In today's New York Times, resident dandy David Brooks asks, "Are We on the Path to National Ruin?" as the title of his latest "column" (if by "column," you mean, "the effete bleats of a lamb whose ideology is on its way to slaughter"). This follows from Sunday's scribble from Ross Douthat, which asked, succinctly, as is his somewhat more proletarian way, "Are We Unraveling?" and it accompanies a conversation between Gail Collins and Arthur Brooks question-titled, "How Dangerous Is This Moment?" Three pieces in one newspaper, and they all leave out a crucial piece in order to get an answer. Even Jamelle Bouie, when he asks in Slate, "Is America Falling Apart or Finally Waking Up?" about police violence, leaves it out. (By the way, spoiler: none of them think the country is going to fall apart or unravel or be ruined.)
And it's a huge fucking omission: blame. See, without assigning blame for how the hell we got to a moment where we're wondering if we're breaking up into a foul, balkanized collective of political groups, we will tweet ourselves to death if we don't get to kill each other with our real and actual guns. And I'm talking real blame here, not some milquetoast, bullshit blaming of everyone, that each of us is equally culpable. Fuck that.
You know where blame rests. If the nation is tearing itself apart, it's because conservatives, including the Republican Party, have decided to tear it apart.
Let's get into a little bit of history here because you can pinpoint shit pretty easily. Brooks writes, "[Citizens] fall for politicians who lie about the source of their problems and about how they can surmount them." You can go back to St. Reagan's first budget in 1981 to see where the turn happened to believing lies were truth. When Reagan gutted social programs and sent them to the states or eliminated them altogether, including ones for housing, child care, women's health, poverty, and welfare, along with another bill that drastically cut taxes for the wealthy, he promised a bounty of growth in the nation, which was a goddamned lie that should have driven him out of office as a disgrace. Instead, Reagan played granddaddy, pretended his failed economic theory was working (to the point that Donald Trump essentially is proposing more of it), and manipulated the public with wedge issues like abortion, drugs, "welfare queens," and capital punishment. Constituencies that might have unified over issues related to the working class instead divided over abortion rights, race, and the role of evangelical Christianity in policy. Lies didn't start with Reagan, but the massive shift in the conception of the government as a force to improve people's lives certainly occurred because of him.
Where else do you wanna go? Brooks blathers, "Facts lose their meaning. Entertainment replaces reality. Once facts are unmoored, everything else is unmoored, too." Again, here, you can look to the right and see who's responsible. Once the Fairness Doctrine was shitcanned in 1987, the airwaves went nutzoid with talk radio frauds lying to people to soothe their prejudices, telling mostly white listeners that it was okay to hate people different from them, that progress and inclusion was wrong. And Fox "news" was created specifically to take advantage of a lie, that the media was "liberal" and needed a conservative voice to "balance" it. Facts became mutable, merely the whims of whomever is offering commentary in the moment.
Time after time, the policies of the right, the actions of the right, the beliefs of the right have sought to divide us, by race, by gender, by sexual identity, by religion because the power of the right comes from division. Blame has to be apportioned that way. Even in his powerful speech today, President Obama was not letting conservatives off the hook. Gun policies are madness, he said. Ignoring the problems of poor urban neighborhoods is ludicrous. Fucking over the education system is irresponsible in the extreme.
And that was before Republicans decided not only to oppose the President on every issue, but to block votes, refuse compromise, and demonize him so that the same idiots and assholes who have had their prejudice massaged like a lonely dick in a skeevy spa will hate him. They have damaged the functioning of the government so that no one understands how important it is, even when it's helping ensure that millions of people don't go bankrupt from their illnesses and injuries. They are so blinded by that rage that they nominate a living embodiment of their hatred and racism for president.
No, the country ain't falling apart yet. But unless conservatives see some profit in progressing, it will die of inertia, a stalled hulk, awaiting the weeds to take us back to the dirt.
Oh, look, the Republican Party platform includes an attack on pornography as "a public health crisis that is destroying the life of millions." That goes far beyond fiddling while Rome is burning. That's masturbating during the Rapture.