Sixty-four years ago, in high school, I wrote a story for English class – an allegory, far from subtle – about a commercial airliner that develops serious engine trouble. The captain informs his petrified passengers that their only chance of survival – iffy at best – will come from getting rid of lots of weight. At least half of the seats must be dismounted and thrown out. The crew distributes wrenches to the adult passengers, allowing them to disconnect and jettison their seats. The seatless will just have to squat or sprawl down on the floor, without seat belts, cushions or emergency oxygen.
Well, everyone is freaked, of course; they all want to survive, but rancor soon breaks out between the right side and the left. Each group resents the other’s eagerness to have someone else – i.e., them – sacrifice safety and comfort.
Things get really crazy, really fast. Those on either side begin assaulting their opponents with the newly-provided tools, impacting noses, teeth and skulls. The aisle soon runs slick with blood – and some saliva, too. To make a gruesome story short, they never do cooperate. The plane goes down and they all croak. The End. Get it?
Here at home, in real life, as we call the unending charade, the rancor and hatred continue to mount. It seems like almost everyone, on either side of the divide, has drifted past the point of compromise or of even considering what their opponents want, and has settled comfortably into mistrusting / resenting / and mocking those across the aisle, in Congress and in life. This hatred and dismissal are encouraged by provocateurs on both the right and left, in print and in the broadcast media.
When fear, mistrust, and hatred of “the other side” – no matter which – routinely override concern with balance, fairness, and community, you’re on the very final skids, not least because the impolite and scathing rhetoric of either side unfailingly prompts bad behavior on the other side. This country, which should change its name today to Serbia, or P.S.A. (Polarized States of America), including lots of politicians in the D. of C., has sunk down to the level of a nasty schoolyard fight where nyaanyaanyaa meets nyaanyaanyaa.
Both day and night we are assured by the polarized hyperbole and group-support of internet allies that our likes and dislikes are well-founded, without the slightest shred of concrete proof. No need, now, to rely on those you know – your neighbors or family and actual friends – you’ve got a bunch of kindred zealots on the internet, no matter what your point of view. Now, virtual displaces real, and mob-mentality erupts in fertile cyberspace. Human nature prevails and will always prevail. (OMG, Primate Flaws!)
A bunch of folks with firearms yearn for a civil war, and terrorists regard themselves as fervent patriots. We thank thee, Lord, for Q-anon. The world is getting pretty bleeping weird, and actual surpasses fantasy. Sam Beckett hides his face and slinks away.
Whenever I say stuff like that, some friend of mine will shake his head, insisting that the world has always been completely nuts. But here, now, in “The Information Age,” the reporting is better and word travels fast.
A mere one hundred years ago, in many obscure corners of the world, entire cultures rose and fell. They clashed and perished, disappeared, and no one on the outside even knew. But, in the current, manic metaverse, some minor pol in Georgia passes gas, and the Japanese stock market tanks.