There is No “We” left in America

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Whatever happens in the next few days, America will remain divided. The only question is whether luck will let the country avert total disaster.

“We the People of the United States…”

The famous preamble to the U.S. Constitution, which goes on to state that its objective is to “form a more perfect union,” holds the key to why it is no exaggeration to say this country is fundamentally broken.

Everywhere, the “we” has been replaced by “me” to the extent where the biggest insult you can hurl at a large tranche of the American population is to suggest they hold socialist views.

The COVID pandemic irrefutably exposed this reality. A country incapable of uniting in grief over the deaths of nearly a quarter of a million of its own citizens is no union at all, even an imperfect one. There is no “we.”

Polarization has become so pronounced as to supersede friendship and family ties. In my own family, there are those that will vote for Trump.

“That’s democracy, I suppose,” my grandmother wrote to me the other day.

I hate to disagree with my Nana, as she is incredibly wise and invariably the kindest and best person I know. But this isn’t actually democracy. The American experiment has failed. Its democratic institutions — already built on the shaky foundation of the electoral college system — have been so far corrupted by gerrymandering and systematic voter suppression as to enable an election which, were it occurring in any other nation, would prompt other countries to send in the observers.

There is violence brewing. Even in smaller, quiet, easy-going towns like Eugene, someone threw a brick at our office window a couple of days ago. The owners had already been planning to board the front up for the elections. Does that have the ring of a healthy democracy?

The key institutions that ensure and safeguard the democratic process — a free press, an independent judiciary, a robust education system — have all been undermined to the point where civil society hangs by a thread, even as both sides bury their heads in different brands of denial.

Better people than myself, such as my Nana, will still choose the forgiveness route, but I cannot accept support for this regime as a “difference of opinion.” That is like saying advocating for the torturing of animals as therapy or justifying pedophilia is a difference of opinion. Ultimately, your stance causes too much harm to others to be shrugged off as such.

Some of the 2016 Trump votes can be attributed to anger and frustration. For many of his downtrodden supporters, it was the electoral equivalent of punching a wall; it doesn’t really accomplish anything and it hurts you the most, but you have to vent somehow. I get it; let (s)he who’s never had a “punch the wall” moment cast the first stone, after all.

This time it’s different though. Because we’ve all had four years to learn from this man and his cronies, in their own words and deeds, just how deep their corruption runs. If after all you’ve seen and heard, knowing what he’s done — and failed to do — you are comfortable that this person is fit to represent you, that they hold your (or any American’s) best interest at heart, that he is worthy of the highest office in the land, or that he embodies any of the ideals our founding fathers laid down in the constitution, then I’m afraid we have nothing left to discuss.

To elect Trump in 2020 is not to punch a wall. It’s like arguing there is no wall, while blaming your bleeding knuckles on the fellow trying to get you to calm down and stop punching the wall.

These are people who proudly place personal vindication above country, above life, and above basic humanity. To hope that one can change their hearts and minds is folly, because they have no hearts and minds to speak of. They merely spew the regurgitated thoughts from the sort of hive mentality that would have chilled Orwell to the core.

If the stars align to grant Biden a victory next week, it will have been through sheer luck, rather than any sort of vindication of the system. That, and the country itself, will take many years to mend. The alternative, however, is much, much worse. So today I diligently picked up a penny I spotted on the pavement, and put it in my pocket. We need all the luck we can get.

Technology writer for FastCo, Quartz, The Next Web, Ars Technica, Wired + more. Consultant specializing in VR #MixedReality and Strategic Communications

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