America may be broken beyond repair


At least that’s what Michele Goldberg of the New York Times thinks. Unfortunately, I agree.

I’m tired. I’m sad. I’m angry and I’m frustrated. It’s often been suggested to me, after I post a particularly provocative or contentious column, “Good column. But what are you going to do about it, except get if off your chest?” Frankly, I don’t have an answer; that’s one reason I’m frustrated. But if I’m frustrated opining to a readership of a few hundred, can you imagine what a Times or Post op-ed writer feels, opining to a readership in the hundreds of thousands – a columnist like Michelle Goldberg?

Ms. Goldberg, full of justifiable rage, makes important points in her column, “America may be broken beyond repair.” She is writing on media platform with 6.7 million subscribers. My question to her, like my readers’ question to me is “To what end; what are you going to do about it?

Here’s Michelle Goldberg’s New York Times column of May 27.

In an ad released last year, Blake Masters, a leading candidate in Arizona’s Republican Senate primary, cradles a semiautomatic weapon. “This is a short-barreled rifle,” he said, ominous music playing in the background. “It wasn’t designed for hunting. This is designed to kill people.”

For Masters, this isn’t an argument against allowing such guns to proliferate. Rather, it’s an acknowledgment of why access to these weapons is, for the right, a matter of existential importance. “The Second Amendment is not about duck hunting,” said Masters. “It’s about protecting your family and your country. What’s the first thing the Taliban did when Joe Biden handed them Afghanistan? They took away people’s guns.” Guns, in this worldview, are a guarantor against government overreach. And government overreach includes attempts to regulate guns.

These days, it’s barely remarkable when Republicans issue what sound like threats against those who’d dare curtail their private arsenals. “I have news for the embarrassment that claims to be our president — try to take our guns and you’ll learn why the Second Amendment was written in the first place,” Randy Fine, a state representative in Florida, tweeted on Wednesday.

It will be impossible to do anything about guns in this country, at least at a national level, as long as Democrats depend on the cooperation of a party that holds in reserve the possibility of insurrection. The slaughter of children in Texas has done little to alter this dynamic.

Republicans have no intention of letting Democrats pass even modest measures like strengthened background checks, and as long as the Democratic senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema refuse to amend the filibuster, Republicans retain a veto over national policy. Victims of our increasingly frequent mass shootings are collateral damage in a cold civil war, though some Democrats refuse to acknowledge it, let alone fight it.

Fine’s words echoed Donald Trump’s during the 2016 election, when he said that “Second Amendment people” might be able to stop a President Hillary Clinton from appointing Supreme Court justices. What was once a barely concealed insinuation of violence has morphed, especially since Jan. 6, into an even more forthright menace. As ProPublica has reported, dozens of members of the Oath Keepers militia were arrested in connection with the attack on the Capitol, but that hasn’t stopped the organization from “evolving into a force within the Republican Party.”

In Shasta County, a conservative part of rural Northern California, a militia-aligned faction has secured a majority on the board of supervisors, in what members of the movement see as a blueprint that can be deployed nationally. Throughout the country, reported The New York Times, “right-wing Republicans are talking more openly and frequently about the use of force as justifiable in opposition to those who dislodged him” — meaning Trump — “from power.” Expecting those same Republicans to collaborate with Democrats on public safety is madness.

The horrifying irony, the hideous ratchet, is that the more America is besieged by senseless violence, the more the paramilitary wing of the American right is strengthened. Gun sales tend to rise after mass shootings. Republicans responded to the massacre in Uvalde by doubling down on calls to arm teachers and “harden” schools. An article in The Federalist arguedthat parents must home-school so that kids can learn “in a controlled environment where guns can be safely carried for self-defense or locked away when not in use.” It’s a vision of a society — if you can call it that — where every family is a fortress.

Guns are now the leading cause of death for American children. Many conservatives consider this a price worth paying for their version of freedom. Our institutions give these conservatives disproportionate power whether or not they win elections. The filibuster renders the Senate largely impotent. Trump, a president who lost the popular vote, was able to appoint Supreme Court justices who are poised to help overturn a New York state law restricting the carrying of concealed weapons. It’s increasingly hard to see a path to small-d democratic reform.

And so among liberals, there’s an overwhelming feeling of despair. Even as people learn the names of all those murdered children, the most common sentiment is not “never again,” but a bitter acknowledgment that nothing isgoing to change. America is too sick, too broken. It is perhaps beyond repair.

Two years ago, David French, an anti-Trump conservative, published a book, “Divided We Fall,” warning of the possible crackup of the United States. It included two chapters imagining scenarios for how the dissolution of the country might happen. One involved a mass shooting at a school in California, to which the state’s people reacted “with white-hot rage.” French envisioned furious state politicians defying the Second Amendment, leading to a nullification crisis and blue-state secession.

He meant it as a cautionary tale, but rereading the chapter after Uvalde, it feels less bleak than our reality. In French’s scenario, atrocity has the effect of energizing people rather than immobilizing them. They are determined to fight, not resigned to defeat. They have audacity and hope.

The real nightmare is not that the repetition of nihilist terrorism brings American politics to an inflection point, but that it doesn’t. The nightmare is that we simply stumble on, helpless as things keep getting worse.

I think you’ll agree, this is a well-documented, powerful, but ultimately distressing column about an intolerable situation; about a country, a so-called democracy, on the road to ruin. But, as I said, “To what end?” What is Michelle Goldberg going to do about it? What am I going to do about it? What are you going to do about it?

Published by Ted Block

Ted Block is a veteran “Mad Man,” having spent 45+ years in the advertising industry. During his career, he was media director of several advertising agencies, including Benton & Bowles in New York and Foote, Cone and Belding in San Francisco; account management director on clients as varied as Clorox, Levi’s and the California Raisin Advisory Board (yes, Ted was responsible for the California Dancing Raisins campaign); and regional director for Asia based in Tokyo for Foote, Cone where he was also the founding president of FCB’s Japanese operations. Ted holds a Bachelor’s degree in communications from Queens College and, before starting in advertising, served on active duty as an officer on USS McCloy (DE-1038) in the U.S. Navy. Besides writing Around the Block, Ted is also a guest columnist for the Palm Beach Post.

3 thoughts on “America may be broken beyond repair

  1. Ted, I have been feeling this same despair for some time now!!! There seems to be no middle ground.

    What do we do? The only thing we can do and it may not work. We have to make phone calls, write post cards, get out the vote. Our voting has to be massive so there is no question anywhere who won. That is a tall order with all of the gerrymandering but otherwise we are lost. 🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬

    Sent from my iPhone



  2. The world is watching. We cannot do a damn thing for America, short of dropping a thousand nuclear bombs and excising the cancer through “gross surgery.” Except, that would “blow back” on the rest of the world as nuclear winter, and that would help no one at all.
    Circumstances are such that AMERICA HAS TO HEAL ITSELF! And let there be no doubt, it needs to be healed, NOW!
    I personally offered some ideas in your last post’s Comments section, but I did not feel heard. So I will not repeat them here. So I hope some American somewhere is doing something real, because the fate of the whole world is now resting on YOUR SLUMPING SHOULDERS. If you cannot defeat your own interior enemies, outside action may become necessary, for your own sakes… But that is a last resort I do not want to even have to contemplate!


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