and lower classes in America have watched as the uber-rich and powerful, those who don't seem to play by the same rules, those in power and control, have solidified their grip on the economic narrative.
I would argue that such resentment has always been present. In a capitalistic society there will be winners and losers. But, the feeling that someone can move up that ladder has been taken away from many. The feeling that the rungs of that ladder have been sawn through by those already on top is a powerful new element in our story.
For some, the inevitable demographic and racial changes in our country heighten that sense of being left behind. While there is no going back, that doesn't eliminate the rage and frustration with the situation. If someone appeals to that anger, it will find an audience.
In some cases we are seeing the Dunning-Kruger effect. That says that someone who struggles with basic intellectual concepts actually sees him or herself as smarter than the average person. In short, a person suffering from this illusion is unable to evaluate what they see and hear accurately.
The Washington Post had an expression in a recent article that seems to summarize where we are: "There are no guardrails left in politics." Seemingly, there are few absolutes or controls we can depend on at the moment. Our worst instincts are flowing freely. Our basest nature is being encouraged.
My concern is that whatever happens with the eventual political situation, how will the rage that is left be dissipated, or even contained? It seems as though we have unleashed very powerful emotions in a very public way. I don't see how the genie is going back in the bottle.
Whomever wins the nominations and eventually, the presidency, will be intensely disliked by a sizable minority of the country. There will be powerful negative feelings left. It is illogical to assume that the expressions of disappointment we are seeing today will magically cease on November 9th.
I sincerely hope I am very wrong.