Of course, we do not—nor will we ever—live in a perfect country where puppies endlessly cavort, all human unhappiness has been banished, and unicorns daily dance along rainbows made of Nutella.
However, I see no car bombings, pogroms, or public executions during my daily commute to work, which sets us far above many other parts of our troubled planet during our bloody history. It could, in fact, be argued that we now live in an extraordinarily tolerant America but, oddly enough, spend an extraordinary amount of time and energy obsessing over the merest of personal slights, the micro-aggressions that now seem to preoccupy our minds—which might be the surest indication of just how coddled and cosseted most of us really are in our great nation today.
Nonetheless, because so many now mistakenly believe that inherently flawed and fallible humans will become living gods if horrific hectoring and castigating criticisms are rigorously applied to all of our thoughts and actions, this misplaced belief in the perfectibility of humanity has today disastrously mutated into blind anger at the weaknesses that we all share.
This peculiar dislike for our fellow Americans for the simple fact of their imperfect humanity, which is ostensibly a sign of our open mindedness, has driven a degree of public shaming and self-righteous virtue signaling that would likely have left our nation’s Puritan ancestors aghast. Our intolerantly tolerant nation has become supremely contemptuous of the quirks baked into our very DNA. The bizarre expectation that we can all be both perfect and prescient has led to non-stop, shrill attacks upon upon anyone foolish enough to be a typical, flawed human. This is unfair, unreasonable—and just plain wrong.
Oddly enough, those who presume to perfect us have become the worst punishers of all. Perhaps it is simply in the nature of those who seek to stamp out sin among us sinners (although the most vociferous today would likely reject the obvious religious parallel), but the overtly inquisitorial nature of much of our public and private dialogue has now led to most everyone being suspected of being in league with some sort of new-style Satan—and today’s “marks of the devil” are hunted down among our words, gestures, families, friends, hobbies, social media accounts, expressed or implied beliefs, and most every other aspect of our lives with a zeal that would have made the Massachusetts Bay Colony proud.
Woe to anyone who smiles at the wrong joke, posts an image later deemed to be inappropriate, fails to swim with the tide of supposedly enlightened opinion, and does not kowtow to all manner of credentialed experts who decide what is allowed—and what is not. You will be persecuted—and extra-legally prosecuted—by those who choose to put the worst possible spin on your life. What a wonderful world we live in today.
Those who dissent are “deplatformed” and shunned. Those who argue for free speech are called bigots—and worse. Those who vainly try to examine both sides of an issue are now considered haters who are triggering those compelled to hear an alternative viewpoint that could make them feel threatened or victimized. In short, reasoned and respectful conversation is now a tool of oppression because it does not automatically validate us—and might even require revisiting one’s opinion.
Our supposed tolerance has instead muted our discussions and dulled our critical thinking skills. The hive mind that now rules our discourse is unlikely—and likely unwilling—to recognize the fatal flaw inherent a culture ruled by perpetual mob outrage that allows for no defense, no appeal, and no clemency. We instead move within a day from accusation to public retribution, insisting that the object of today’s wrath grovel piteously as they are pummeled for expressing a thought that might imply a judgment or criticism, engaging in an action that might call their adherence to today’s orthodoxy into question, or failing to anticipate one of the many and sundry ways their behavior or beliefs might be misconstrued.
For reasons that might escape our understanding, this daily horror (driven to new and terrifying heights by 21st century technology) actually makes many supremely happy. Like the pious witch burners of old, they rejoice in stamping out that which might interfere the heaven on earth that they are obsessively striving to create—while actually trapping us all in a hell of never ending suspicion and conflict.
Just how much of our ash and charred bone must be piled to the sky before we realize that the fires used to cleanse us of evil will eventually scorch us all? When will today’s new puritanical spell of hate and fear finally be broken?
I wish I knew.