I didn’t read The Second Coming until I was about 27. It remains the most powerful poem I’ve ever read. It’s been more and more on my mind lately.
The center has not held. We are spinning wildly toward a society that is polarized beyond correction or redemption. About 20 years ago there was a “John Titor” popping up on all the wingnut (conspiracy theory/flat earth/Illuminati) websites. He purported to be from the future, and he said he had come back to try to warn America we were going to have a civil war. He didn’t warn us there was going to be a pandemic, as far as I remember. But I didn’t pay much attention to his writings.
As I write this, on Mothers Day of 2020, the idea of another civil war in the US doesn’t seem so outlandish. Covid 19, far from bringing us back together, is dividing us further. This isn’t helped by the fact that we have a malignant narcissist with the intelligence of damp seaweed in the White House, of course. But then nothing is being helped by that.
I used to suspect, when I was in my 20’s, that we might be living through the failure of the American state. Then a career happened to me, and I didn’t give the issue a lot more thought for many years. Throughout the 21st Century thus far, though, I’ve become more and more convinced that this is in fact what’s happening. The coronavirus pandemic laid bare our profound societal and cultural weaknesses, and those weaknesses are being exacerbated instead of ameliorated with every passing day.
We aren’t capable to make a concerted effort to fight a deadly disease. We lack the will, the resources, and the leadership. Other countries, as well as the UN, have had to send us humanitarian aid in hopes of helping us deal with our shortage of supplies and equipment. That’s right. We needed (and need) humanitarian aid. We who have always been the giver of such aid now stand in need of it.
We have a leader who is incapable of understanding this crisis, and utterly unable to show any empathy for those who are suffering from it. His performance is macabre and surreal. He cares about one thing: being re-elected. He will do whatever he has to do (or not do) to ensure that happens. And since he still has a “base” of about a quarter of the American electorate….it’s just too hideous to contemplate. The election and presidency of Donald Trump are the clearest evidence that our state, and our political system, are failing.
Meanwhile white supremacy is on the rise, both in the US (thanks to Trump’s “nudge, nudge; wink, wink” disapproval of it) and worldwide. And thanks to the Internet, it is organizing on a global scale. Think the Nazis in the 1930’s in Germany, except it’s the fascist white supremacists in the whole world in the 2020’s.
And what rough beast? Goddess help our species. And we’re going to need that help. We’re going to need a lot of Divine mercy. We certainly don’t deserve it; in fact, quite the opposite. But if that’s true of us as a species (and I believe it is) that doesn’t make it any easier to deal with the pain and heartache so many are going through now; going through, moreover, with damn little sympathy or compassion from us as a nation, and none at all from the midwife for that beast, a “very stable genius” who sits in the Oval Office and spews vitriol and demonstrates breathtaking stupidity. Constantly. Things fall apart. Welcome to the end of the American state.