In the current issue of Vanity Fair, Todd Purdum equates the current era with the decades before and after 1500 during which the New World was discovered and explored, trade became a global enterprise, the Reformation broke the religious monopoly of the Roman Catholic Church, the feudal system gave way to nation states and movable type and the printing press created the first form of mass communication.
The introduction to Purdum’s column sums up his thesis: “Not in 500 years has the world seen such revolutionary change as it is now witnessing: the Internet, genetic engineering, mass migration, climate change, worldwide economic dislocation, a new global elite, and more.” Then comes this kicker: “Yet our leaders don’t seem to take any of it seriously.”
Well, a few of our leaders do. But our political system does not, in general, reward politicians who bust up our comfortable myths by acknowledging, as Abraham Lincoln did, that “we must think anew and act anew” in order to save our country. The reactionaries of Lincoln’s day did not see him as a visionary who would lead the country on a more enlightened path. They saw him as a dangerous radical and, to preserve the rotten, wicked, entrenched old system, they drove the country into civil war.
Today, there are quite a few very vocal neo-Confederates who think gun rights, states rights, the protection of white American culture and elimination of “excessive” taxation on the rich are the nation’s preeminent concerns. Their anti-bellum mindset makes it impossible for them to accept scientific reality — climate change, evolution, the true age of the planet — and political reality — America is becoming a more diverse, tolerant nation that does not share their fear-driven philosophy.
One of our two great political parties has been captured by the neo-Confederates and, because so many of them have been elected to Congress, the political system is gridlocked. Big problems are either ignored — climate change, deterioration of infrastructure, the toxic greed in the financial system — or kicked down the road to be fixed another day.
Horsey completes his analysis with a hope for sanity and change. He believes our history of throwing forward movements and leaders to conquer the cowardice of clowns like our neo-Confederates will continue undaunted. I’m not convinced.
Do we have the capacity for change? Of course. Do we have the people in place to press for that change, to lead both the populace and lawmakers into action? I’m not convinced.