With the horror of Trump/Bannon upon us, it's all to easy to think that these are the worst of all possible times and the nadir of our nation's history.
I am scared, truly scared. Scared most of all, by his attacks on the press, most especially "The New York Times." This is classic fascist behavior. And, worse, as Pulitzer-winner Anne Applebaum points out, what's scary is not what Trump supporters believe, but the fact that they live in an entirely different reality and under an entirely different set of facts.
There's nothing wrong with a nation having a difference of opinion. But not sharing a common reality, well, that is truly terrifying.
That said, when I get really despondent, I plumb the recesses of my memory and go back to 1968.
Now that was a year.
We had 500,000 troops on the ground in Viet Nam and lost 17,000 boys, more than were lost in our Iraq and Afghanistan fiascos over their ten year durations combined. We also killed 250,000 Vietnamese.
There were riots in over 100 American cities including Wilmington, DE which was occupied by the National Guard for more than six months, Baltimore, Chicago, Washington, DC, Louisville, Kansas City, MO and more.
Bobby Kennedy was shot as was Dr. Martin Luther King. There were riots at the Democratic convention in Chicago. And arch-racist and segregationist George Wallace won almost 50 electoral votes in the south, including Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and one vote in North Carolina.
Then, we elected Nixon as president. A man who allegedly conspired to continue the Vietnam war because stopping it would likely have cost him the election.
Not to mention that we had about twenty-thousand nuclear warheads aimed at the USSR and they had about twenty-thousand aimed at us. Oh, and China just exploded their first thermo-nuclear device just a few years earlier.
That's just stuff I remember, as a ten year old.
Racism. A brutal colonial war. Assassination. Blood in the streets. The spectre of nuclear annihilation.
I am not one to put a pangloss on Trump/Bannon. But it's worth remembering, I think, that America has always had tremendous travails, and has almost always fallen short of its promises and ideals.
I think of the line by Gandhi.
When asked what he thought of Western Civilization, he is reputed to have remarked, "I think it would be a good idea."