I’ve just returned from more than two weeks in Nova Scotia. It was a wonderful trip as I tried (admittedly, with only limited success) to disconnect from the flash points that populate our daily headlines while immersing myself in the beauties of nature and the blessings of family. I also intended to step back and measure, through the filter of observing from foreign soil, how we are doing as a society.
There was a time when you could go away to the mountains or the seashore for a couple weeks in the middle of the summer and nothing much seemed to happen. “Slow news day” was the common refrain as feature stories of nursing home innovations or summer craft ideas dominated the headlines. But a quick review of the past several days indicates that those “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” may be gone forever. Now, it seems we are intent upon cramming more and more significant issues into ever-shorter news cycles.
So, how are we doing?
Internationally, while I was enjoying some mouth-watering blueberries and witnessing a spectacular sunrise or two, North Korea launched a new round of short-range missiles, tension with Iran continued to increase and new hostilities between India and Pakistan erupted over Kashmir, a central sticking point in the ongoing tinderbox between those two countries.
But it was the news generated on the domestic front that perhaps best answered my mid-summer question—and not in a positive way.
First, there was extended hand-wringing (on all sides) about Robert Mueller’s testimony and what his words meant about Russian influence in our 2016 election, the role of Donald Trump’s supporters in meddling by a foreign adversary and how we protect the integrity of our voting process in future elections.
Two weeks ago, the country shifted focus to its obsession with the second round of debates among Democratic Presidential candidates—(who won, who lost, who cares?).
Meanwhile, President Trump escalated his invective against “the squad” (see my pre-vacation post, here) at a campaign-style rally in North Carolina which prompted “Send Her Back” chants from the audience and a Presidential smirk in response.
Congressman Elijah Cummings and the entire city of Baltimore became the next targets of the President’s racist rants, intensifying the conversation about the President’s fitness for office amidst his continued hostility towards those he considers “other.”
And, after a brief respite to commemorate the 50th anniversary of landing on the moon, we were again assaulted by mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton: more than 30 people killed and dozens injured. The El Paso shooting evoked the issue of white nationalist domestic terrorism and the role of the President’s hateful rhetoric as a catalyst for the carnage. Trump’s condemnation was tepid at best; and he refused to take any blame for the recurring violence throughout the land.
Meanwhile, the humanitarian tragedy at the border continued unabated; and on the first day of school, more than 600 ICE agents descended on small cities and towns in Mississippi to round-up hundreds of undocumented workers. Reportedly, the administration made no provisions for children who would return from class to empty households, in yet another example of a policy devoid of empathy and overflowing with cruelty.
Welcome to the summer.
How are we doing? I invite you to be the judge. For me, this quick review is enough to make me want to return to Nova Scotia, have some sumptuous scallops, feel the salty wind on my face and watch the sunrise until this long distressing nightmare is over.