For those of us who practice the dubious art of polemics, the apocryphal Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,” is more grist for the mill than a curse. But there are limits to how gritty that grist can get, even for us. When it threatens the very existence of our species this polemicist, for one, draws the line.
Whether you care to acknowledge it or not, we are cursed to be living in the interesting times of an extinction level event called global warming, and those of us who acknowledge it appear to be losing the war against those of us who don’t. But I’m not here to write about global warming today, I’m here to write about different forces at work and to examine just exactly how and why those forces are so “interesting.”
When you think about it, our war with Republicans is really a war of our good against their evil, and I don’t think I’m being remotely starry-eyed or even biased when I say that. So what are the characteristics of the forces of good and what are the characteristics of the forces of evil? The forces of good are those of unification and peace. The forces of evil are those of division and chaos.
For example, those of us who believe in democracy, in nurturing the planet, empowering the average citizen, empowering women, ensuring an equal voice to everyone irrespective of race or socio-economic status have characteristics in common. We hate and mistrust dictators. We oppose sweeping tax cuts when they are created only for the 1%, that is, corporations and the rich. We tend to favor NATO and NAFTA and the European Union. We believe in the efficacy of vaccines and the wearing of masks against the current pandemic.
In short we are, whether we consciously acknowledge it or not, inexorably moving toward a one-world planet under a single benign, democratic government. It is the inevitable consequence of our belief in the unity of mankind and our wish to spread democracy and oppose ruthless dictatorships. We always feel a little guilty when we wonder if any Americans died in an airliner crash. We prefer to think of ourselves as human beings first and Americans second because we know, in the end, that all people breathe the same air and cherish the same things, and we’d all be a lot better off if we were also on the same team.
Meanwhile the forces of evil want to divide us and destroy us. They love borders heavily-guarded by gorilla-faced men with no sense of humor. They have no program beyond their counterfeit outrage and bad faith indignation about how we are, supposedly, working night and day to deprive them of their “freedoms”: their right to openly menace people by publicly carrying high-tech murder weapons, their right to control a woman’s birth canal, their right to spread a deadly disease, their right to refuse service to the LGBT, their right to deny science and the sane and healthy precautions science has bequeathed us.
They want, very specifically, to keep “them” in one corner and “us” in another, growling and glowering at one another so they can win the next election and win all the power for themselves and control us even more.
Their religion preaches about the evils of a One World Government, and even says that such a government would presage the coming of the Antichrist. Many Republican politicians promote their religion despite the Constitutionally mandated separation of church and state. Keeping us at each other’s throats and in constant hand-wringing anxiety about the “brown people” who are “swarming” over our borders are what they are about. They want to divide us so they can conquer us. Meanwhile they anticipate the destruction of the earth with the glassy-eyed zeal of religious fanatics.
They love the death penalty because that’s what totalitarian states love. They love shows of arms and strength and weapons and tanks because that’s what tyrants and dictators love. Recall that Donald Trump loved dictators and he wanted a huge military parade for himself. He admired Vladimir Putin and Jair Bolsonaro and Recep Erdoğan and Kim Jong-un. He and William Barr made a point to kill as many federal prisoners as they could on death row before leaving office.
Living in another country, as I have for the last 18 years or so, has given me a certain perspective. It has taught me that America is not the center of the universe, for one, an easy thing to forget when you live there. It has also taught me that there really isn’t that much difference between here and there, except I don’t have to pay for healthcare and the food isn’t quite as good.
I’m also impressed at how ubiquitous English is in Europe, where it’s spoken just about everywhere. And the internet connects us all in ways that are even more obvious when you live abroad. What I’m saying is, we are rapidly becoming a kind of one world people that speak more or less the same language anyway — irrespective of governments. We are learning to live with each other in the quasi-unified democracy of the United States of Cyberspace.
Imagine if we didn’t have to have a military budget because everyone was on the same team. Imagine the people we could feed and the problems we could solve if we didn’t have to waste so much time and money and energy on machines and bombs and weapons that murder other human beings.
But I get ahead of myself. I realize I’m talking about another world, an ideal that’s many decades or even centuries away. But it’s an ideal we are all working toward in the here and now as an act of self-preservation, whether we are conscious of it or not.
It’s instructive to recall, while we teeter on the fulcrum between salvation and doom, between good and evil, that in all of human history not once has one democracy gone to war against another. Those of us who love democracy are about peace, unity, freedom and empowerment. We carry the future with us, and our struggle is for the soul of the human race and the continuation of our species. In that sense we really do live in interesting times. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.