I look at you all
See the love there that's sleeping
While my guitar gently weeps…”
The words of George Harrison capture the pathos inhabiting everyone’s heart, at a hurtful moment in human history, when hateful political discourse inhibits respectful interaction, coarsening American life.
Is the trend such that something precious has been lost forever; never to be recaptured? Has contemporary technology created an equivalent of Dr. Frankenstein’s monster which those responsible cannot control — dynamic that those most out-of-control dominate?
One hopes not, but the adage that “Hope springs eternal” might mean that time-honored optimism and positivity are maladaptive when unforeseen circumstances mandate that heroism meet the moment.
It seems as if a line was crossed when Paul Pelosi was brutally assaulted by an intruder in his home. I have been with Paul, a couple of times, at civic functions — one for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and another for the San Francisco Opera — and he is absolutely lovely. I have attended gatherings where his wife, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, was present, as well, and she is more memorable — demonstrating the social skills and empathy that elected officials possess before becoming prominent in public life.
Neither political party has a monopoly on virtue. Those thinking otherwise have been brainwashed — to their detriment, for the benefit of people planting poisonous seeds in malleable minds, seeing them take root and flourish beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. It is no way to operate a polity.
(I have had people on the other side of the aisle, unable to envision decent Republicans, assail me for having Republican elected officials as friends. I terminate interactions with them immediately, just as I do with delusional sorts who only identify the worst of humanity among Democrats. Manichaean dichotomy — inability to see anyone “unlike us” as virtuous — is pathological: Individuals demonstrating such thinking are psychotic, and a society conducting as such is equally sick).
The attack on Paul Pelosi is concerning. Those failing to recognize that fact have lost touch with reality — because the country has crossed a line and resembles Nazi Germany; where thugs physically assault those failing to echo their extremism, designating “others” to be their “sworn enemy,” having no hesitation about eliminating them.
Mississippi knows about liquidating people whose political ideals offend one’s sense of decency. The Civil Rights murders of the 1950s and 1960s embodied the thought — the concept that the endpoint of ideas about the public sphere challenging one’s ideology is eliminating whoever raises such questions, rather than reading, reflecting, and growing. Perish the thought that someone might mature when removing messengers is a possibility.
Charlottesville in 2017 presents the predicate for America, five years later. Citizens have to ask whether they like where the country heads or whether it is time to draw a line and orient the polity in another direction.
Senator Goldwater said, accepting the 1964 Republican nomination for President, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!” It provides compelling political rhetoric but offers no roadmap for operating a civilized society. Inability to compromise and show respect — compulsion to treat others as pariahs deserving murder — replicates the dysfunctional bloodbath of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
It is time that people speak against the madness. Borrowing from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young,
“Speak out, you got to speak out against the madness
You got to speak your mind if you dare”
The time to begin was after Charlottesville. Waiting longer is insanity.
There are no guarantees, other than that failure to articulate one’s concerns and demonstrate need for urgent action is suicidal.
Jay Wiener is a Northsider.