The USA: A Nation at War

We’ve been at war for 206 of our 246 years.

We’ve been at war for 206 of or our 246 years of existence.

If you saw my last post, you know that I started looking at American wars as a way to see how many American Indian tribes we actually went to war with as a country. That led me further, however, to looking at all of our wars. Here is the data that I found, which I’m putting in the sort of overview that was certainly missing from my schooling when I was growing up.

We’ve engaged in 98 different conflicts. That’s one new war every two and a half years. At most, in 1918, we were in engaged in 8 conflicts at once. Many times, we’ve been engaged in seven different wars at once.

1855: Cayuse War, Apache Wars, Bleeding Kansas, Puget Sound War, Rogue River Wars, Third Seminole War, Yakima War

1856: Apache Wars, Bleeding Kansas, Puget Sound War, Rogue River Wars, Third Seminole War, Yakima War, Second Opium War

1858: Apache Wars, Bleeding Kansas, Third Seminole War, Yakima War, Second Opium War, Utah War, Navajo Wars

1865: Apache Wars, Navajo Wars, American Civil War, Yavapai Wars, Colorado War, Snake War, Powder River War

1917: Apache Wars, Yaqui Wars, Border War, Occupation of Nicaragua, United States occupation of Haiti, United States occupation of the Dominican Republic (1916–1924), World War I

1918 (8): Apache Wars, Yaqui Wars, Border War, Occupation of Nicaragua, United States occupation of Haiti, United States occupation of the Dominican Republic (1916–1924), World War I, Russian Civil War

2015: War in Afghanistan, Second U.S. Intervention in the Somali Civil War, Operation Ocean Shield, Operation Observant Compass, American-led intervention in Iraq, American-led intervention in Syria, American intervention in Libya

2016 (same wars as 2015): War in Afghanistan, Second U.S. Intervention in the Somali Civil War, Operation Ocean Shield, Operation Observant Compass, American-led intervention in Iraq, American-led intervention in Syria, American intervention in Libya

I’m taking this list of wars from Wikipedia, so keep in mind it may not be definitive. Some people may want to argue that some of these weren’t “declared” wars, or that they weren’t very “hot” wars, I don’t have any interest in really touching that.

I must confess that I did not even know that we occupied Nicaragua, Haiti and the Dominican Republic at the same time – while we were participating in World War I. The heavy war years of the 1800’s demonstrate how completely we were fighting against American Indian tribes of that time. The Apache Wars went from 1849-1924, though fighting had mostly stopped a few years before 1924. That’s still a 75 year conflict that I knew next to nothing about – that’s 30% of the entire life of America as a country that we were engaged in the Apache Wars. The list above also illustrates how war-heavy our recent years have been, though we often act as if we are not a country at war in modern times. But I suspect, except for the major wars, it has mostly been that way.

A snapshot of the most violent years of the 1800’s in America
The violent years of the early 1900’s
Our most recent era

When was the last year that America did not engage in war? 1985. Our last sustained peace was from 1976-1981. Since it doesn’t make a lot of sense to try to view a spreadsheet like this in PDF format, I’ll give you all this link so you can scroll through if you like.

In terms of amount of wars over a relatively short period of time, 246 years, I don’t know how we compare to other nations of the world. I find it unlikely that I’ll make the time to put together spreadsheets like this for a lot of other countries. Knowing that we have engaged in some sort of war every 2.5 years of our existence is quite informative, in my view. In the 96 years since the final American Indian conflict ended (the final action of the Apache Wars) in 1924, the US has engaged in 31 conflicts. That’s a new conflict every 3.1 years. That’s certainly an improvement over our overall average, but it’s still 3 conflicts each decade. In the 149 years that we were fighting American Indians, we engaged in 69 wars in total. During that time, that was a new war every 2.2 years.

What are my takeaways here? The USA has been at war in one fashion or another for 84% of it’s existence. It’s no wonder that we became active in foreign interventions once the ongoing wars against American Indians came to an end – the public and our institutions were already accustomed to near constant war. That energy needed to go somewhere. This year we have been involved in 4 wars, currently we are still active in 3.

It does seem that it would take a sea change in the way America operates, and the realities of international politics, for America’s thirst for war to go away any time. It may morph, a notable short term improvement in the way our military operates would be to simply stop engaging in conflicts with insurrectionists in foreign countries, but I don’t see our politics changing so dramatically that we are going to significantly increase or decrease the pace at which we engage in war.

For Indigenous People’s Day, I Made A Spreadsheet

You know if I care enough to make a spreadsheet about it, I really care

Something I heard a while ago has stuck with me. I don’t remember the exact wording of what the person said, at all, but it was something like this: “Of course there was vibrant, established civilization in the Americas before white people showed up.” Like, the land here wasn’t free for the taking. It was conquered, nations were destroyed, people were displaced.

Growing up where and when I did, this reality was downplayed when I was taught history. People who subjugated Native Americans weren’t outright celebrated for the subjugation, but they were often excused or celebrated for other reasons. I remember my high school history teacher excusing Andrew Jackson‘s exploits before and during his presidency by saying that the American people would inevitably have pushed the Seminole out of Florida, he just tried to do it as humanely as possible. Of course, Columbus Day was still a thing when I was growing up as well. I guess it still is.

Anyway, I’ve been reading this book

Excuse my phrasing here, but reading about Indian war after Indian war after Indian war after Indian war just got to be so much. Like, how much did we do this?

So I went and looked at the list of American wars on Wikipedia. Somehow it never sank in for me the true extent of how much war our country engaged in with Native Americans.

Here’s an image of my first version of the spreadsheet

On the left, each tribe that was involved in an American war. That’s 70 tribes. Some tribes were allied with the US for some wars. Most weren’t. Some were allies sometimes, enemies others. I haven’t, and will not for this post, gone into depth on all the wars that the US engaged in with Native American tribes. What struck me is the sheer volume. The nonstop war. From the moment the USA first started to exist (which I’m marking at the beginning of the Revolutionary War) until 1924 – a 149 year span – I only counted 32 years where we weren’t engaged in some sort of military action against Native American tribes. That’s over one hundred years of conflict. There were times, especially in the 1850’s and 1860’s, where the US was fighting five or six conflicts against natives at once. I counted eight conflicts, some years-long, that took place during the Civil War. Our Civil War cost us hundreds of thousands of lives, yet we had the bandwidth to fight eight other conflicts with Native Americans?

I counted 69 wars that America engaged in between 1775 and 1924. 42 were exclusively against native tribes. That’s 61%. Also… with all the wars put together that’s a new war every 2.2 years. That’s a lot of war. Take out the wars against Native Americans, and we still engaged in a war every 5.5 years. That seems like a lot. But this stuff is for my next post, not this one…

We went to war with some tribes so many times. The Cheyenne? Seven times. Arapaho? Six times. Paiute? Five times. Comanche? Four times. Seminole? Four times (The Seminole apparently fought us in a First Seminole War, a Second Seminole War, and a Third Seminole War). Shoshone? Four times. Sioux? Six times.

The drip, drip, drip of war against many of these tribes was something I didn’t understand before. If we couldn’t or didn’t get a tribe to do what we wanted the first time we’d just keep coming back over and over again. No peace was a final peace, it seems, until finally the Native Americans took whatever we were willing to give them. It seemed that as soon as we were done with one tribe, or one area, we would go on to another tribe and go to war against them until we ground them down too. Until we ground them all down.

Here’s the PDF of my spreadsheet, if you’d like to browse it. I was only able to put one link in each cell, so if you want to read about a war that isn’t linked just look amongst the other tribes to find a link to the war.

Of course there was a vibrant civilization here, it was nearly 150 years after the start of our country before it was finally beaten. Before that, more than 150 years as well.

All this data is off of Wikipedia, so it is should all be considered approximate. However, I think the greater point still stands…

Something’s Broken in Democracyland

A whole bunch of people I don’t know made some decisions, and I have absolutely no say in the situation. And I couldn’t if I tried.

Most folks who read this blog live in countries that attempt or claim to be democracies. If that is you, I have a question for you: How much say or choice do you feel like you have in the world that immediately surrounds you? If you want to be listened to by people that make decisions that affect you, are you able to speak to them and be sure that they will take you seriously?

I’m guessing that, for the great majority of us, the answer to that last question is no.

I’ve been thinking about a couple of psychological phenomenons that happen when humans don’t have control. One is relatively documented (though I’m having trouble thinking of the search terms to google it with) and that is when people engage in activities with a high rate of failure outside of their control, they create superstitions around success and failure. The best example I know of is baseball. People who are good at baseball will fail upwards of 70% of the time when they have an at-bat (for the sake of this conversation I’m going to ignore advanced metrics). A pitcher can strike out two batters in a row with the same pitch, then give up a home run to the next batter while still using that same pitch. The games are low scoring enough that what scientists call “statistical noise” can be the determining factor in winning or losing a game. Often. So often that whole team’s seasons can occasionally be chalked up to the equivalent of a fluke. So baseball players develop a wide array of superstitions about playing. They will have a lucky glove, lucky socks, lucky facial hair. If they wore a certain undershirt when they did really well, they’ll keep wearing that undershirt. On and on. I encountered this when I first started playing baseball when I was a kid at six years old, and it’s something that gets brought up in current broadcasts of professional games today featuring grown men.

But that is a vocation. What happens when people are left out of the decision making process for most of the issues that affect their daily life? What if there are some people out there somewhere making those decisions, and you don’t even know who they are? Why did that road get paved? I don’t know. Why did that bridge get built? I don’t know. Why is the local school’s curriculum the way it is? A whole bunch of people I don’t know made some decisions, and I have absolutely no say in the situation. And I couldn’t if I tried.

My hypothesis is that’s when people create conspiracy theories. In our current political climate, lots of people are writing about how conspiracy theories get disseminated. But why are people coming up with conspiracy theories in the first place? Why are people open to conspiracy theories at all? My own personal experience is that I’ve never heard a conspiracy theory come out of someone’s mouth who has also had a strong relationship with their local government and/or community. The more I’ve worked with local government in my career, the more absurd most conspiracy theories sound. I know that my own personal experience is not statistically significant, and my experience has me wondering about ways to test this hypothesis.

If my hypothesis were true, then that would mean that our current prevalence of conspiracy theories is a symptom of a greater problem. The problem of disconnection from our communities and our systems of power within our country. This dovetails nicely with my view that there is a severe lack of pro-social pro-community structures in our American society. Another hypothesis that I haven’t developed a test for.

A whole bunch of people I don’t know made some decisions, and I have absolutely no say in the situation. And I couldn’t if I tried.

This feels like the motto for modern democracy. Not that there isn’t a shortage of folks who say “but you can be heard if you try!” “You can be the change in the world you want to see!” In my view, thinking like that is thinking designed to overcome the problem. But it isn’t addressing the problem. The problem with modern democracy is that reality needs to be overcome by everyone, all the time. Very few people have the energy for that.

My own personal conspiracy brain says “it’s that way because that’s how they want it.” But I don’t actually think that’s true. I think this is an unhappy accident.

So what do we do about it? I’ll let you all think about that. I’m thinking about regular community gatherings, that are official in one way or another. I think we need to make sure that people have multiple connections with the community around them. I’m thinking of small government on a neighborhood or borough scale. I’m also thinking that these sort of things, and a lot more ideas that will strengthen our communities, will become more doable as we strengthen the middle class and address they systemized inequality within our country. I’m not thinking of social media. I think we’ve seen the ceiling for social media, and it’s considerably lower than everyone thought it would be.

How do we even begin to measure how connected a person is to their community and the systems of power that affect them?

Here’s what helped me understand Israel & Palestine

If you’re like me, you learned almost nothing about the ongoing conflict in school

Growing up in the United States in the 80’s and 90’s, everything around me was pro-Israel… without any real explanation of how or why. Nothing truly opened my eyes to the history of the region until I stumbled upon the incredible podcast series by MartyrMade: Fear & Loathing in the New Jerusalem.

Darryl Cooper does a great job of telling the history as well as dispelling many of the myths we’ve been hearing for years.

For those of you unaccustomed to history podcasts, spending hours listening to something like this can seem daunting. MartyrMade is one of the very best out there, and the time goes by fast. History podcasts are my jam, I listen to them while I’m commuting.

In Honor of Obstinacy

(this space intentionally left blank in the hopes you’ll click the link)

I’ve been thinking about obstinacy. I’ve been thinking about it in the context of American politics, Middle Eastern politics, and everything else. I’ve been thinking about the stubborn unwillingness to question one’s beliefs, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that those beliefs are incorrect. I’ve been thinking about how it’s common, prevalent, in our world today. Yet, it’s always been with us, hasn’t it?

Is it new for a politician’s followers to assert that the politician won an election, when there is no evidence that they did? No. Is it new for one people to take land from another people and then act like it’s been their land the whole time? No. Is it new for people to ignore all reasonable advice that would keep them safe in the time of a global pandemic? No.

Yet, it’s one thing to know that these are historical truisms of humanity. It’s another thing to live it. It’s another thing to know that people are falling for the same old stuff they’ve always fallen for, and there probably isn’t anything you can do about it. There certainly isn’t anything I can do about it.

You and I, all of us, are subject to the whims of the people in our community. Relatively speaking, we are all just bits of water riding the waves of humanity. Sometimes, those waves take us in the wrong direction. None of this makes me feel better.

Yet, obstinacy serves it’s purpose. I’m sure there are many an entrepreneur who will tell you that they had to keep going in spite of all the evidence otherwise. I’m sure every person has their story of having to persevere in spite of all evidence pointing against them.

Maybe that entrepreneur thing is a myth. Maybe that is something we just tell ourselves, in America. It certainly seems like I’ve heard it everywhere. Part of my thinking on this, is that in America, I think we may have a collective mythology about obstinacy. Our heroes are people who stood up against the masses, who went against the long odds.

The statistical outliers.

So when we’re confronted with things that challenge our beliefs, why can’t we be the heroes to? Can’t we say; I know better than that? Doesn’t it feel good to zig when the rest of the world is zagging? Does it feel good to know that you know better than the masses who are just sheep?

A saying I find very relevant to our times is that; extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Today it feels like a lot of folks are forgetting the evidence part.

Yet again, none of this makes me feel any better. For me, the challenge is forgiveness. The challenge is to forgive people even though they hold fast to beliefs that I find nonsensical. Even if my life is made harder or shortened by their behavior because they hold those beliefs.

How do you forgive someone who reinforces your suffering because they refuse to acknowledge the truths that are readily apparent to you?

Don’t get me wrong, my suffering is minuscule in the grand scheme of things. My suffering is just the suffering of someone who sees the pain of people living on this planet in the year 2021.

But you know what? I’m gonna give it a shot: I forgive you, humanity. I forgive you for hanging onto ideas long past when they’ve outlived their usefulness. I forgive you, for letting people suffer and die to achieve your own selfish ends. I forgive you for messing up. I forgive you for doing, and saying, the wrong thing at the wrong time. I forgive you for making things worse. I forgive you for abusing your power. I forgive you for disrespecting people’s sovereignty over their own lives. I forgive you for ignoring the impact you have on your community and your environment, so you can continue to enrich yourself. I forgive you…

…. now stop it.

🤪

We Can Come Together

This inauguration, let’s remember that unity is possible. It just takes us putting the effort into doing it. I’m inspired to re-share the music video I had the honor of making with Amy Obenski a couple of years ago for her song, In Each Other’s Arms. It’s especially salient today.

Dude, You’re In A Cult

I was scrolling through my twitter feed, as one does, and I saw someone had tweeted something to the effect of “Check in on your MAGA friends. See how they are doing. Do they have any big plans coming up?” I kept scrolling, but that idea stuck with me. So I started checking on my MAGA friends by looking at their facebook feeds.

It’s not pretty, y’all. I saw a lot of denialism. The bubble has not burst. In the past, I have engaged with folks on an argument by argument basis. Like “hey, you know that’s not quite true? Check out this data (citing a source) and this data (citing another source).” Only to be told that my sources aren’t true, and that I’m being lied to. But when I asked them for their sources, I would get nothing whatsoever. Or I’d be told to watch some youtube videos (ha!). Or I’d be told to google something, I’d google it out of due diligence, and find myself in a conspiracy theory and clickbait filled website that clearly has no journalistic integrity whatsoever. Engaging with folks about this stuff became Sisyphean. Yet they are still out there, doing their thing…

Now, I feel like we need to be talking on a different level than individual arguments. I just want to say “Dude, you’re in a cult.”

Always good to keep this handy

I don’t expect that simply pointing out to someone on their facebook page that they are in a cult is going to go well. I don’t expect that pointing out to them that their distrust of “mainstream media” has been weaponized to get them to willingly believe lie after lie after lie… will be accepted readily.

Don’t know the source of this…

But, what is going to make a difference? Back when I was in high school, we’re talking the late 90’s, I would just say the shit I had to say. I would just stir the pot. Some of the desire to do that is still in me. One of my favorite phrases is “the truth shall set you free, but first it shall piss you off.”

I do know from experience, that even if the truth is said in the most caustic way, if it’s repeated and inescapable it will eventually sink in. But how to do that online, during a pandemic, when this sort of communication is effective in person? How do we compete with the lies that are repeated and inescapable to our friends and family who have sipped the kool-aid?

In person, a person can see that when I’m telling them that they’re in a cult that I still love and respect and admire them. Online, I’m just words on a page. A person can think “do you think I’m so stupid that I would join a cult?!?” And I, not seeing that on their face, can’t say “no, being in a cult isn’t about intelligence. It’s about the cult meeting a deep unmet need that you have.” I imagine the person that is being told they are in a cult will think they need to defend themselves, lest they get cancelled, or defend their cult – because cults are bad m’kay. But I don’t want to make their life harder by telling them they are in a cult, I want to make their life easier. I want them to know that the world outside of their cult isn’t filled with scary, lying, evil people. It isn’t filled with communists. It isn’t even filled by deluded sheep that have had their minds numbed by the mainstream media. Really!

I haven’t written something like this before because I have been afraid of the backlash. People in cults don’t like being told they are in cults. Some of those people are my friends. Also, now that the events of the last few weeks have confirmed all of our instincts about Donald Trump as a president, it’s intellectually easier to call a spade a spade. Or a cult, a cult.

I’m not an expert here. I have read quite a bit about cults, and my biggest takeaway has been that no one is really an expert. We might just have to muddle through these conversations.

So, if you think this may apply to you, imagine when I say “Dude, you’re in a cult” that I say it with love. That I’m not attacking you, I’m inviting you to look at life differently. And if you aren’t ready to look at life differently, I’ll be here when you are.

How I Made Facebook More Tolerable

Since I haven’t deleted my account yet…

Let’s be honest, Facebook sucks. Those of us who are on there, are there because it meets some sort of utility for us. But the blatant – uncritical – sharing of propaganda by friends and family, the clickbait, the ads, the profiting from hosting disinformation and hate, the extreme disincentives to having constructive discussion on the platform… not to mention the stupid algorithm. THE ALGORITHM! It’s just all so much.

But the ability to connect with folks I care about on their platform is still unrivaled amongst social networks, and that’s why I haven’t deleted my account already.

So, what I did do, is unfollowed everyone who posts something once a day. Specifically, posting something that they didn’t create, on a once a day average. It has totally changed my experience of my facebook feed. I’m no longer bombarded by… crap. I unfollowed people whose politics I agree with, and whose politics I disagree with.

There are still political posts, there are still memes – but it’s thoughtful stuff now. I see the people’s posts that have some thought in them, and where they share about their lives. Because the facebook algorithm prioritizes what you interact with, and I will talk politics with anyone, all I was seeing before I made this change was rage and division inducing headlines. I didn’t unfriend anyone, I just removed some folks from my feed.

If you’re out there posting a bunch of stuff you wrote, photos you took, etc… I still see all that! I’m here for that stuff.

Maybe It Takes Getting to Know One Another

“People aren’t being seen”

For a long time now I have been pointing out to anyone who will listen that community is broken in this country. At least where I live, in California. I think we are seeing the consequences of that brokenness all around us; in our crazy political environment, our high homeless population, the ridiculous numbers of people in prisons and jails, even in the wide wealth disparity. Our rising suicide rate, our daily mass shootings, the mind-boggling amounts of money we spend on health care – the list of symptoms of our broken community just seem to go on and on. Oh, our lowering life expectancy too.

Since I work with people who are homeless, I do a lot of reading specific to the field. Street Roots published an article about the cognitive reasons why housed people struggle to feel empathy for people who are homeless. Not only is the article relevant to homelessness, I think it’s relevant to every aspect of our civic culture today. The italicized portions below are from that article.

“People aren’t being seen,” (Harris) said. “If I’m a busy person, going through a city where there are tons of homeless people, and I have to stop and consider the minds of all of these people, that might make me feel very uncomfortable. Moreover, if I don’t feel like I have the resources to help, there’s nothing I can do to alleviate that suffering. That feeling stays with you. Our brain says, instead, if I take a second to stop and think about your suffering, it’s going to make me feel bad. So, dehumanization becomes a kind of emotion regulation strategy.”

Online, with social media, we have all faced a time where we were forced to consider the mind of someone who clearly has wildly different views than we do. How much easier is it to tune those people out than is it to actually think about what they are saying? How much easier is it to, then, just write off people who share those views and de-friend them or block them out entirely? How hard is it to have your ideas challenged online and to refrain from yelling or letting the conversation devolve into insults?

“We readily help kids and cute animals, in part because we know that whatever trouble they’re in, they can’t really be held accountable,” (Zak) said. “We’re less likely to be so understanding and forgiving when it comes to homeless adults or drug addicts. This tendency to judge rather than help is partly the result of a spot in the prefrontal cortex called the subgenual cortex. It’s full of oxytocin receptors, and it appears to modulate the degree of empathy by regulating the release of dopamine. No dopamine means no reward from engaging with the other person, which makes it less likely that we’ll reach out empathically.”

In America, there seems to be a very strong desire to withhold services from people who don’t “deserve” them. This makes sense if, when we feel powerless, we dehumanize the people in our communities who need help. Since they are still suffering, they are living proof of our failures….

I’ve been wrestling with the idea that humans have an innate desire to help other humans. That commerce is based on contribution. What do people pay for? They pay to be contributed to. Whether it’s food, housing, entertainment, interaction. We pay for other people to contribute to us, and we want to contribute to other people. When we see people who are homeless, most of us see people we can’t contribute to. Most of us see that we have failed to help them.

Is it easier to blame the homeless than to take responsibility, as a community? I would guess that most of us don’t even think in terms of our community. We don’t think about what services we want to be sure that our community members have access to. We don’t think about what we as a community are doing to alleviate suffering in our midst. Is it easy to say “they made their choices,” “they are addicts,” “they are getting what they deserve?” Maybe the people who say those things felt the powerlessness of dealing with someone who’s choices were chaotic and out of control. Maybe they had to detach from a loved one to maintain their sanity and control over their own lives. A real community has each other’s backs. What’s it going to take to start thinking like that?

“If we design interventions to help people meet members of such stigmatized groups and get beyond the stereotype and see the person behind the social category, they tone down their judgments and feelings,” (Hewstone) said.

Hewstone is literally saying that if we get people from different social groups to meet and interact, then we will ratchet down the judgement, the yelling, and the divisiveness.

WHAT A THOUGHT

So then, if we had strong communities, maybe we wouldn’t be having this problem in the first place?

Now I’m going to talk about politics. I think that the level of division in our country is a security threat. It is a threat to our democracy. It appears that multiple foreign countries have figured out how to manipulate our elections and political process for their own gain. Almost exclusively, they are preying on our own divisions to do so.

Is it an incorrect conclusion then, that the best way to fight for and save our democracy is to get to know our neighbors? To meet and get to know people in our community who don’t think or live like us? To talk with the homeless, the middle class, and the rich? To talk with brown, black, white? To talk with young, middle-aged, and old? With men, women, and everyone in between?

That seems like a logical conclusion to me. It seems to me that it is time to do our patriotic duty. It seems like, all it’s going to take to stand up for the principles that our country are founded upon, is for you and I to go out and bridge the gaps in our own lives.

Bridge the gaps, instead of fighting for our point of view. No one is going to do it for us.

‘MERICA!

Reuniting the US sounds like a Herculean task

How can I accept my country slowly, painfully tearing itself apart? A country who’s founding motto is “Out of Many, One.” A country that calls itself the United States.

A comedian friend of mine posted on facebook, that he wore a shirt that had some American flag themed decoration on it for his comedy set. That after his set, a lady came up to him and told him that he should not wear that shirt because he was obviously a liberal and liberals aren’t patriotic.

This is where we are at today.

We’ve been leading up to this for a long time. Way back in 2003, if my memory serves, I was working on a bond campaign for a local library. I was talking with a potential volunteer for the campaign, and he asked me if I was a Republican. I said no (I’m not registered with any party), and he said good – that he would never work with a Republican. But it was different then, than it is today. It wasn’t quite so… visceral.

I remember reading about a time when the political parties in this country could get along. Or at least, not view each other as the enemy. It seems to me that all that came crashing down when Newt Gingrich was the speaker of the house in the 1990’s. But the days of seeing allies across the aisle, if they ever existed, seem to be gone.

This is very upsetting for me. Because at some point, this state is a conscious choice for everyone involved. We choose to badmouth our political adversaries. We choose to lie about them. We choose to heap endless tons of criticism upon them. We choose to distort what we see to serve our political ends. We choose to tear down our fellow countrymen and countrywomen. We choose to shut out wide swaths of our own people from the political and policy making process. We chose this, and we choose it again every day. We are 327 million people (last I checked) choosing to do this to ourselves.

How does anyone turn that around?

I don’t know.

Maybe I have an idea, though. What I can do, is bring people together locally. Maybe that will make a difference. Maybe there are other people, in other parts of the country, who are doing the same.

Maybe getting people off of the internet, out from in front of their screens, and talking to each other – maybe that will make a difference. I feels, to me, that social media and media in general today is just designed to inflame. That we are all inflamed, and that’s why we don’t hear each other. That’s why people who think differently than us look like the enemy.

Normally, when I write about something that is bothering me, I write until I feel better. In this instance, I don’t know that I will be able to feel better about this. How can I accept my country slowly, painfully tearing itself apart? A country who’s founding motto is “Out of Many, One.” A country that calls itself the United States. A country where every man (and woman) is equal. The land of the free and the home of the brave. Maybe all that great stuff I was told about our country as a kid was hokum.

But that hokum is worth fighting for.

I don’t have easy answers here. Maybe all there is to do is to continue to move forward. To continue to try things, and to see what works. To continue to stand for what I believe our country should stand for.

Right now, that’s all I’ve got.