I write this as the political wars leading up to the 2020 election are raging across the country, on the day that President Trump has been impeached by the House of Representatives. This Third Edition is being published about a week or two before the 2020 presidential election. When you read this, presumably that will be in the past, but whatever the outcome, the United States will be indelibly changed. This era may be a footnote in history, or the beginning of a major transformation of the United States and the former American world empire, or whatever term you the Reader chooses to use in light of the results of this political, cultural, and social battle in the United States.
I have a small group of friends with whom I attended engineering school in the early sixties, most of whom were also in Naval ROTC and were later commissioned as naval officers and served during the Vietnam War era. Some made a career of the Navy, with one seeing active duty as a PT Boat Squadron commander and subsequent higher commands, another being killed in his first battle in Vietnam as a Marine 2nd Lieutenant, and another became a Seabee. Most of the others served in the nuclear submarine service, with one becoming quite prominent in the defense establishment as a senior admiral and later had very senior leadership positions in international defense industries. He is probably the most approachable, real, funny guy I have met, and shatters what others might think of “those people.” These are smart, driven, funny, and very opinionated friends, and we had - and have - varying degrees of differences in our political, cultural and social outlooks. We are not afraid to share those views with each other, and do it with great fervor. We mostly agree to disagree, and enjoy the robust debates. I rarely see any of them, especially in these later years, but we keep in touch by email. I wish there were more like that in our ongoing national discussions.
I’m reproducing below my somewhat dreary and morbid take on the current (2019) situation in response to emails from others that take opposite sides of the current situation, in the form of a debate on changing our voting system for president to a popular vote from the current electoral college. It is meant to be humorous, serious, poke fun at being at odds with one another, and shed some ironic light on our current political situation. I present this as a contribution of my somewhat jaded yet hopeful viewpoint, and do so with both concern and humor.
What follows is my email response to the group with my thoughts on the issue:
Thanks to all for sharing your ideas and opinions, from whatever source they came.
For the first time in years, I fell into a deep sleep this afternoon after a morning of complete and utter joy and nothingness (really) after passing along my friend’s (initials CR, who passed along another friend’s email) argument in favor of the electoral college, and awoke blissfully, opened my phone, and read (deleted) message. I salute you, (deleted), for well representing the view of the majority of people in the U. S., and for that matter, in the whole world. You make good points, which presumably most people in the U.S. agree with. All those others are too busy surviving, as they themselves define that term.
In that state of clarity, I realized that what we here write does not make any difference. Few people who vote (of the many who have that opportunity, which is a subset of those who exist) will ever read it, and we on the sidelines are mostly (not completely) merely trying to justify our viewpoints and prejudices and worldview, which is how democracy mostly works. Very few people live under a democracy anyway, since we all know about the buttons and levers manipulated by others that allow us to form our opinions based on “facts” which are only lies that have general agreements (all IMHO, of course). But enough of my dark view of humanity, and on to the gist of what I have just now realized.
Most of us know about entropy. That is what we are experiencing, which is an increasing state of disorder, the knowledge of which has been brought about partly - and perhaps mostly - by our mass communications. Society was always run mostly by the strong and ruthless, and all others were merely duped and/or were not paying attention. For most of our existence, it was not important to pay attention to the wo/man (forgive the sexism) behind the curtain, since we had more important things to do like eating, sleeping, reproducing, and killing and maiming to allow those things to happen.
But the person behind the curtain existed, whether we realized it or not. Sometimes s/he was a queen/king, sometimes a village elder, sometimes a priest, sometimes a warrior, sometimes a father, a mother, or any other form of existence, including all the various sexes that now exist. We thought – when we were able and had time to think about it – that we were free, but of course there were more important things, like continuing to live the way we wanted (a relatively new concept).
It is still that way. We call it something different, rearrange the apparent structure and the story we tell about it, but we do not have control of our destiny, and I submit that it is not possible to do that. We need to work with others, which is self-evident, and give up some freedom to obtain continuing life. It always has been that way, and always will be that way, until we all become God or President or the Big Kahuna, or whatever you want to call that. It’s all the same.
So, to me, freedom is an illusion. The story we tell to explain why our miserable lives “suck” (or, on the other hand, why we are “successful,” whatever that is) gets us through the day without submitting to that great gloomy depression that most people on the planet experience daily, although not continually. So, this group or that group will save us, we think, from that experience. None can, or will. The best we can hope for is to be left alone to do our thing, cooperatively with like-minded people (hopefully), and keep the heathens (all those others doing the same things, but of course the “wrong” way). We need to cooperate, but there’s the rub: How best to do that?
Well, we’ve tried everything in the world so far, yet none has worked as fully as we expect. So, where do we compromise? That place is called “politics,” and so we are here now, an enlightened society, with lots of goodies spread unevenly, fighting about how to spread them “justly”, when perhaps (only perhaps) there is no way to do that, and we must admit that we will always be tribal as long as we are human. Even Jesus (or the myth that is represented as Jesus), had some things to say about that.
And so tribalism, updated to what we now find ourselves involved in, has come to be fully and completely expressed by the most arguably advanced civilization on the planet (note I said arguably) and we find ourselves viciously arguing with one another about the best way to proceed.
For me (and I have a dog in this fight), the real question is: What has produced the most value for the most people in history? The answer to that question will answer the original question that started this thread.
(Lovingly known by his now decreasing number of friends as “El Loco”)
(Read but not dictated – another lawyerly inside joke)