Among the numerous emails that land in my box each day are occasional ones from an older man in Virginia continually touting the evils of homosexuality and dispensing misinformation. He needs another hobby.
Like many older persons, and a good number of younger ones, he proclaims that America is in “downward spiral” but his expressed concern is not over steady lies from the highest office or increasing nuclear threats or rising public expressions of racial hatred or growing hostilities toward religious and ethnic minorities.
No, it’s about just two things: abortion and homosexuality, with the latter getting most of his steam. No longer do I wade through his unfounded claims about same-sex attraction that always end with the classic Gomorrah warning that puts America in God’s cross-hairs.
It takes a special (odd) view of God and American history to think that the Divine sat by calmly and watched African “immigrants” live in harsh servitude, watched brothers (by blood and faith) kill one another in dispute over that perverse institution, watched the finally-freed black Americans hang from bridges and be dragged to death over rocky roads, and countless other atrocities and injustices through the centuries — but now is loading up to blast the nation to smithereens because same-sex couples are devoting themselves to love and care for one another.
Are we going upward or downward? Who’s to say?
The late Merle Haggard (God rest his soul…and he had soul) melodically asked: “Are we rolling down hill like a snowball headed for hell?” “Are the good times really over for good?” That was 1982.
Interestingly, today, many who said the nation was barreling toward hell in the 1960s are now raising up that time as the good ol’ days we should seek to reclaim and repeat. And, sadly, they don’t even catch the irony.
Frankly, I’ve heard enough doomsday predictions through my earlier life to last through whatever may be left. And the serious issues that should have raised great alarm during those times were never the focus; it was always a social change that is considered a societal norm today. It was usually the needed act of making right some kind of injustice — which the alarmists opposed.
Then and now, the narratives of alarm are rooted in two things: One, the fear of change — that can only see a hopeful future if it resembles the past. Two, the loss of one’s personal power (and often vigor) — that feels like the lessening of control.
The problem is not that people become alarmed. The problem is that so much alarm is misdirected and overused.
A fairer assessment would be that many things in American culture today are far better than they have ever been, yet there are new and continuing concerns that deserve our thoughtful and compassionate attention — none of which involves replicating any highly-romanticized time in the past.
I’m less concerned about up and down than I am about forward.