It feels like the entire world has gone completely crazy

A Liberal Dose


The world seems to be getting crazier every day. It is amazing the number of things happening now that most of us thought were permanently in the past or would have been dumbfounded 15 years ago to think we would ever see at all. Russia flat-out invading countries in a virtual re-enactment of the tactics and justifications of Nazi Germany. Having to actually think seriously again about possible nuclear war. Anti-Semitism on the rise - only this week I was invited to give a virtual presentation for a community just outside Los Angeles where both the high school and local synagogue have been vandalized and covered with swastikas. Racist violence on the rise - against various minority groups. Women’s reproductive rights being rolled back 50 years or more. For that matter, the past few years I’ve been hearing many conservatives talk about the sinfulness of birth control, not just abortion, something I never remember in my life hearing any Christians - other than some Catholics - argue. Freedom of speech coming under attack - with politicians actually dictating what words or concepts high school teachers and even university professors can even say. Perfectly innocuous - even highly educational and inspirational - books being banned and burned. People furiously protesting against being asked to wear masks or get vaccinated during a deadly pandemic. People storming the Capitol to prevent the constitutional mandate of verifying election results in order to keep their guy in power… injuring over a hundred police officers in the process and literally smearing feces in the halls of Congress.

It feels like we’re going backwards.

People are so intensely divided nowadays over political issues, with rage bubbling right there on the surface, threatening violence and even murder on their own friends and relatives (like the man recently convicted in court for his crimes on Jan. 6, 2021). Not just social media, but traditional media like newspapers and radio, frequently feature “pundits” expressing hatred for or even calling for violence against those who disagree with them. This has, in fact, extended beyond politics and into the sphere of daily interaction. People are a lot ruder than they were a few years ago, especially older people - even my college students who work in restaurants have noticed it. I know that, in past years, I always knew a large number of people - friends, relatives, co-workers - with whom I could disagree about politics while both of us remained respectful and cordial. That number has dwindled alarmingly. And, I admit, I am frequently embarrassed by people who actually agree with me for the hateful and condescending ways they talk to those with different views.

As an individual, I have a hard time reconciling all this with the country I thought I was living in for most of my life. As a historian, though, I know that there have always been strains of this phenomenon present - they seem to be in remission from time to time, like an aggressive cancer, but they always seem to show back up. There was plenty of anger, division, vitriol, and violence in the Vietnam era. The 1950s, too, while they may look like “Leave It to Beaver” in my imagination, had a lot of violent, hateful people doing very cruel things to little children of color who were just trying to go to school. Heck, 160 years ago, Americans were killing each other by the hundreds of thousands in the Civil War.

I believe in working to move the country forward to something better, not dragging it back to some imaginary “good old days” that were really not that good for many. A lot of people have been trying to do the latter - if you think all this is “making America great again,” you’re crazy.

I have always tended to be a peacemaker and tried to bring people together. Despite that, appeasement is not the answer. I say that with deep sadness, not with anger.

--Troy D. Smith, a White County native, is a novelist and a history professor at Tennessee Tech. His words do not necessarily represent TTU.     


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