Dear 21st Century...in which Uncle Duke admits he should have been paying better attention


Dear 21st Century,

I apologize to all younger than myself for the sorry mess we have made. It is a horrible embarrassment from which I cannot hide. It is a state of disorder which makes me gruesomely ill. A generation that is mostly my own has bolloxed up a system of government that, though it was imperfect, had worked pretty darn well for over more than two centuries.

Now we are in the midst of a Moral and Ethical Depression from which it will take a long time to recover. We (and by “we” I mean “us”--a mixed bag of Caucasian seniors, men mostly, all of whom can remember the Vietnam War) have confused “winning” with trash talking our Enemies, insulting and antagonizing our Friends and giving money to billionaire friends and well-connected companies who then have their way with us. We have confused a bloated Dow-Jones and enriched personal portfolios with a healthy economy. We have confused our Justice Department with a Presidential Defense Team. We have confused an out-of-control Health Care Industry with a healthy populace. We have confused “Law and Order” with beating down dissent and threatening those who write about it. We have confused “Making America Great Again” with a militarized police presence and civilian commandos clearing the streets by any means necessary. Dystopian shit, to be sure

We weren’t always so hardheaded and obnoxiously obtuse. There was a time, long ago, when we paid more attention to National Leaders who were obviously lying and why they were doing it. But that was when our own asses were on the line, when there was a war going on that our parents’ generation had started and of which we wanted no part. We were the ones in the streets then, you bet, fighting for justice and getting our asses kicked by the police and the National Guard.

But our memories are short, and we have apparently lost some cognitive skills. We now sit in our lounge chairs and choose to believe what we are told by a certain devious substrate of the media. Out of a sort of convenience. A force of habit. It is easier to believe that “The Others” are stealing from us, plotting our overthrow, than it is to ask questions and seek answers. The real, historical Truth is too complicated and too nuanced, and the real solutions are way too thorny and problematic. They demand compromise and multi-dimensional thinking. We are too old for that. And changing the channel is too much work. So we pledge allegiance to our Network. Fair and Balanced, they say. And they wouldn’t lie.

And truth be told, we LIKE the bad news and the stereotypes and conspiracy theories we are fed. Paranoia is a certifiable stimulant, and anger is a full-throttle turn-on. Yessir!

I had high hopes for our demographic in my youth. The generation before us made some horrible mistakes, and we paid an awful price for them. A lot of our people did not live to see 21. There were ill-conceived, perhaps criminally stupid wars that took many of our best people.

And then we lost many of our spokesmen, our true leaders, to violence. There was too much Truth in what they said. It scared people. And we lost many more to despair and drugs. There was ugliness aplenty.

But I thought we cleaned up rather nicely afterward. The tasks were not completed of course, but I thought we had made a pretty good start. Our hearts were in the right place. With some time, I mused, we could transpose this country into a place where most everyone could have a shot at a good education and a pretty decent life. A lot of good people were in high places, people with good hearts were making decisions. These were the best of my generation.

But there was resentment brewing in a lot of American basements, resentments of which many of us were unaware. Oblivious, in fact. There were houses on the block with bigotry in the cellar and a profound intolerance for strangers in the attic. It was an anaerobic stew, a form of toxic mold that was being kept alive by the twin, dark forces of fear and anger. The Racism that we thought had been dealt with was just simmering in place, becoming more noxious.

The sorry truth is that we are, some of us, stardust gone rancid, put here, as far as I can tell, as obstacles to a World which is cleaner and more breathable. In both a real and metaphorical sense. They are not that many of us that way, just enough to make everything complicated and more difficult.

We are holdovers from our bigoted and discriminatory past and are pitiful anachronisms. But the painful truth is that the longer one holds on to Lies, particularly Fearful Lies, the more tenaciously and violently one defends them. Without the Lie, you are naked and sad. Who wants that? And the approach of the End of Our Days does not seem to ameliorate our conditions. So the only real antidote for it all is to let us all die off of natural causes. In this case that means the slow passing of My Generation, a dying breed. The Few, the Proud, the Dinosaurs. We are getting out of the way as fast as we can. Soon enough, we will not be standing in any more doorways or blocking anymore halls

But I regret that we are leaving this world in such a tattered and divided way. The Country itself was founded on some pretty noble principles, and still has great promise. But the actual practices were inequitable and often brutal to boot. There is considerable karma to deal with. And it takes time for lies and mistruths to dispel. Mostly, as I think I mentioned, they have to die and be buried. And we are currently in the midst of that process. Responding to that imperative.

But burying a generation doesn’t happen overnight. We are moving with all due haste, but I confess we are dragging our feet a bit. For mostly obvious reasons. No one really wants to just fade away, and we are used to being in power, making all the decisions. Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac, and brother, we need all of that we can get.

Personally, Power was never my weakness, but others are clinging to it by any means available. “Illegal”, you see, is just a word until they lock you up. “Obstruction of Justice” is just a charge until the judge, or the Senate, says “GUILTY!” A Law is only an Opinion until the gavel comes down. And even then, they will likely all be pardoned, so there are no rules they really HAVE to follow.

But the reality is that the whole country is trending progressive. Four years ago, the country went bat-shit when an NFL player took a knee for BLM. Now entire MLB teams kneel. Major League Soccer, same thing. NBA, same thing. The NFL is ready and willing to follow suit. NASCAR banned the confederate flag. As did the Department of Defense. The entire U.S. military apparatus. The president, his henchmen and their core have no team left to root for and no squadrons left to back them up. Sad. So sad.

And their resistance to change will go the way of resistance to change throughout History. Change Wins. Nothing stays the same. We go backwards for only misdirected and unfortunate moments before surging forward again. Progress happens. It just happens on a time scale with which we are most often impatient.

Which is why we should be thankful for a figure as odious and contemptible as d. trump to have come along. To have begun overturning rocks when he did and exposing the numerous unevolved life forms who have crawled out. And to have found cabinet positions for many of them.

We are deeply indebted actually. He has facilitated Change. Capital “C”. Opened up a big old can of it. A line has been crossed. And bless his small-handed, bald-headed, stable-genius-self, he has practically pushed us across that line with his hateful tweets and rhetoric and bald-faced lies. He has thrown his considerable, distasteful weight on the scales, added to the critical mass and personally tipped the balance.

The further good news is that nebbishes like myself are ready and willing to man the battle lines. I’ve got my leaf blower charged. And it’s one of those nifty new ones, the ones with the 20v. battery pack, so I can send tear gas back where it came from for the better part of an evening. I am ready to join the ranks with my violent, anarchist, moderate-democrat, neighbors. To link up with my notorious, godless, churchgoing, communist, golf-addicted friends. And my radical, reformed-republican, revolutionary relatives. To stand with all those left-wing fascist gardeners and the Marxist Moms and those feared community-volunteering socialists and all those anti-American veterans. I would consider it an honor.

Diana will wear a babushka and carry an American flag so they will know which side we are on. Which is the same side we are all on, if they should ever wonder. She is, she tells me, prepared to do a little polkaing on the lines, if the moment seems appropriate. Just for a little dramatic flair. I’m looking forward to it.

Stay safe, 21st Century. Resist the Madness.

Your friend,

Uncle Duke