Is America so awash in troubles today that it is impossible for political leaders and citizens to work together to resolve the nation's problems?
Most of the intelligent and educated people I encounter seem to think so. I see people I know on both sides of the political aisle exhibiting contempt for people exactly like themselves who just happen to view the world a little differently, or belong to the other political party.
It almost seems that Democrat and Republican have become rival sports teams with fans who cheer them on and hatefully boo the opponents.
But are our problems more inscrutable than those faced by past American generations, or are we merely less capable of dealing with them? Obviously there is nothing as difficult in American society today as slavery, impending civil war, or Nazis overrunning Europe. Yet our ancestors had the intelligence and strength of character to face and defeat those problems (and many other terrifying ones) without losing their grip on who and what they were.
In that light the current partisanship seems to be merely a crutch for a generation that grew up too coddled to read and too lazy to think. It seems as though we live in a country where the citizens no longer know how to use their own government properly.
American citizens no longer debate, they scream. They no longer read the news -- they post it. And it's often fake. As a result fewer people seek out points of view opposed to their own. And the algorithms of an evil social media only aid them in avoiding a more complete and complex understanding of the world.
Indolence, ignorance and intolerance all seem to go hand in hand in a society whose only eloquence is in expressing its rage.
Many American institutions that have been considered sacrosanct for two centuries are now looked upon as passé. Presidential elections, decided in the same way since George Washington's time are now called into question as illegitimate. The right to assemble peaceably has been perverted by goons who arrive with any manner of weapons from blunt instruments to bombs, not to mention cars used to plunge into crowds and kill indiscriminately.
All of those things are less powerful than simple words, of course, yet free speech is fast becoming a charming relic of the past. In the last several years, speakers on college campuses have been met with virulent opposition, verbal harassment and, in many cases, violence. On one campus, a student attempting to take photos of a demonstration for news purposes was stymied by a professor who called for "muscle" to remove him. That scene was captured on video.
Our Bill of Rights, the centerpiece of American exceptionalism and the high-water mark for personal power and liberty in human history, is under assault.
Americans are on the warpath against public art. The censors who were once obsessed with sex on the canvas now aim their erasures at negative history.
Anti-Hispanic, anti-Arab, anti-black and -- the old stand by -- anti-Semitism have all surfaced recently with a political justification by their purveyors.
Are there any American statesmen left, competent people who care more for the nation than any faction, party, or point of view?
Is there even one?
The irony of all this, of course, is that despite these cracks and fissures the United States appears stronger than ever. Still flush in post-World War II power, "the last Super Power" has become an atomic fortress virtually impregnable from outside attack. Nobody, no foreign power, can kill us or eradicate our way of life.
But there's nothing to prevent us from committing suicide.