Like everyone, I am simply numbed by everything that has happened over the last few days, and deeply saddened that at a time when we need strong leadership, we are in a debate over which candidate would be the least terrible for our nation. But honestly, right now I am just too sad to say much of anything. As far as a historical perspective, I feel a lot like Professor Ann M. Little expressed on her blog.
I don’t have much to add to her sentiments, except that we have yet to reach the level of historic chaos as 1968, so we can take some comfort in that. This opinion piece in New York Magazine argues, and I somewhat agree, that the events of the last few days have actually brought us together in ways that the events of 1968 didn’t. Further, as the Christian Science Monitor maintains, we got through it then, so we can get through it now.
Yet, as The Atlantic points out, we may not have truly learned the lessons of 1968. I also honestly see no reason to think our situation isn’t going to get worse before it gets better. With the conventions and an incredible divisive election coming up, I am worried. Like the rest of you.
Our nation is terribly divided in just about every conceivable way, racially, ethnically, politically, culturally, religiously, sexually, you name it. This isn’t the first time in our history that this is true. In fact, there has NEVER been a time when it has not been true. (Make America great AGAIN??) What is new is how technology captures and spreads so much more of it. So I think that it is very important to view our times from a historical context to understand that this is NOT new.
Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 impromptu speech in the wake of MLK’s assassination has been shared a lot on social media today, and I think it is a great reminder that our situation is not new. It is sobering to hear his words and to realize they are still relevant today (as is his prescription for our country), and chilling when we remind ourselves of what happened to him just 2 months after he spoke these words.
So yes, our situation today is not new. But that should still leave us asking why 2016 is looking so much like 1968. There is no easy answer to that, and it is way above my expertise to even attempt to analyze all the different angles to reach a conclusion. However, if we are honest with ourselves, we all have to take blame for the fact that our divisiveness seems so explosive at the moment. We demonize those that we disagree with, simplifying their ideas and the issues to create an enemy of them. We create an “us” versus “them” environment. We don’t listen or make any attempt to emphasize with “others.” We castigate others or groups of others, but never turn a critical eye towards ourselves or our groups. We don’t open our minds to the worldview, experiences, opinions, and perceptions of people unlike us. We don’t listen. We blame.
Of course, this too is not new (although I think the age of social media has intensified it), and is in fact the story of mankind’s history. I don’t know how or if it can ever change. But sports superstar Bo Jackson tweeted what I think is a good first step. I’ll end this useless tirade with his sentiments, and encourage us all to ask ourselves what WE as individuals have brought to this divisive world, and what WE as individuals can resolve to do to change it.