THE CHAOTIC NOW. Monday, July 25, 2016.
Overhead, a thunderstorm. On the television, speeches and chaos at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Bernie supporters screaming at the speakers. The DNC chair resigning. Last week it was the Republicans, this week the Democrats. The center does not hold. Some rough beast slouches toward Bethlehem to be born. Constant killings on the news, unarmed black people being shot, policemen being shot in a blind retaliation, terrorism worldwide, suicide killers, the Russians meddling in a U. S. national election, fraud rampant, and bad feelings. A whole lot of bad feelings and mistrust. An astrologer friend tells me that the stars are in a position similar to the time of the French Revolution. And we know what that entailed. The Terror. Populism taken to its logical conclusion. And then Napoleon.
History does not repeat itself, said Mark Twain, but it rhymes.
Here is what I believe. I do not believe in populism either on the left or the right. Populism attracts demagogues, it likes simple, and simple-minded solutions to complex problems, it likes to blame others, groups, establishments, blacks maybe or immigrants or whatever they fix on for intractable problems that have a long history of their own and cannot be solved, if they can be solved at all, with simple answers.
I do not believe in organized religion. Before he died my brother told me he thought that religion was the cause of most of the world's problems. I could only agree. This is true all through history. Christianity made Galileo deny what he perfectly well knew, that the heavens are in motion. Christianity sacked Jerusalem in the First Crusade, sacked Rome in 1527, killing 10,000 people the first day; a crude version of conservatism calling itself Christian hates gays and lesbians and God knows who else. A group of Muslims of unknown size wants to live in the 7th century and beheads people who do not share their religion. These are monstrous things. Anyone of any sense knows that if there is a God he or she or it would not sanction this kind of insanity. Organized religion led to the sexual abuse of countless numbers of children in the Catholic Church. Is this not sick? Does it not disgust you? It disgusts me. I wrote a piece once on child sexual abuse, interviewed a few of its victims as adults. Their lives had been permanently ruined. Listening to them was like watching people bleed and not being able to stitch them up. This is Christianity?
Alexander Hamilton said that the real problem was democracy. The Founders feared mob rule, as well they should. Winston Churchill said that democracy was a terrible way to govern, but the other ways were worse. The founders created a republic, not a democracy. But we have devolved. Our legislatures nationwide are a sad joke, and Congress is criminally irresponsible, interested only in power, money, and certainly not in the national interest. So I do not believe all that much in democracy. But at the same time I must. There is no alternative. I also believe in our constitution, but it desperately needs to be rewritten. The second amendment has been twisted out of all meaning, and the mob is now armed, as if we were all living in Tombstone. It's a ridiculous situation, preserved and prolonged by a corrupt Congress.
I believe that it will take centuries to undo America's original sin, which is slavery, and that extensive intermarriage among the races is the only way it will disappear. I only recently found out something of the extensive use of Native American slaves in the colonies, and the slave trade in that group of people. Really, is there no limit to the horrors people perpetrate on each other? As a writer of military history, I say the answer is no. There is no limit.
I believe in history. I believe it should be compulsory reading for anyone entering politics. Why? Because it saddens you. It teaches you about the law of unintended consequences, and what happens when people in power do not think through all the reactions that a particular action--like invading Iraq--might create. It teaches humility, and caution. And thoughtfulness.
Let me end it here. Paul Simon is about to sing Bridge Over Troubled Waters, a song that always makes me cry. I could easily cry. Cry for my country most of all. We are in the process of going mad, losing our reason, our restraint, chasing chimeras off the stage. My wife tells me the crowd has calmed down. Let us hope so.