As always, I'm taking this post to reflect on my country on its 238th Birthday. In preparation, I read my post from last year, which was filled with an optimism that I find hard to find on this cool, rainy day in July. It seems to me as if the division in this country, the polarizing forces of progressive and conservative ideologies, has grown ever wider, and while those differences have always existed within the fabric of this nation, and whose oppositional energy have arguably been one of the reasons for its prosperity, more than ever I fear they threaten to tear it apart.
America consistently derails the radicalization of peoples in other parts of the world, while as a nation, we seem to be ignoring the radicalization that is taking place at home. It's as if the lessons of the Oklahoma city bombing and the Waco disaster of two decades ago have been forgotten, it they had ever been learned in the first place. This is perhaps most evident in the wave of gun enthusiasts that appear to be growing in number. The groundswell of expansive "Open Carry" laws is deeply disturbing, and based on a myth. There's this sense that in the past, it was common place for people to be armed, and that it is an American right. Though I support the Second Amendment, believing a society is better off when the people are armed rather than just the government, the interpretation of the amendment is open for debate. I don't believe it justifies people walking the streets, or entering fast food restaurants, or government buildings with AKs draped over their shoulders. Even in the times of the Wild West, people were not permitted to carry their firearms within the town...that's what the OK Corral battle was about after all.
The most frightening aspect of these Open Carry fundamentalists isn't necessarily the guns, though I do believe it's a tragedy waiting to happen. What's frightening about it is the deep sense of fear these people feel. They are afraid of the government, somewhat understandably, but also of their fellow citizens. There's always been an element of fear in any society when different groups co-habitat, but in the past few years it really felt as if America might be moving past that, but I suppose that was an illusion. This fear, manifested into gun laws, is leading to more and more radical politicians with very suspect ideas on a wide range of issues that go far beyond guns. And the idea that this expansion of guns will somehow make us safer is so baffling and ridiculous that it begs the question of how any intelligent person can make that argument. How many more public shootings will it lead to? How many incidents of "good guys with a gun" hastily shooting some incident will it lead to? It's sad that some of the same people derailing the growing police state want to heap a layer of vigilantism on top it.
Which brings me to my next gloomy feelings on America. The police state shows no sign of dissipating. The NSA atrocity, which is only still coming to light and which has yet to be denounced by the established parties, is extremely worrisome. It's policies like that encourage the radicalization of our citizens. It's also policies, and Supreme Court rulings, that establish a fetus and a corporation as a human being, while suggesting a living breathing woman is entitled to less rights than those two more abstract concepts. Too many people feel as though their government is working against them instead of for them, that's if they believe the government is working at all.
Until people stop believing the misleading lines fed to them by the major news outlets and spend some time researching and thinking about the issues they are so angry about, I don't see much change. And if the divisions within the government continue on the path they are on, it will soon make Star Wars Episode I's seemingly tedious senate sub-plot quite prophetic. There is no doubt that there is something wrong here, the big question is whether or not a boost of prosperity will wipe it away as it has done in the past, or whether a great uniter will show up out of nowhere and bring things to a calm, or else, will the grand experiment eventually fail, eaten away by pettiness and fear and hatred? It's hard to say, but as always, the patriotic side of me likes to believe we will overcome, just as we always have.