America’s Family Feud

Much of what passes for news in America today focuses on the very rich, the very powerful, and the very famous.  Obviously, these are the people who are in a position to make an outsized impact on our nation and our consciousness.  Moreover, this tiny sliver of our population enjoys a symbiotic relationship with all manner of media in our nation, which both amplifies the power of each and generates even more wealth for all concerned.

However, these famous few are not the reality of our country; they are merely the illusion that entertains and distracts us.  The story their words and actions tell is often self-serving and deceptive, as many of our own actions perhaps sometimes are, but they also enjoy the unimaginable luxury of being insulated from fearful want, grinding need, and routine degradation.  Their tales of woe are an attempt to market their misery to make themselves seem more relatable, but the obvious difference is that they are in a position to monetize their suffering.  The vast majority Americans simply have to bear the pain without the comforts born of ready cash, servile factotums, stylish wardrobes, and pretty friends who seem always to be on an endless, sunny vacation.

Celebrities, national politicians, trust fund babies, top level executives, and media mavens don’t work overnight shifts at a warehouse, comfort someone who is in pain and dying alone, deal with the angry student who is punishing the world for what they didn’t get from their mother and father, struggle to make payments on their child’s orthodontia, or worry that their lives are being stolen by jobs that they hate.  This is the reason that so few of the elite speak up about high gas prices, unaffordable medical care, or families destroyed by the mass layoffs designed to goose the stock prices of mismanaged companies.  Being wholly removed from lives lived one or two paychecks from catastrophe, they have the luxury of commenting on the daily dull aches of Americans with the detached sympathies of a zoologist fretting about habitat degradation.  They see it, and our struggles might even touch their hearts, but they will not—and cannot—feel it in their souls.

We look for leadership in all the wrong places.  Movie stars, U.S. Senators, and obscenely well paid athletes are part of the very system that is crushing our country, and reforms that would put their perks and privileges at risk interest them not in the least.  Is your favorite basketball player going to take a massive pay cut so that tickets to the arena are again affordable?  Will movie stars accept contracts that pay them like other highly proficient professionals in our society so that theater tickets are cheaper?  Will there ever be a politician who doesn’t cash in on public service while further bankrupting our futures with the government spending that makes their campaign contributors rich and happy?

Every day and in every way we are being played for suckers by those supposed leaders who regularly jet off to posh resorts to complain to one another about our incomprehensible dissatisfaction with their enlightened leadership.

Today America and a great many countries around the world are being ruled by corrupt end-stage gerontocracies who are so convinced of their own wisdom they have lost touch with the reality of their own incompetence and unpopularity.  The primary reason that the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency so dismayed and terrified our nation’s entrenched and oblivious elites is that it proved an outsider could channel voter anger into a massive repudiation of the wizened Leftists who have gleefully spent America into the poorhouse for a half century while loudly proclaiming what an awful nation we truly are.  

Everyone outside of the Boston to D.C. Acela corridor has been stuck paying the price for their arrested intellectual and emotional development—which is stuck somewhere right around their overly excitable freshman year of college—and we can rest assured that their acolytes and underlings are even worse. Those now in charge of America, or who are soon hoping to be, are not our nation’s future leaders; they have torched their credibility on the altar of Wokeness and wastefulness.

Leftists, of course, love to fantasize about—and fundraise off—the claim that jackbooted fascism is returning to America, which also allows our nation’s Marxists to justify their incendiary rants, but the reality is that we seem to be sliding back toward a mushy and messy moderation that will infuriate the extremists on both ends of the political spectrum.  

Most Americans are sick of wildly expensive incompetence, the many petty tyrannies of the administrative state, loud-mouthed celebrities enamored with their fleeting fame, experts who are routinely wrong, teachers who can’t teach, roads full of potholes, rampant crime and violence, the pronoun follies, technology that spies on us constantly, spiraling price inflation, porous borders, and foreign policy humiliations.  Unsurprisingly, faith in government is crushingly low, and voters seem to have lost their appetite for Authoritarian Utopianism, which is what decades of government interventions promising wealth, health, and happiness have turned into as they have grown stale, shrill, and senseless.  

The peculiar inverse relationship between what we pay in taxes and personal autonomy compared with the thin gruel of benefits we receive in return has never been more blatantly obvious, and our national mood is both exceedingly surly—and wildly punitive.  The public appetite for more rules, laws, mandates, and regulations has worn thin; Americans now want to take names and kick some entitled asses while being left free to say what they want to whom they want when they want—and too bad if it hurts someone’s tender feelings.

If you’re looking for clues regarding the direction of our national dialogue in the years just ahead, think of a family Thanksgiving where the turkey is overcooked, the mashed potatoes are rancid, the pies are burned, the weather is lousy, the alcohol is plentiful, and the cable TV has died. Much like any screaming fight at a dysfunctional holiday dinner, unkind accusations will be shouted using unkind words.

When people feel angry, hurt, or betrayed—and have been forced to keep their mouths shut about it for a very long time—dishes are broken and grudges are aired.  The only saving grace is that, after everyone has spewed on everyone else, we’ll be clear who dislikes whom and why, which might allow for a calmer and more productive dialogue going forward—if we are lucky and smart.  

At the very least, as is typically the case in most feuding families, some awkward workarounds eventually will be found that allow for an uncomfortable peace.  Americans will never embrace the group hug or unconditional forgiveness and acceptance of those whom they believe are selfish, immoral, hurtful, or immature, but the history of our diverse and argumentative nation demonstrates that we are masters at finding compromises that annoy many but infuriate few.  These are victories that we should not lightly dismiss because the alternative is much, much, worse.

The healers who will need to emerge to clean up the fiscal mess created over the past fifty years by free spending politicians, soothe the savage beast of extremism and outrage created by our media and mass culture, and try to get everyone to sit at the same table and talk through our many problems and disagreements will have to be a combination of penny-pinching manager, empathetic family therapist, and tough lion tamer.  

Moreover, more of the successful candidates for national elective office in the years ahead will need to be free of the stench of the swamp in our nation’s Capitol, which leads me to believe we will be open to voting for other political outsiders such as Trump.  The flailing failures of Joe Biden, the ultimate Washington insider, are an important lesson concerning the limitations of the unimaginative thinking of those who have lived for too long inside the D.C. bubble of fantasy and futility.  The electoral shock of 2016 is likely not the last one we will experience during our lifetimes because a nation that is disgusted with business as usual from the usual equivocators and idiots is going to be open to another bold and brash leader who will rattle the comfortable government careerists who have managed to run our great nation into a ditch.