In the course of my journalistic career, which has spanned several decades and countless interesting assignments, I’ve won many awards and often been touted as “the most important writer of this time, or any time.” I usually shrug off such platitudes, even if they’re true. However, not in all my days have I ever seen anything as terrible as what’s gripping the United States of America today.
I began my work covering a civil war in Africa—or maybe it was Asia. But I never thought I’d end it (not that my career is actually ending) covering a civil war in my home country. Yet here I sit, high atop Mount Winchester with only my beleaguered manservant Roger for company, and civil war is what I see on my TV.
The fight over the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh has turned America into the bloodiest battleground in the history of the world. Perhaps most or all of the blood spilled has been metaphorical, even rhetorical, but it’s still as sticky as a locker room after a hockey fight.
I’ve borne witness many terrible things in my lifetime—assassinations, massacres, “The A-Team” movie starring Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper—yet this moment feels worse to me, somehow. A deep breakdown, perhaps even a get-down, is occurring between our citizens, their beloved institutions, our president, and the media (of which I’m the most prominent member).
Make no mistake, this is a terrifying conflict. What began as an argument over whether a federal judge may have sexually assaulted a young woman at a teenage party in the 1980s will soon turn into an armed battle where millions of people will die. Millions more will starve to death. Countless thousands will be imprisoned in cattle pens and die from infections of their grievous wounds. Do you think I’m exaggerating? Look at Twitter. People are mean to one another there.
Nothing appears to be sacred anymore, not even holy relics that are secretly hidden behind our most important documents. All across the nation, or at least at dinner parties in New York and Washington, people whisper calumnies about political affiliations and book-contract sizes. The rich get richer and the poor get a little less richer than the rich. When will the cruelty end? Never, I fear.
All signs point toward civil war, just like the last time. Fancy boys dance jigs to banjo music, albeit mostly in Brooklyn. Families stockpile oats. The country finds itself deeply divided over the issue of whether one somewhat seedy political operative has the judicial temperament to serve on the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the president, a homely underdog from humble beginnings, is trying but failing to preserve the Union with his soaring oratory.
Our system of government, designed to mostly benefit white male slaveholders but united by an abstract idea of common decency that I learned about at Princeton, seems to be unraveling. The Senate, now led by Mitch McConnell, the universe’s greatest Satan, has never before featured bitter arguments and political grandstanding.
Unlike in the past, the elected representatives from both parties seem to be acting out of self-interest rather than in the interests of people who openly despise them, send them death threats, and harass them at restaurants. It’s February 1861, and we’re just watching “Jersey Shore: Family Vacation.” Wither, America; wither, wither!
Who’s to blame for this great divide? Certainly not me, and definitely not you. Republicans, probably, and also Democrats, but mostly Republicans. All our problems, even our personal ones, are their fault.
The other day, I had lunch with my old friend, Brig. Gen. Lt. Col. Sgt. Michael McLuhan, who once attempted to stop the firebombing of Cambodia but then did it anyway because soldiers follow orders. That’s what soldiers do. He seemed to think that America had drifted beyond repair.
“Not in all my days on this Earth,” he said, “not even when I was machine-gunning peasants in Nicaragua to defeat the scourge of Communism or parachuting into Baghdad to avenge 9-11, did I think that America would descend to such partisan, violent lows. Staring down the Soviet Union was nothing compared with combatting the partisan rancor stirred up by a judicial nomination. Rot begins at home, and don’t forget to have your pets spayed and neutered.”
“Can I quote you on that in a column?” I said.
“Only if you pick up the check,” he said.
“Okay,” I said. “What if I use a pseudonym?”
So how can we stop this apocalypse? Americans of sense must elect other Americans of sense, move back to the center of the center, and start hating a common foe that exists in a far-away land instead of one another. That’ll solve everything. We must return to the America of the 1950s, when everything was fine, and when I was young.
Then, and only then, will this bloody conflict at last come to an end.