I’ve been single for a long time. In fact, I’ve been single ever since the mid 90’s when Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks pretended to be single and made meeting the perfect person to seem to be almost inevitable and easy. . . which, by the way, it is not.
But I have noticed a certain sociological evolution in my decades of occasional soirees into the world of dating, especially using those dreaded internet dating profiles, as we have all changed the parameters of what sort of person we are looking for to cure our isolation and to watch one another grow old.
People try to put their best foot forward, often by using 10- or 20-year-old photos of themselves from 50 or 60 pounds ago, to the implausible offerings. I have seen women put in their self-description how much they enjoy fishing and watching NASCAR. Which always struck me as being a bit desperate but at least I knew that they were not looking for me.
But lately it seems that most profiles include things like, “If you voted for Trump, swipe left,” or “if you got the vaccine, you are not for me!” I used to mostly look for single women who had scuba diving pictures in their profile, but, at this age, I can stand a land lover a whole lot more than I can tolerate someone who believes in conspiracy theories or who thinks that the 2020 election was stolen. I used to assess a first dates intelligence by checking to see if they read People Magazine or believed in astrology but now that IQ test is a lot easier to administer. You don’t usually have to ask how they voted in the last election; it usually comes out before the salads are brought to the table.
Even though most of us participate in the social divide around politics and the pandemic, we still hate it. We don’t have as many friends as we used to have. Family gatherings are smaller than they used to be, and God forbid that distant relatives might be sitting in the family room together in the evening and decide to turn on the TV news. Having DNA in common is not enough to get me to quietly sit in the room with Fox News on.
We are sick of the partisan divides in our government, and we wish that we could find it easier to make pleasant conversation with strangers about venial things without feeling a sudden need to run from the room like the building was on fire. Honestly, I was on a scuba boat in Honduras earlier this year with a dozen Americans and I was silently staring at the horizon wondering if I could swim to shore without drowning. You can only tolerate someone singing the praises of horse de-worming medication for so long.
But our divisions have become seriously toxic, undoubtedly fueling the whole “work from home” movement as people just can’t stand the company of their co-workers anymore and most politicians are elected now, not because of their diplomacy skills or statesmanship, but because of their fanatical devotion to guns, conspiracy theories, and barely disguised fascism.
How do we heal this great divide that makes so many people speculate about a looming Civil War, a war that is not so geographically identified as the north and the south were a hundred and fifty years ago, now the divide runs, not along a Mason Dixon line but it runs through neighborhoods, offices, churches and families.
We all know that national unity doesn’t have to mean uniformity. We can disagree, we can find common ground, we can compromise. There are political movements like the Problem Solvers and No Labels that seek to rise above partisan rhetoric to find a way to genuinely put country before party and to return to actually governing rather than rejoicing in what you can stop the other party from doing.
And folks, I know that there are times when a half a loaf is better than nothing. For example, it seems like a lot of the pandemic related relief efforts that were distributed in 2020 were always so much less than what was needed or what was proposed, but still, stimulus checks, child income tax credits, and PPP money resulted in a nearly 50% reduction of the number of children living in poverty in the United States between 2020 and 2021.
It galls me that there are children who are hungry and homeless in the richest country in the world, the richest country in all of human history, but we cut that number nearly in half in a year and, hell yeah, I’ll take it! Could we do better? Of course we could, but this is one place where we really can’t rationally let the perfect become the enemy of the good.
Getting a compromise that allows conservatives and liberals to work together to get much needed resources into the homes of impoverished children is something to crow about. But, and I have friends who really push the No Labels movement on me, I keep asking them to tell me, “How will the No Labels politicians get us to universal health care? How will they close the income gap in America? Do they have a plan to reduce gun violence, and to reduce the burning of fossil fuels, because, if they don’t their bi-partisan ice cream socials just might not be enough to matter.
Comprised Public Safety
For example, we have seen the number of deaths from gun violence go way up during the pandemic.
Now more than 40,000 Americans die every year from gunshot wounds, more than die from car accidents. Mass shootings regularly involved the use of military style assault rifles and most domestic shootings, including suicides, use handguns. Both of these weapons are designed for shooting people. These are not hunting guns or even practical home defense guns. These are guns designed to shoot people and clearly, most developed nations have banned the private ownership of either one of these kinds of guns.
This summer President Biden signed the first gun control legislation passed in more than 30 years. Did they outlaw assault rifles? Did they outlaw handguns? No, nothing even close. They didn’t limit the type or even the number of weapons private citizens can buy or even how much ammunition they can buy. They expanded background checks a little bit. They restricted certain domestic violence offenders from being able to buy a gun at a gun shop, although nothing would stop them from buying a gun at a gun show. We didn’t even limit the age at which a kid can buy a military style assault weapon. This wasn’t a half a loaf; this wasn’t even a slice of bread. This was a symbolic gesture that is not likely to reduce gun deaths by even 1%. Better than nothing, we have been told, but, seriously, is it? Is the gun lobby so strong that this is the best our over-paid congress and Senate can be expected to do?
In August, headlines jubilantly announced that legislation would finally allow Medicare, the largest purchaser of prescription drugs in the world, to negotiate for competitive pricing of medications that have been driving senior citizens into bankruptcy or forcing them to choose to just not buy lifesaving medications. But was it a “massive victory” as the papers described?
What could be more obvious than the fact that Medicare should have been able to negotiate for drug purchases all along? How much power do the pharmaceutical companies have anyway? Why was this so hard to implement? But even worse, look at how it is rolled out…. This “massive victory” doesn’t do anything for 4 years. It isn’t until 2026 that Medicare can begin to take bids and even then, it isn’t on all of the thousands of different meds Medicare pays for. In 2026, they can take bids on 10 medications. They can add 15 more to the list in 2027, and 15 more in 2028, and 20 more in 2029 . . . if there is not a change in who is holding the reins of power over the next 6 years that might see all of this gutted. The very best we can hope for is a list of 60 medications, seven years from now, that might be cheaper. And this passes for a “massive victory”?
Vladimir Putin is crazy and power hungry and he has a nuclear arsenal but our government can stand up to him so much more than they can stand up to the pharmaceutical industry! Folks, do you realize that this one for-profit industry has more power than our whole government and all of America’s senior citizens whose very lives depend on proper medical care? I get that it was a fight to get even this little bit of progress passed by the Congress, but is this really a compromise? Is this good for America? Am I wrong to say that this is too little and that it is coming way too late?
But there is nowhere that such a compromise is more telling than when it comes to the environment. We have known, for more than 50 years, that our burning of fossil fuels was negatively affecting the global climate. We have known for half of that time that if we don’t stop it, the planet will become largely uninhabitable by humans.
It is as if we had set out to sea in a small wooden boat and one person had taken up the hobby of drilling holes in the bottom of the boat. Everyone could see that they were going to cause the boat to sink but oil and coal liked drilling holes in the bottom of the boat, and they didn’t want to stop.
The Inflation Reduction Act, passed in August 2022, will invest about $360 billion in a move away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy. This will result in a 40% reduction in green house gas emissions over the next ten years. Which is to say, that coal and oil will have to drill 40% fewer holes in the bottom of the boat over the next decade.
We know that we are killing the planet. But we not only know how to stop killing the planet, we also know that renewable energy sources will be less expensive than burning coal and oil. But we are going to make this transition very slowly, because we are protecting the profits of the oil and coal industries. We know that we are killing the planet. We know how to fix the problem. We just aren’t going to do it because it would negatively affect the profits of the corporations that are drilling holes in the bottom of our boat.
Yes, it is the first real climate legislation passed in 32 years. That’s at least half a loaf, right? But it won’t stop the total collapse of the world’s climate. This is not a compromise. This is a suicide pact.
We want to end the partisan divide. We want Americans to work together for the common good. We religious people speak the language of reconciliation, community, harmony, forgiveness, and hope. We should be facilitating a reunion of the left and the right, the progressives and the conservatives, but that reconciliation needs to take place on higher ground than a place of certain death.
For years now I have been trying to get Café Press to use my idea for a t-shirt. I would like to share this observation with the world; as much as we want to get along, as much as we want peace, we have to realize that:
Peace without justice is just surrender. I feel like those groups that just want us to stop squabbling and to peacefully get along with those who don’t want to give healthcare to everyone, who don’t want to pay unskilled workers a living wage, who don’t want the children of the poor to get an education, I just feel that they are asking me to surrender, to give up my values, to place peace above compassion. And, guys, I’m not ready to surrender. I’m not a radical. I’m not an extremist. I can be a moderate . . . as long as we save the planet, get to universal healthcare, and bring an end to the ravages of poverty. I don’t care if your plan is capitalist, socialist, or something you read in People Magazine. Just be sure you have a plan, otherwise, you are the radical who is willing to kill off millions of people to maintain profits and that, I submit, is just crazy.