“America…just a nation of two hundred million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns and no qualms about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable.”
— Hunter S. Thompson
[The following was written in the year 2024*]
Strange memories on this nervous night in Baltimore.
How long has it been? Seven years? Eight?
It feels like a lifetime.
The kind of scourge that hopefully doesn’t come again.
The United States over the past decade was a very scary time and place to be a part of. Maybe it wasn’t that bad after all. Maybe it was, in the long run. But no explanation….no mix of words or music or memories can make you forget that you were there…and were able to live through…that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant….
History is hard to know, because of how we’ve contorted it. But even without being sure of what “history” is really, it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then, that despite logic and reason and common sense that we all thought would prevail in the end, the anger and spite and twisted priorities of a very vocal and motivated few…of an ignorant generation…somehow, slowly, forces their way onto the fringe…and then into the conversation…until it becomes so prevalent and mainstream you can no longer decipher right from wrong. And that’s why nobody can really understand or explain how or why it happened. It didn’t happen all at once.
My primary recollection of that time flickers through a few distinct memories…fleeting moments really: circus-like primaries…beloved late night comedy sketch parodies. Then…uncomfortable silences…everyone took a side.
There was madness in any direction, at any hour. And all the while I was still absolutely certain that nothing that bad would happen. The people wouldn’t let it. The world wouldn’t let it.
The masses screamed in unison that the change we were making was the right kind of change. A change that was predicated on winning.
And that, I think, was the handle.
The problem with promising that you’ll always win, and then having to deliver, is that the cost of winning inevitably continues to rise. And it rose exponentially. We leveraged every national asset and mortgaged the future.
We couldn’t afford the price any more.
If it wasn’t economic ruin, it was environmental. If it wasn’t a civil rights disgrace, it was a foreign policy one. Immigrants…ISIS…there was always somebody else to blame for our lot in life.
So now, less than eight years later, you can climb to the top of Federal Hill. And with the right kind of eyes you can still see what this country was like before winning became the national motto. You can still see that place where reason and common sense had had enough…and skipped town.