It is difficult to believe that just over a month ago, the United States was on the verge of a nuclear war with North Korea. For those of us who grew up during the Cold War, the development triggered levels of dread we thought had been buried decades ago when the Berlin Wall fell. As a teenager during that time period, I was both horrified and obsessed with what-if World War III scenarios of a world reduced within minutes to medieval levels of survival.
Although the United States and the Soviet Union rattled their warheads at each other, both understood the notion of MAD, or “Mutually Assured Destruction,” meaning that whoever fired the first shot would unleash an atomic holocaust destroying both nations. It was fortunate, too, that the leaders of the two superpowers were relatively responsible. By contrast, the thought of the equally egomaniacal and unstable Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump commanding a nuclear arsenal is enough to keep me awake at night.
Soon after, Charlottesville happened.
The images of neo-Nazis holding a torchlight rally in an American city shocked the civilized world to the degree that even Kim Jong-un backed down from his bellicose posture. Wisely, he most likely figured that if you want to destroy the Americans, it is best to leave them in peace. And so it seemed that the moral fabric of the United States was about to disintegrate especially after Mr. Trump excused the white supremacists as containing a few “fine people.”
Sorry, folks, but there is no such thing as a “fine” Nazi.
Charlottesville not only unleashed an avalanche of concern over the rise of hate groups in America but also whether statues commemorating those who supported any cause of oppression should be removed. This embittered discussion made its way to New Mexico when a KUNM radio show, “Let’s Talk New Mexico” asked listeners to weigh in if statues and murals of Spanish conquistadors should also be eliminated. Needless to say, the response was quite heated. I chose not to participate. While I respect that New Mexicans have long memories, I am more concerned about how we of all ethnicities will face an uncertain future, one that is irrevocably advancing towards us.
Just when it appeared that Charlottesville would tear our society apart at the seams, along came Hurricane Harvey.
The pundits and social media fell over themselves extolling how Americans of all races, ages and backgrounds forgot their differences and came together to help one another. This was not only true but heartening although one wonders why it took a catastrophic disaster to unite people. Ignored as well was any mention of the science of climate change despite Harvey being categorized as a “1,000-year storm.” This means that the last time a tempest of this magnitude occurred was before the First Crusade.
Apparently, all this brotherly and sisterly love among the formerly contentious American population made Kim Jong-un nervous. He responded by exploding a hydrogen bomb, thus upping the nuclear war ante. Suddenly, the thought of a missile detonating over the skies of Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon because plausible, assuming it could find its way through the smoke of uncontrollable wildfires.
Not to be undone, Mr. Trump decided to ruin the lives of 800,000 children and young people by revoking DACA. Combine this outrage with his validating neo-Nazis in Charlottesville and pardoning the vicious Sheriff Joe Arpaio and one comprehends that Mr. Trump is the unapologetic bigot he has always been.
As I write this, Hurricane Irma is bearing down on Florida, wildfire smoke from California is blanketing Taos and our supposed leaders in Washington are squabbling over whether or not they should lead. All these divergent elements resemble some perverse Monty Python sketch.
Except that it isn’t. Recalling again that all the events described in this writing took place within a mere 35-day window, it is easy to fear for the future of humanity.
During periods of crisis, there is much debate as to the best method with which to deal. Does one march in the streets and sign petitions? Do we work within the System to bring about slow but steady change? Some might choose quiet prayer and meditation to raise the spiritual vibration of the planet. Others commit to some combination of the three.
There is no right or wrong answer. All that matters is that we as a community do not lose hope and continue to strive to support each other in any way possible.
Brown is an artist, writer and former public school teacher living in Arroyo Seco.