I’m just going to be blunt here — 2017 has turned out to be an awful year.
It started off unpromisingly when the crazy man we elected president at the end of 2016 was sworn in. Any hope we might have had that the gravity of being chief executive of the most powerful country on Earth would settle Donald Trump down and curb his narcissistic tendencies proved to be very much in vain.
Our government was already badly malfunctioning before we handed Trump the key to the White House and it has careened into utter chaos with him at the helm. He and his party totally whiffed on their promise to “repeal and replace” Obamacare and the crisis with North Korea has devolved into a juvenile name-calling battle between Trump and Kim Jong Un.
But it gets worse.
The U.S. endured one it’s worst hurricane seasons ever this year as Harvey flooded Houston, Irma battered most of Florida and Maria more or less destroyed Puerto Rico. Trump made sure to pile on the misery in Puerto Rico by getting into a Twitter flame war with the mayor of San Juan.
But it gets worse.
As football season got underway our president decided to start his own personal crusade against a small number of black NFL players who had been taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem to protest racial injustice in our country. He used a curse word to refer to these protestors and suggested that team owners should fire them on the spot. Trump’s antics delighted his most ardent admirers and provoked outrage and expanded protests from black athletes, the left, and First Amendment enthusiasts.
But it gets worse.
Just this week, Las Vegas was the site of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. A 64 year-old multi-millionaire with no prior criminal history mowed down dozens of people and injured hundreds more at an outdoor concert. At the time of this writing no one has a clue why he did it.
I’ve been writing this column for a long time now (19 years, if you can believe it) and I don’t recall ever feeling this pessimistic about what’s going on in our country. The previous low point was probably right after 9/11, but even then there was hope the country could come together and face down the outside antagonist responsible for that awful crime.
This feels different. I don’t think hurricanes or Kim Jong Un or even Donald Trump are our biggest concern. We have become a disharmonious lot divided by race, religion and political affiliation. Our political leadership merely reflects and feeds off of those divisions.
This is the point in the column where I’d normally try and suggest something helpful to address the problems I described, but this is a tough one. Somehow, some way, we need to stop hating each other and concentrate on our shared challenges rather than the things that divide us.
We see glimmers of unity in the immediate aftermath of tragedies like 9/11, hurricanes and random acts of violence. Race, religion and political affiliation don’t matter when people are fighting for their lives. It seems to be the only time that’s the case.
Perhaps we need to take a cue from Orson Welles and orchestrate another “War of the Worlds” scenario. An alien invasion would be the ultimate outsider threat, and it might be the only thing that would make us forget all the things that divide us.
Someone call Steven Spielberg and have him team up with Richard Bay to cook up some special effects that will scare our population into a sense of camaraderie and have them ready to have the threat return periodically to keep things in check.
No doubt “The Donald” will score some great tweets playing the role of global savior as well, such as — “We will blast little green men from the sky and totally destroy their home planet. ET won’t be able to phone home because it will be rubble. USA!”
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Warner Robins. Readers can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.