Rome is Burning
The crumbling of common sense, the rule of law, and artistic awareness in a violent world.
Since the school shooting in Nashville, and frankly months before when there was another shooting at an American school, and another, and another, I have heard of how many young parents, including my son, are for the first time considering home schooling. Recent news stories and studies show it’s a growing trend. Fear is the motivation.
I know little about home schooling. There may be wonderful benefits. I also know there are difficult obstacles. But that is not what this essay is about.
The fact that our society can’t keep our children safe inside the traditional private and or public schools when they should be learning how to write, how to calculate, about the world and their community, about themselves, and how to share and live with others is a clear sign that we have lost our humanity. When children have to be told where to find the tourniquets stored away in a classroom closet in the event that hot metal tears through one their bodies, you can easily deduct how messed up we’ve become. Just look at the video of the children in Nashville being led from the crime scene, holding hands, crying, police surrounding them. Is the problem guns? Absolutely. Is the problem mental health? Absolutely. But the problem is also fueled by a growing numbness, a heavy malaise. We rage and then we pray. And then we move on.
It is beyond sad.
Add this to the unprecedented indictment of an American president. The first time in history. Let me repeat that: An American president has been indicted for the first time in U.S. history. Other presidents have had legal trouble. Nixon would likely have been charged with something if he had not been pardoned. Clinton was sure to face at least perjury charges in the Monica Lewinsky case, if he had not admitted later that he lied under oath. Ulysses S. Grant was said to have been charged with speeding in his horse and buggy. All of these incidents now appear almost meaningless. The Trump indictment is simply…different.
Add this to a community of Wisconsin schools banning “rainbows” because it sees them as a threat. Even Sesame Street was called a menace until someone came to their senses, at least for the moment.
Add this to Michelangelo’s David being labeled pornography because the statue’s penis is right out there in front for everyone to see.
Add this to all the banned books.
Add this to removing “objectionable language” from classic literature because it has offended someone.
Add this to the demonization of the LGBTQ community.
Add this to the raging madman in Moscow.
Add this to our unhealthy habits.
Add this to opioid addiction.
Add this to the growing number of homeless on the streets.
Add this to trees dying, ice caps melting, ravaging storms.
Add this to the phrase “are you recording this?” when we should be calling the police or an ambulance.
Add this to the bad cops negating the good ones.
Add this to turning social networks like Nextdoor, originally designed to help one another, into platforms of complaints, racism, hate, and political rants.
Add this to scrolling until our thumbs bleed and our eyes roll back in our heads.
Add this to forgetting how to talk to one another and texting instead.
Add this to Covid…and the next “Covid.”
Add this to living our lives by “how can I win?” instead of “how can I be kind?”
Do I sound like a blithering, complaining old man? That would be a way to dismiss all this, certainly. You’d say to me, hey, come on, every generation and every culture has its times of optimism and pessimism. We partied in The Roaring 20s; we suffered in The Depression. World War I, World War II, the Cold War, the 1960s were all tragic times. But the economic boom of the 1950s was satisfying. Sure it was, until we realized we were institutionally enslaving people of color and dismissing and marginalizing women.
Justifying any of this by saying there have been some changes in America that have been for the good, or by sweeping it all away but claiming “times change", “life evolves,” or “try living in his century, old man,” is simply a cop out, too easy an explanation for a deeper, more serious issue—the slow, steady decline of what we once considered a progressive, modern society.
America is not that place. It probably never was.
There is an often times shared clip of a scene from the former TV show Newsroom where the TV anchor, played by Jeff Daniels is asked by a young idealistic college student at a university symposium why America is the “greatest country in the world.” He shocks the room when he forcefully tells the crowd in the auditorium that the statement is simply not true. The show is more than ten years old, but the statistics in the monologue have held up.
“We're seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies. None of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but…when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don't know what the fuck you're talking about?!”
Add this to the list.
If we could just conjure up some margin of optimism, we could intelligently, even hopefully ask what to do about it all.
Sadly, right now, I have no idea.
Photo: Timur Weber
A powerful reminder of the truth in the US. Sadly if every adult citizen of America read this, 50% would disagree. A very concise and well written piece, David. Thanks for your efforts here.
It does feel like we're losing it. "It" being our cool, our country, and our children (in and out of schools). Politics have never been as slimy as it feels today. And to what end? ...the end of Rome. I'm sorry for the younger generations.