You wonder why we have to endure Donald Trump? You wonder why we can't have nice political things? I'll tell you why: because America's political Right has lost its collective mind.
On the one hand, Andrew Peach’s “Peace in Dark Times” is a standard conservative Christian litany of gloom and doom:
America is facing dark times. The family has been redefined and is collapsing; nearly 60 million children have been aborted since 1973; urban violence, after a steady decrease, is rising rapidly; the national debt has doubled in eight years; the labor participation rate is at its lowest in nearly four decades; record numbers of people are on food stamps and state assistance; wealth disparity has reached levels not seen since the Gilded Age; nuns are being sued by the Department of Justice; religious liberty is being removed from the public square; Catholic school enrollment is in decline; genuine Catholic colleges are practically non-existent; and foreign powers, such as ISIS, North Korea, and Russia, pose grave existential threats to the country. Further, regardless of who wins the election, the country will send a moral reprobate to the White House. And the future looks even darker than the present.
Familiar stuff; but what makes this dystopian boilerplate noteworthy is the illustration that either Mr. Peach or his editors at Crisis Magazine deemed appropriate for the article:
This photo, as I discovered when I downloaded it, is titled “Gulag”.
Last I looked, that is not what America looks like, unless you happen to reside somewhere within the nation’s sprawling and unconscionable penal system. Mr. Peach resides in Wilmington, Delaware, home to a correctional facility known as the "Gander Hill prison," so perhaps his view is different than mine. Nonetheless, he and his editors at Crisis should be ashamed of themselves for suggesting that such an image represents America.
By the way: I hate to let facts interfere with Mr. Peach’s fantasies of martyrdom, but nuns are not being sued by the Department of Justice. The Department of Justice has itself been sued by the Little Sisters of the Poor (over, literally, paperwork); the Supreme Court, having heard the case on appeal, has ordered lower courts and the parties involved to find some “reasonable accommodation” both for the nuns and for the women affected by the Little Sisters’ refusal to comply with the Affordable Care Act.
That's more than a few steps, I would say, from the gulag.1
Secular liberals like me do not claim that America is without its faults; we do not agree with or defend every decision made by the Obama administration or every policy proposed by Hillary Clinton. We recognize that Americans are divided, rightly and sometimes passionately so, on a variety of issues. But so long as conservatives continue to indulge in such overheated rhetoric as We want our country back! or This is our last chance to preserve our freedoms! there is little hope of productive discussions of our differences.
To use the simplest analogy I can think of, our current political impasse comes from conservatives hysterically screaming the sky is falling! while liberals exasperatedly point out that, no, it's only the roof that's leaking, so why don't we work together to repair it? Such a pragmatic approach lacks both the high-minded appeal to "first principles" so dear to conservatives and the dramatic allure of impending martyrdom, but it lowers the rhetorical temperature while allowing us, as a polity, to get things done: imperfectly, of course, but do we really have any other option?
I would ask American conservatives, in all seriousness and with all due respect, to stop trying to scare us all to death.
1 Mr. Peach's sweeping national indictment is mistaken on several other particulars, but I don't have the time or energy to debunk them all.