This may most interest my American readers. But of course anyone else can see it. I was once a lecturer of history and political science, and I believe that fiction writers…
…have a role, however small it may be, in trying to put ideas on the table that encourage thinking about how we might make the world better.
It is an “Armageddon-like” issue that worriers (and even bigots) have raised at various times throughout U.S. history. It appeared too during much of my (“Generation X”… meaning I was then similarly twenty-something and watched Friends when it was first run, on Thursday evenings, on NBC) younger life. And I feel exactly the same way now that I have felt always.
Will the United States of America survive?
I do not fear for the future of the land of my birth. I think that the U.S. is going to be around for a long time to come. The U.S. is really, I always remind non-Americans, a continent (Finland has the population of roughly Connecticut), and over the centuries has demonstrated a resiliency and managed – it still does – to evolve.
Let’s remember, the U.S.A. was born relatively small, amidst a revolt against a king, and largely by accident:
Having won that war and independence, long before Americans came to revere the likes of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, or the flag, they had rallied around a living man as the “symbol” of their new United States of America:
…until, suddenly, he was gone:
In 2019 the country has already changed virtually beyond recognition compared to what it was at his presidential inauguration in April 1789. It was then less than 4 million people who mostly lived within about 200 miles of the Atlantic. They dwelled mostly on farms (millions of Americans now hardly see a farm), rarely traveled more than 50 miles from home (in 1789, not a single river in the country had a bridge), were mostly Protestant Christians (and often very devout), and mostly of British Isles (including Ireland) heritage and African-descended enslaved persons.
Today it is some 330 million of nearly every background, religion, and ethnicity on the planet, and stretches across the continent and part of the Pacific Ocean and up to the Arctic. It is far from perfect still to say the least. But, overall, it does work… and continues to be a desired new home for millions abroad hoping for a chance to get there.
Frankly the U.S.A. of 2019 would often be another universe to our first president: “A state of Hawaii? Remarkable. Really? And slavery is no more?”
What it has become over the centuries is something of which we as Americans today ought rightly to be at least a bit proud. We should also behave as its caretakers. We should be reflecting on what might be done better, think carefully, and attempt to lay out improvements… until we too are gone.
But – ugh – then there’s the likes of… Twitter. Let’s call this Part II, continuing on from Wednesday… but with a different emphasis.
I have been on there with that new account since August. Despite my best efforts, I am finding once again a timeline becoming littered with loutish, childish, ignorant, racist, and hyper-opinionated partisanship – often (sadly) from writers (since I am following now mostly other writers). It tends to pop up unexpectedly… a writing tweet, a writing tweet… and then, BAM!… the required “profound” insight: “The entire world is going to hell because of those [fill in the blank].”
In 1860 a prominent South Carolina lawyer who had opposed the state’s seceding from the United States offered the now immortal observation: “South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.” Twitter – and other “social” media – definitely feels that way all too often.
Tweets and retweets that shove the “insane side” of Twitter at me also leaves me occasionally feeling trapped inside a “Groundhog Day,” and I admit that aspect bothers me the most. It is hugely disturbing and sad to read such “opinions” coming especially from twenty and thirty-somethings. We are seeing resurface now with every idiot tweet, shocking nonsense I and others in higher education had confronted in classes and had THOUGHT we had debunked among university students decades ago.
Beating down ignorance is indeed a lot like killing vampires.
So I avoid the endless stream of ugly on my new Twitter account with the “mute” and “unfollow” buttons. I urge you to do the same and not allow yourself to be drawn into the “asylum.” Do not allow yourself to become fearful and hateful: please understand what you see tweeted is almost always nowhere near the whole (hi)story, and indeed may be simply false.
Have a good Sunday, wherever you are. 🙂