Tuesday, March 5, 2024

#65 / A "Serious" Response To Dark Winter Days

The Atlantic thinks that we have been experiencing some rather "dark times," politically speaking, and that things aren't necessarily going to warm up, and get any better, now that Spring is coming our way. The title of a recent article in The Atlantic, by Tom Nichols, was titled, "Democracy's Dark Winter." Here is something that Nichols said in that article:

The cruelty and vulgarization of American politics continue apace. President Joe Biden went to Texas and invited Trump to join him in pressing for a bipartisan border-security bill. Trump, for his part, referred to California Governor Gavin Newsom as “New-Scum.” He did this at a campaign event while a two-star general in uniform—the head of the Texas National Guard—flanked him on camera, in yet another departure from U.S. civil-military traditions. And the Border Patrol union, which represents sworn officers who work for the United States of America, posted on X that President Biden should “keep our name out of your mouth today.” 

The U.S. was once a serious country, home to a serious people, and it is still a nation in which millions take seriously their responsibilities as voters and citizens. But it is also now, apparently, a place where some Americans who wear badges and carry weapons in the service of the national government feel free to engage in childish snarking at the commander in chief on social media.

It is easy to get discouraged as we observe our contemporary politics. Nichols' observations, which I do think are discouraging, aren't wrong (at least not the way I see it). However, I think that we all (or most of us, anyway) spend way too much time "observing," and "making observations," or listening to those who do. That is a good way to get discouraged. 

What we really need to do is to take some action ourselves - and I do mean to say that this should include every one of us, individually. If we are concerned about something that is going wrong, or about something that should be done, and isn't getting done, that's when we should start thinking about taking action. If any one of us finds ourselves in that situation, then such a person needs to get personally engaged in taking some action that the person believes might help. Gary, Alice, John, and Joe. Everyone. Those who want to be "serious" about what needs to be done need to do something, and to take action, and not just observe and comment. "Serious" people take action; they don't just talk about it. 

This is, of course, relatively easy to say, but what does that actually mean? 

Here's what I think it means. Anyone who has observed what's going on, and doesn't like it, should NOT think that their best and most appropriate course of action is to get on social media and to tell everyone in the world how bad things are. If we are "serious," we need to get together with some friends, try to develop a common understanding of what is wrong, and then figure out, within the group, one or two things we could do that might actually change what we have decided needs to be changed. Then, of course, we need to do those things!

Locally, a group of Santa Cruz City residents recently came together and did exactly what I just outlined, in reaction to what they thought was a bad land use planning system in the City of Santa Cruz, leading to lots of "tall" buildings that were inappropriate. Measure M, the initiative that was placed on the March 5th City ballot, was the result of the action of that small group. 

On the UCSC campus, facing the existential challenge of global warming, students, faculty, staff and others have formed a Climate Action Now group that is working to change UCSC and the entire UC system, to get the University to start taking actions that are possible, and that will cut back greenhouse gas emissions on an accelerated timeline. 

There are a lot of other problems that people care about, too. If you are reading this, I am pretty sure you have a list of your own. If I am right about that, then think about getting "serious," which means doing something about one or more of things you care about.

If a group of people get together, and then really do get "serious," then everyone in the group will need to pledge to everyone else in the group that they will actually do what they have jointly decided they think is necessary to make the changes needed. 

We do have a "precedent" and a "model." There were some "serious" Americans, once, who went through the process I just described. Here is how they put their pledge, after outlining what they had decided needed to be done, and after they had told the world they were going to try to do it:

We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Click right here if you don't recognize where that pledge comes from. That pledge - which was made at the very moment that the history of the United States began - proves that the U.S. was once a "serious country," as Tom Nichols put it in his article in The Atlantic

Let's get serious again!

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