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Everything One Loves Under Threat


I was born less than a year after atom bombs leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So, like all my generation, I grew up with the knowledge that everything I love might be destroyed– my family, my nation, the heritage of human cultures, the web of life on earth.

With the end of the Cold War, that threat has receded — at least temporarily — if not altogether disappeared.

But once again, I have that same feeling: that everything I love is under threat. The same, but different.

While we lived in the world of Mutual Assured Destruction, there was a particular mega-event that would or would not occur. And we would either be able to continue on as usual, or we would speedily descend into a fiery abyss.

The destruction was hypothetical (and only during the Cuban Missile Crisis did it seem possibly imminent). And meanwhile the world went along essentially intact.

Now, the rise at the center of the American power system of a force at once so destructive and so powerful, so benighted and so thoroughly enmeshed in the nation’s political and economic systems, and in the minds of a large component of the American people, has once again put everything I love under threat.

I don’t know if my children and grandchildren will live in a democracy, or in a plutocracy as ruthless and unprincipled and dishonest as the current machinations of the Koch Brothers.

I don’t know if the American “habits of the heart” (in Tocqueville’s phrase) will reflect the values of compassion and justice or whether the spirit of hatred and distrust will make still more advances in ripping apart our social fabric.

I don’t know if a solid and admirable America will be able to lead the international system toward greater order and stability, or whether the world will break down along all those fault lines around which wars can always occur (like we see these days between the Israelis and the Palestianians and as seems to be rising up like a volcanic energy once again between Russia and the American-led West).

I don’t know if America, with the world’s largest economy, will rise to the occasion of the global crisis of climate change and help lead the way to humankind’s responding appropriately to the threat of a systemic breakdown of the order on which life on earth depends. Or whether it will allow this destructive force, serving amoral and short-sighted corporatist masters, to drive us toward that breakdown, which is already causing the beginnings of a cascade of extinctions.

This threat feels the same in that it weighs upon my heart, and casts a shadow on the beauties and blessings I cherish in my life and in the world around me.

But it feels also different in that the destruction is already happening. Over the past more-than-a-decade, one can see the force of brokenness advancing, leaving brokenness in its wake. More and more, we are already living with the rubble it creates.

It is not a matter of yes or no, but of how much and how much longer.

It is not a question of will we be spared this hypothetical nightmare, but of will we rouse ourselves to push this destructive force away from the helm of our collective destiny.

  • pvogel

    I speak of the        later years   of this century   I believe the GOP   billionaires  club  knows  and accepts that  BIG OIL  is  doomed.  and Climate change will bring  socital   change too. They are preparing  for a post industrial         way of life we las saw 500 years ago… castles,  and serfs

  • aprilmoore

    So sad but true.  We have already moved a considerable distance down a terrible road.  I pray we can turn things around.  Thanks for a fine piece.

  • Elaine in Roanoke

    Looking at the history of our nation, we have had very short time period when we actually had what some would call a representative democracy. Until 1920 slightly over one-half of the white population had no voice (women), while people of color were denied their rights. It was only after the civil right era of the 1960’s that we could finally say that we had “one person, one vote,” a real representative democracy.I think you would agree that the reactionary forces present in our nation have been working ever since to restrict that democracy.

    The present power of corporatist forces is a great danger. As Pope Francis said recently, “We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose.”