I’ve not been able to simply put election 2016 aside. I’ve been feeling alternately agitated, tearful or numb. My sleep is erratic. Surely this is not the first time the candidate I favored lost the election—but this time it is different. It feels as if some deep dark covered-over menace has been unleashed . . . as if we’ve lived behind pleasant-faced masks that have suddenly been ripped off to expose ugliness. I know from others that the unrest I speak of is widespread. Whatever this is, it didn’t begin with the primaries—but the vicious campaign brought it fully to light. As I look back I ask, “How did it show itself before the campaign?” “What is the bigger underlying flaw?”
The most recent indicator was congress’ refusal to bring a vote forward for the Supreme Court nominee in spite of the Constitutional requirement to do so. It was the culmination of the Republican’s having made it a policy to oppose anything coming out of Obama’s White House. Prior to the last election, the Republican Party had avowed that its main goal was to make sure Obama didn’t win a second term—when they didn’t achieve that goal but won a majority in Congress, they set out to block every initiative of his. It was total disrespect of him, the country’s first black president, and so too for the office of president. A conscious decision to stop our government from functioning for partisan and/or prejudicial reasons is evil.
The wisdom of two-party governance is to insure that extremes are curtailed by the necessity of compromise. Stonewalling disabled the system, resulting in extreme polarization that paralyzed government. Attitudes in high places have a way of spreading. More and more people became dissatisfied with their lot and looked for a scapegoat, slipping into an ‘us vs. them’ mentality.
From the very beginning of the primaries, Donald Trump took the position of all-out no-holds-barred attacks with personal insults, innuendoes, bear-faced lies and bombastic proclamations. Clearly he believed ‘the ends justify the means’—utterly defying decorum, truth, and human decency—because for him, winning is all that matters! His theatrics won media attention, and ultimately the nomination.
As candidate his cry became, “The system is broken!” Without analysis of the roots of the problem he pointed a finger of blame at the opposition while making the outrageous claim, “Only I can fix it!” Then appealing to every prejudice and issue of unease throughout the country, he fanned the fires of unrest, resulting in much vengeance voting, not a vote for something but against someone.
But why was the country ripe for such blatant manipulation?
There are numerous outside forces that contribute to the unrest and anxiety: near national financial disaster (from which Obama saved us), the Middle East chaos causing a refugee crisis, global terrorism, climate anomalies reeking death and destruction—yes, but those are the outside factors; something within our culture has gone awry . . . To even the most casual observer above the age of 40, there seems to be agreement that in the last half century, society has exhibited moral decline; erasing the lines between good & bad, right & wrong, virtue & evil.
You cannot successfully run a country (or a family) without having an identifiable standard of acceptable behavior. Throughout time, regardless of the name assigned to the deity, it was understood that a god-principle set standards of behavior and the standards were rooted in morality.
As America was being formed, religion was an important element of social order. There were many different beliefs and practices, but the concept of ‘a God’ was common to all. Our nation was founded on moral principles and the belief that God underscored the rights and freedoms we possess . . . ‘endowed by the Creator with certain Unalienable Rights’ . . . The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson. References to God were prominent as the elements of governing were worked out—even the money minted carries the words “In God We Trust”. In schools it was traditional to begin each day with a simple prayer.
In 1962 a law was passed to ban prayer from public schools. There followed the removal of any religious symbols from government buildings (i.e. The Ten Commandments from courthouses), and prayer was eliminated at official gatherings. The Constitution guaranteed the freedom of religious worship but the new interpretation became freedom from rather than freedom of. Amendment 1: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
To prohibit public prayer by law is to give a message of denial of value, maybe even to suggest negative value. In its wake, for many, God faded, became irrelevent and was ignored. Religion has provided the foundation of moral order and prayer is a means to remind us. It was denied by the state without providing another identifiable standard of acceptable behavior—and that is the flaw that opened the door to moral decline—and Trump was waiting to walk through it.