Hi, there, Dear Reader. It is early afternoon in Lithia, Florida, on Tuesday, July 5, 2022. It is a sweltering summer day in the Tampa Bay area. Currently, the temperature is 90°F (32°C) under mostly sunny skies. With the wind blowing from the east-northeast at 5 MPH (8 KM/H) and humidity at 64%, the heat index is 100°F (38°C). Today’s forecast calls for scattered rain showers – look, Ma, no thunderstorms! -and a high of 94°F (34°C). Tonight, those pesky scattered showers will hang around. The low will be 76°F (24°C).
Today I woke up – thanks to a rather painful cramp in my left leg – sometime after 6:30 AM, and my second conscious thought – the first being “Ow, that hurts! – was “Man, remember that Chinese curse, ‘May you live in interesting times’? Well, we are certainly living in interesting times, aren’t we?”
Last night I went to sleep – while watching a documentary from France, Sea Power, on Netflix – with sad thoughts about the two public-event shootings – one in Highland Park, IL, the other in Philadelphia – that took place yesterday. (Actually, there were far more shootings over the Fourth of July weekend, from Friday through Monday, but those two were the ones I knew about.) And as I managed to take off my glasses and turn off the TV with the remote, I remember thinking, “And, of course, nothing is going to change – for the better anyway – when it comes to America’s gun culture and its grip on society.”
And as I write this, I am struggling with my feelings – sadness, anger, disgust, and disappointment – about many of my fellow Americans, especially those who identify as white, “Christian,” Republican, and “proud” supporters of former President Donald J. Trump.
As I wrote earlier in the comments section of a Facebook post by one of my friends on the “social network” – “I don’t expect the United States to be perfect – it isn’t Heaven”:
Well, I used to be in the “U.S. is the best country in the world” club, but maturity, travel, and getting educated about its history cured me of this affliction. As long as conservatives, mostly whites, mostly Christians, mostly Republicans, keep on supporting Trumpism, denying that we have a racial divide still, and wanting to drag us back to the 1850s because they hate change, it’s just going to morph into a 21st Century version of Nazi Germany. With nuclear weapons, to boot.
I don’t care if conservatives think that I “hate” them or that I’m just a “dumb liberal who wants free stuff and to destroy America.” Neither statement would be true, although I am not a fan of what passes for “conservatism” in Anglophone nations, including Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. But I am convinced that there are many Americans, including the groups I mentioned in my comment on Facebook, who will not be happy until we live in a one-party theocracy – a Protestant version of the Islamic Republic of Iran or the current Taliban-run Afghanistan.
And when I wrote the phrase “I used to be in the ‘U.S. is the best country in the world’ club” on my friend’s Facebook page, I meant it.
Oh, I wasn’t in-your-face jingoistic about it, of course. But I would passionately defend American foreign policy – especially in the late stages of the Cold War – whenever someone (usually one of my Colombian relatives or one of their friends) brought up the “evils” of American “meddling in other countries’ affairs,” especially in Vietnam, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.
To be sure, it took me a long time to realize that what I meant by “the U.S. is the best country in the world” wasn’t so much a belief in “American exceptionalism” or that other concept held dear by the right of “America is a shining city on a hill,” but rather that I liked my lower-middle-class standard of life and the ease of acquiring material stuff.
I remember that when I was in Spain for 88 days in the fall of 1988, not only would I get upset when my Spanish flat mate, an older guy in his 30s from Madrid named Demetrio, would call the U.S. an “imperialist colossus” that didn’t really care about other countries and the people that lived in them, but I tended to gripe a lot about how things were different in Spain from the way they were in Miami.
Keep in mind that in the 1980s my politics were right-of-center. I was not registered as a Republican – or a Democrat, for that matter – but I tended to vote more for Republican candidates, such as Ronald Reagan in 1984 and George H.W. Bush in 1988. I didn’t like all of their policies; even when I was a high school kid, I did notice that Florida Republicans liked to cut state funding for public schools a bit too much, so I resented it when we were told that such and such elective course would only be offered “if the Legislature doesn’t cut the budget for public schools.”
Back then I would have labeled myself as conservative as far as being anti-Communist, a strong supporter of the prevailing post-World War II order that entailed good relations with our allies, and a strong commitment to defending Western Europe from the Soviet Union. I was also a firm believer in having a military force that was second to none, a tenet that I’m sure will not surprise any of my constant readers, especially given my love of military history and/or military-themed movies and war games.
For social issues, though, I have always been liberal. I’ve always supported women’s rights, whether they involve “equal pay for equal work,” the right to pursue military careers that include flying combat aircraft, commanding warships, and not just commanding support vessels or serving in “auxiliary” roles, and most important, reproductive rights.
I am also a firm supporter of LGBTQ rights as well, which really puts me at odds with people who insist that “being gay” is a “choice” or a “lifestyle” and not something that people are born as being. Ditto for minority rights; I hate racists and everything that supports systemic racism, especially in 2020s America, where right-wingers claim that we live in a post-racist society and that anyone who says the U.S. ever had “systemic racism” is either a Communist, delusional, or lying.
Anyway, I don’t think I have a specific point to make here; I’m just frustrated, angry, and sad that American conservatism has been hijacked by extremists who know well how to manipulate millions of persons – whether they’re well-educated or not – into following a mass movement based on principles that are not different from Italian Fascism or German National Socialism in the 1930s and 1940s.
The 1930s and ‘40s, too, were “interesting times,” and I’m afraid that the next decade is going to be a replay of those turbulent, war-torn years.