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America Unraveled

Updated on March 15, 2014

The Great Undoing

Vladimir Putin’s troops are in the Crimea, annexing that area by a show of force even before the announced “vote” on March 16th that is already certain to ratify his immediate goal. Meantime, 10,000+ Russian troops and equipment are massed on the northeast border of Ukraine and alleged ‘provocateurs’ are already in that country, creating disturbances. Will it take till Monday of next week (or perhaps a day or two longer) before Putin gives the order to send in forces in order to “protect the Russian citizens in Ukraine from outside thugs and terrorists”?

To this amateur history student and some well-seasoned professionals, Putin’s actions seem very much like old U.S.S.R and KGB techniques, aimed at recreating a new form of the Soviet Union—breaking international treaties and post-1945 border agreements in the process. Some might even go back further, to Nazi Germany’s 1939 invasion of Poland, to find historic parallels.

I have no good responses to what’s going on in the Caucasus region at the moment, or any other region for that matter. I don’t like war (seeing sobbing Syrian children, ages 7 & 8, whose fathers have been physically dragged off and shot is enough to tell me that war doesn’t help anyone and we ought to avoid it). But, horrible and damning as that is, the bigger picture also disturbs me, and doing something about that is just as puzzling. Perhaps you have suggestions on what the ‘average’ American can do to bring our world back to its senses.

My wife and I summarize everything I’m writing about in this article by assigning to it the caption, “the Great Undoing.” We grew up during and after WW II, in a time of prosperity and peace (if you ignore the Korean conflict). We’ve lived through the Cuban Missile crisis and civil rights struggles of the ‘60’s, and Viet Nam, and Watergate, and the Iran-Contra affair, and so much more. We’ve seen Democratic and Republican administrations come and go. We’ve endured recessions and boom years. We’ve watched our stocks plummet and soar and my pension reduced by as much as 18.8% (currently down 15% and holding). So we’ve endured a lot, hoped a lot—and wondered a lot.

But here’s the big wonder: how do we counter the rollback of so many things we thought were ‘settled law’ in our lives? I’ll list here just a few examples to suggest where I’m headed in this piece:

  • women’s health clinics forced to close, through laws that impose impossible and ridiculous requirements that NO SIMILAR FACILITY needs to satisfy
  • restrictions on voters’ rights that severely cut back or eliminate early voting, the number and location of precincts, or require proof of ID that many find expensive and/or nearly impossible to provide (imagine my mother at 93 in a nursing home, had she been born in a county where birth records had been lost to fire or through human error)
  • allowing guns on campuses and in classrooms (even arming 1st and 2nd grade teachers—what kind of role model does that provide?)
  • authorizing warning shots and even permitting you to shoot someone if you think you might be in danger (FL anyone?)
  • re-drawing voting districts to favor only one political party and its candidates
  • giving corporations the same rights as individuals (for, after all, “corporations are people” says our highest court
  • allowing businesses and individuals to spend as much money as they like on political campaigns, guaranteeing that average citizens’ voices will be all but drowned out

Rights we’ve enjoyed for the past sixty years are now in doubt . . . or have been actually reversed. We thought issues regarding minorities and women and voting and public safety were settled long ago. Little did we know that the battle still is being waged, and we’re forced to go to war politically if we want to ensure that those rights are not wiped out by a tsunami of radical conservative action that feed greed and a warped understanding of American values.

This isn’t the old west of Tombstone fame and the O.K. Corral. It isn’t the early 1900’s, before women had the right to vote and be in charge of their own health care. This isn’t Tammany Hall, writ large, or the lynching of blacks and gays from a previous century. This isn’t a country where Putin-style bullying tactics win the day . . . or is it?

How will we reclaim a balanced approach to civil and political discourse in which all people are treated fairly and equally, re: our Bill of Rights? I don’t know the big answer. All I know is that each person who is heartsick over the Great Undoing that’s now underway and is determined to alter what seems to be a headlong rush toward disaster, trashing the very principles that produced these free United States in the first place, needs to speak out and stand up right now.

Otherwise, look out! We’re not just headed for a rough ride. We’re already in it, and I seek a brick wall just ahead.

I’ll repeat what I wrote earlier: perhaps you have suggestions on what the ‘average’ American can do to bring our world (and our own country) back to its senses.

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