The ugly spectacle that politics has become is unlikely to soon get any less nauseating. Nor should it. Not with the people in office today who call themselves Republicans. These are some serious nihilists. It's zero-sum in their moral math, and the losers are everyone not on their side. There are more of us than them, but they have the power.
Despite the terrible reality show we find ourselves trapped in, and despite the damage Republican chaos causes, there are still people on the left and in the center who fervently wish or directly demand that everyone just get along and be nice. These are well-intentioned wishes. Ideally, we would all be polite and thoughtful in our exchanges.
But this is a fight now, no matter how lousy it sometimes feels. We are in a fight for the future of this country.
If you don't believe me, ask someone who is not white and well off. Ask someone who comes from a wiped-out people or someone who puts in hours for a living and lives month-to-month.
Or ask anyone who saw the presidency of Barack Obama not simply as historic but as healing, as proof we had progressed beyond our worst urges. That seems now like fool's gold.
Our first black president, classy and cool, was followed into office by a man of tangerine tint who first taunted Obama with racist claims about his birthplace, and has since been testing and pinching as many of the practices and customs of democracy as he can.
Trump is impulsive and reckless in a way that has its subversive appeal. There's a pretty big voting bloc out there that wants to see the whole damn political system blown up no matter what that looks like. They're not wrong in wanting that.
What is wrong is not fighting that.
Power is grubby and dangerous, but at its best can be used effectively to help us move forward together.
But when it's used only to smash and grab and load the getaway cars of the greasiest pole-dancers, at the expense of everyone else, then we need to exercise the right to stop this, to restore some decency, and return us to the road forward.
That's what effective resistance has to do.
It has to shove back hard on the moral regression that unfettered greed and selfishness cause. And it can't happen without a raw slab of fierce opposition and unsettling challenges to the status quo. It can't happen without fighting.
Let's remember that the Founding Fathers were not pushovers. Lincoln was not a warm, likable sweetheart. FDR taunted and embraced the hatred of the wealthy who opposed him despite his coming from that class. Rosa Parks didn't become a legend and a symbol because of one day—she was a brave activist all her life. JFK, RFK, LBJ—all could be, and had to be, at times, ruthless in the service of economic and racial justice. Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, Bella Abzug, none of these figures shied away from confrontation and speaking the truth to power.
Does this mean we are doomed to be forever divided? I don't know.
I do know that civility is meaningless in the face of these facts:
The obscene concentration of wealth has worsened poverty; the destruction of the social safety net continues, as does the elimination of safeguards and rights for the most vulnerable; as does the exploitation of wage earners, the demolition of environmental protections, the discourse of deliberate lies and misinformation and rejection of facts; as does the corruption by money of decision-makers at every level and in every branch of government—none of this will be stopped or reversed without fighting.
We are in a troubling and precarious time, and no amount of feel-good boosterism or wistful wishing will get us through this. If you don't have the stomach for the vitriol and ugliness of politics today, that is totally understandable.
You can, as so many have for too long, simply turn away and tune out. Or you can try to elect the ice cream man.
But that is a luxury of choice, a privilege, if you will. You may not have that freedom in the future without people fighting ferociously for it now. Δ