So, what happened to “compassionate conservatism”?
We’re just getting meaner. By the day. I tremble for the future of a people who demand a culture which is darker and harder and more aggressive at every turn.
Our younger son spent his summer traveling the country with a drum and bugle corp. These marching-bands-on-steroids are incredible. The precision is mind-boggling, the athletic musicianship, truly inspiring — but gone are the days of John Philips Sousa marches, soaring ballads, even soul-searing Latin fire.
The theatrics of many of today’s corps shows lean to the dark side, and the meanness of the cultural ethos is on display with music and visual gimmicks built on our infatuation with death, survival of the fittest, sexual intrigue, the occult. The name of the drum corps game is darker themes, louder volumes, harder musical “hits,” grunting and groaning in practice and performance. And this is marching band. Who are we becoming?
Our favorite sports are “contact sports” (the more the better). People go to NASCAR for the wrecks. NFL contests are practically gladiatorial. Crushing hits make the highlight reels, and social media allows our sickness to “go viral” faster than meningitis. Gruesome injuries, the basketball player with the ankle twisted three ways out of joint, the football tackle that buckles a knee completely backward are celebrated with sadistic delight on every iphone: “Look at this one!”
And even with a documented epidemic of concussions, leading to the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy that is destroying the lives of professional athletes, the president has the dangerous insensitivity to chide the sport for going “soft.” The NFL has adopted penalties for helmet-to-helmet tackles and for “targeting,” but the president jeers these precautions as “ruining the game.” (Give us our hits. Who cares about the players, they’re overpaid anyway.) And this is a game. Who are we becoming?
The administration just announced that we will deport 24,000 Haitians, who have lived here for more than a decade. These Haitians came here to escape natural disaster and stifling poverty under “Temporary Protected Status,” but apparently they’ve been here long enough.
Who cares that Haiti is still the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, which means that most of these people, who are working in the U.S. economy, won’t be able to find jobs in Haiti. Who cares that most of these people now have U.S.-born children and that many of these families will be torn apart. Who cares that deportation won’t solve any problems, in either Haiti or this country — because their presence here created no problems to begin with. Who cares? Apparently we do not. It’s part of a harder, more calloused approach to immigration. Walls. Deportations. Narrowing vision. Who cares about “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.” This is our country. Get out. And these are poor, needy people. Who are we becoming?
It just goes on and on: the mass shootings and the “#metoo” violations. We’re harder and more calloused and just downright meaner, in music and sports and in national and international policies, in politics in general and our approach to one another in specific.
The president isn’t responsible for all the meanness, but his sad proclivity for childish name-calling, “hitting back” with mean-spirited tweets, choosing partisan politics over principled leadership and divisive tactics over responsible restraint only ups the ante. And we elected this man. Who are we becoming?
Some make the argument that we won’t survive without a more conservative approach to governance. That’s fine. I’m more concerned about who we’re going to be if we do.