William Butler Yeats’ poem, "The Second Coming" has haunted my mind and sleep the past few months. "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, /The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned;/The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity."
Can anyone dispute the fact that anarchy and chaos flow through our cities like Yeats’ "blood-dimmed tide"? I think Yeats’ metaphor fails to fully measure the state of our country. This is no tide, it is a hurricane or a mushroom cloud of anger, resentment and fear rising up over the United States.
Never have I seen the hate and tribalism I see today in the streets, online and in the media. I would argue the United States lost its innocence years, if not centuries ago, but persisted in the Panglossian myth that America remains "the best of our possible nations."
The American Dream turned into a nightmare decades ago for many Americans but has spread beyond the boundaries and barriers erected by those in power.
Now we establish false dichotomies and litmus tests to determine who is with us and who is against us. We are Democrats or Republicans, Liberals or Conservatives, Anarchists or Fascists, patriotic or treasonous.
I do believe the United States is a great nation, but one that can and needs to be greater still. When my grandfather, Vicente Toledo, immigrated to the United States based on a promise of a job with the Santa Fe Railroad, he did so hoping for a new and better life.
A century later, immigrants from Mexico and other Central and South American nations do the same. And they do so because the jobs are still here. The basic economics of supply and demand is undeniable.
Rather than taking the time to find a workable and permanent solution, we look to a grandstanding theatrical gesture of a wall. We spew vitriol at these immigrants but not at their employers. We hide behind the veneer of "law and order." We even go so far as to label their children "criminals," too, though most were far too young or not even born when their families chose to take this dangerous journey in search of a better life.
Sensible solutions like a guest worker program stand no chance because it is far easier to label and hate. "Things fall apart."
Our national fabric continues to fray, the center cannot hold as Yeats reminds us. I doubt many of us care. We don’t have any investment in a center, any desire to connect with one another. We live in an age of demagogues where leaders feed off the powerful and destructive fury of their followers who display "passionate intensity."
Empathy and conviction no longer exist. We have no desire to understand each other, to listen to each other. Why would we when it is so much easier to refer to the other side as "a basket of deplorables."
Why try to get to the root of these protests when it is far easier to circulate unsubstantiated rumors that George Soros is funding antifa protesters?
Yeats claimed, "The best lack all conviction," but I refuse to believe this. It is time to speak out, to turn the page from violence to healing. To find a path back to a United States, e pluribus unum.
Nicolas Shump is a longtime educator and writer in northeast Kansas. He can be reached at email@example.com.