Forward thinking: Christmas 2018 — the countdown has begun

Loren Simmonds

Christmas 2018 is just a matter of days away. Seasonal carols have been filling the air waves since the day after Thanksgiving. But all is not well in our beloved America.  There is a great scarcity of peace on earth and mercy mild.

A question looms over our nation that begs to be answered. It is like a dark, ominous cloud that is on the verge of unleashing Mother Nature’s worst night mare. 

That question is –

Can a Divided America Survive?

The United States is currently the world’s oldest democracy. However, our country is no more immune from collapse than some of history’s most stable and impressive consensual governments in ages past. Some examples include Fifth-century Athens, Republican Rome, Renaissance Florence and Venice.

In fact, many of the elected governments of early 20th century Western European states eventually destroyed themselves, went bankrupt or were overrun by invaders. 

The United States is divided as rarely before. The two divisions are commonly referred to as liberal America and conservative America. The two Americas watch different news. They read very different books, listen to different to music and watch different television shows. Increasingly, they now live lives according to two widely different traditions. 

Red America and Blue America are spiraling into divisions approaching those of 1860, or of the nihilistic hippie/straight divide of 1968. More than 40 million of foreign–born immigrants reside in the U.S. – the highest number in the nation’s history.

Yet widely unchecked immigration comes at a time when the country seemingly has lost confidence in its successful adherence to melting-pot assimilation and integration. The ultimate result is a fragmenting of society into tribal cliques that vie for power, careers and influence on the basis of ethnic solidarity rather than shared Americanness. 

History is not very kind to multicultural chaos in contrast to a multiracial society united by a single national culture. The fates of Rwanda, Iraq and the former Yugoslavia should remind us of our present disastrous trajectory.

It is the writer’s personal opinion that either the United States will return to a shared singled language and allegiance to a common and singular culture, or it will eventually descend into clannish violence. I hope for America’s sake that I am wrong. 

Does the unique American idea of federalism still work, with state rights and laws subordinate to federal law? We fought a Civil War that cost more than 600,000 lives in part to uphold the idea that individual states could not override the federal government.

Yet, so-called sanctuary cities declare that they can freely nullify federal immigration law. A little over two years ago, the California Senate passed a bill that would prohibit the state from contracting with any firms that work on the federal government’s wall at the border with Mexico. 

States such as California vow they will ignore Washington and work directly with foreign nations to promote their own policies on global warming. Read carefully what some prominent California leaders are saying about the federal government. Quite frankly, it is not much different from what influential Confederate South Carolinians boasted about in 1860 on the eve of secession.

The national debt has almost doubled over the last eight years and at $20-plus trillion is unsustainable. Entitlement spending has risen even as new taxes increased. The have-nots claim the haves make far too much money; the haves respond that they pay most of the income tax while nearly half the country pays nothing. 

It seems that most Americans agree that the present levels of borrowing and spending cannot continue at the current level. But there seems to be no acceptable tough medicine to cure the disease of chronic annual deficits and mounting debt is unacceptable. 

Our country’s infrastructure and military are vastly underfunded. America’s once pre-eminent colleges and universities are charging far too much and assume their students must take on huge amounts of debt. Yet, these same institutions can’t guarantee that their graduates are adequately educated or they will find jobs. 

Behind the guise of campus activism and non-negotiable demands is the reality that too many students are unprepared to do their assigned work and seek exemption through protests in lieu of hard studying.

I say all of that to say this . . . America, our country, barely survived the Civil War of 1861-65, the Great Depression of 1929-39, and rioting and protest of the 1960s. But today’s growing divides are additionally supercharged by instant internet and social media communications, 24/7 cable news, partisan media and the blackening of America’s past traditions and values.

Our current political scene might best be described as a cold civil war. However, I think you would agree a “cold” civil war is better than a “hot” civil war.

Things are bad now; however, our own history suggests if we are not careful, they can, and may get a lot worse

The intent and purpose of this particular column is to encourage all of us this Christmas season to take a step back and rein in our anger and hostility. Make an honest effort to find new and better ways to connect with others rather than divide us from our neighbors and fellow citizens.

As one so aptly put it, we should assume that our opponents are not all “sinners,” and their supporters are not all “saints.”

Until next time…

— By Loren Simmonds

Loren Simmonds has been a resident of Lynnwood for 37 years. He served on the Lynnwood City Council for 16 years, including eight as Council President. He remains active in the community by serving on the Parks and Recreation Foundation Board, Civil Service Commission and the Snohomish County Planning Commission. He believes that volunteerism sows the seeds of community. Loren is semi-retired and works as a writer, speaker and leadership coach.


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