Ever come across this quote?: To imagine is everything, to know is nothing at all. It was penned by Anatole France, a French writer who was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1921. Whether or not you know of his work (and I know very little) the above quote, a quizzical bit of conjecture, struck me as perfectly in tune with our current national zeitgeist. We’re barely two weeks away from what is unarguably the most profoundly important election in any living person’s lifetime. Some may assume this 2020 election will determine no less than the survival of our democratic republic form of governance. I personally have concluded that we haven’t had a national government that has come anywhere near adhering to our Constitution’s preamble that states its purpose of serving we the people for several decades. That preamble invokes the Constitution’s purpose, very clearly so:
…in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the commom defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution…
Okay, then. That document goes back to September 17, 1787. Those are some grandiose–bordering on highfalutin–ideals. A more “perfect” union? Isn’t perfection an abstraction? How about striving for continual improvement?, as reality is an ever shifting matter. In the ensuing 233 years, the U.S. has certainly held itself together, nowhere ever coming close to perfection, but methinks we have reached a nadir in terms of the distance from the preamble’s nobel ideals and what passes for a government supposedly bound to those ideals.
There’s another quote by W.B. Yeats that starts with the line Things fall apart, the center cannot hold. Between Anatole France’s quote and Yeats I sense some bizarre symbiosis. The upcoming election? Quite a divisive, chaotic, uncivil matter, without a doubt. Possibly the epitome of things falling apart. The question is will that center hold? We can only imagine what will happen. Some imagine one outcome, others quite another. And what we know really is nothing at this point. There are those convinced of one outcome or another but one thing is certain: it will not reveal its ultimate impact on we, the peoples, for a long, long time after November 3, 2020. I personally think the center won’t hold as far as business-as-usual no matter what the shake-out produces. One should not need to imagine as much as absolutely KNOW that the U.S. is seriously damaged right now, and this election–at the very best–slows down further damage, but cannot fix what is busted. And what is busted is the foundation upon which this country was built. Does anyone need to be drawn a picture at this point? Those grandiose words that purport to protect one and all by a righteous government were penned by men who wanted to be free from the shackles of England’s rule, but who (mostly) at the same time owned black slaves. The unintended irony, eh?
Here we are, in 2020, year of the pandemic, of blatant racist policies clearly exposed, rule of, by and for the richest of the rich, of convulsing social unrest unseen since the 1960s, and no one, no one at all, should be puzzled by how things have come to this. It has come to this because our form of democratic republic governance likely never really was practiced objectively or beholden to that piece of parchment penned over two centuries ago. We have had times of peace and prosperity, but likely those periods were a transient illusion. Reality shifts, and political reality is always in flux. If what we now have to struggle with seems beyond belief, then history has failed us in its capacity to show cause and effect. This should not be the most important election–possibly ever–confronting the country, or so some think. After all, that Constitution. Our representative form of government. Blah blah. Forget it. This election that may or may not mean the survival of our country. It has come about as an inevitable matter owing to that seminal document being written by a species that has never been inclined to work for any “general welfare” or strive for domestic tranquility. Or global tranquility, for that matter. The best of times are when those who have officially sanctioned power are content and not inclined to increase that power at any other’s expense. Hmm. When was that last an objective, political reality? Politics is friction, writ large or small. When are we free of friction, I ask? Maybe on a hyper local level, huh? Your book club? Your foodie club? You and your pet? Hell is other people, right? C’mon. You feel that quickly in life, admit it. And when those “other people” have official power, a lot of other people are left to deal with their hellish official devices.
Just. Look. Around.
Your book club or foodie group or tennis doubles clique likely has to put politics off limits as part of any repartee. Families are ripped apart by official decree or by red or blue ideologies butting heads. What a mess of a time! But it was meant to happen, folks. Of course it was. Otherwise, explain how it has happened. Corruption. Sure. By just one component of our government, whose office holders are sworn to uphold that Constitution? Was there a coup-de’etat? Hell no. It wasn’t by force that we are faced with this farce of an election. It was allowed to happen. Our human-operated democratic republic evolved into a two-party system in which where once there was a functioning “opposition party” (or the pretense of such) there is now no such national political force. Money rules. No matter who “wins” the election, money and power still will rule. That has been guaranteed by what is suppose to be that opposition party. And for tens of millions of we them peoples there is no alternative but to choose the candidate who may be about power and money, but at least isn’t the other guy. That’s what I call being in the Catbird Seat, since the polls clearly indicate far more people see the other guy as just too hellish not to vote against him, rather than for the other, other guy.
There’s your choice, and it was meant to happen this way. Otherwise explain how it has happened? Who would have asked for this? It’s a demented matter of fact, not imagination, that in the final analysis, if that Constitution was written to assure its peoples of their rights, we them peoples sure haven’t exercised our rights very well. Now, the foundation is awaiting a wrecking ball that needs be swung hard. Perhaps, though unwittingly, that is exactly what will begin on November 3rd, no matter the outcome. Then whatever replaces it in the short or long term will need a new constitutional foundation.
Imagine such an eventual outcome. Right now, imagination is everything, while what we know is nothing. Except that nothing would be better than what we have right now.