Two weeks ago, I checked my phone and believed I had just moments left on this earth. As many of you may have read or heard by now, those of us in Hawaii on January 13 received the following message:
BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
At the time, I was surrounded by my family, including our only grandchild who I thought would not be seeing her second birthday. Looking back, we were profoundly calm. In the 38 minutes that elapsed before we were told it was a false alarm, my family planned, considered, and eventually resigned ourselves to our fate. I would never wish that sort of reckoning on another person, yet, because of the ineptitude of elected officials, this was what 1.5 million Americans experienced on that morning. It was real, and it was jarring.
Even if the events in Hawaii can be pinned on one worker, the genuine terror throughout the state, the sincere dread of impending demise, was the direct result of moral failings within our democracy. We live in a time where a man not even elected by a plurality of voters can be the bane of an entire archipelago of his own countrymen. Our relationship with North Korea is so tenuous that an impending missile strike is not only believable to the majority of citizens, but almost expected. There is some truth to the continuous jeers that the end of the world, as we know it, will come from a nuclear war, and it could be soon.
So how did we get here? How did our country become so fragile after three centuries of building a nation unlike any other? If nothing else was made clear two weeks ago, it was that 330 million citizens, on the mainland and the islands, are at the mercy of Washington, and more specifically, one man and his followers. We are living in a time where shortcomings in public policy mean whole cities go without clean water. We are living in a time where tweets from the Oval Office can push us precariously closer to war. While it continues to take many voices raised together for positive change, it appears to take but one to bring this country to the brink of destruction.
But to say it only takes one, might be ignoring one of the most frightening aspects of this current administration. I hear all of the time that the president’s approval rating is at an historically low point for so early in his term. A plurality (56%) of Americans disapprove of the most powerful politician in the world, while only 39% approve of Trump. Think about that. 39% of our population is an astounding 126 million people. Assumably, 126 million Americans actually think he is doing a great job!!!
I wrote a tax based editorial several months ago and shortly after received a one page, handwritten castigation from a 77 year-old fellow Tennessean who said, among other things, that Trump was the best elected official that he had known in his whole life. Not Roosevelt, not Reagan, not Clinton…Donald Trump!! That there are likely 126 million Americans who largely agree with him is simply astounding. That’s what made me unable to simply shake it off.
You might ask, how could that many people believe that the way our president comports himself is correct??! I’ll tell you, it is a result of them feeling frustrated and alone and forgotten. Because, for the most part, they are. Washington has abandoned a whole segment of working class Americans while busy addressing the needs of wealthy people like myself. And what that gives us, as a nation, is wealthy and pampered people who keep getting more, while the middle class and below, who are emotionally and intellectually open to a demagogue to come in and “correct” things, languish in frustration and anger. That’s where our country is right now, and that’s why the missile scare was real and even predictable. Not its occurrence, necessarily, but it’s plausibility.
Remember this: our president is not as much the problem as is the social and political environment that elected him and still supports him. That has to be addressed first. Our nation has to return to one that is truly, and not just in words, for ALL people. Not just the wealthy and corporations. We all must use our voices and any platforms we have to require more culpability from our politicians, and removal if there is none. The widespread ineptitude sweeping through our federal government in the form of unqualified and disinterested officials in high places must be confronted. This starts in 2018, and must continue through to the general election in 2020.