Some people find history boring or irrelevant. Each of those descriptions could not be further from the truth, as evidenced by what is happening today in America.
Throughout the last 2,000 years, countries, civilizations, and empires have come and gone. America is not immune to this eventual fate. Still, in our lifetime and perhaps for centuries to follow, the United States will stay as a world power among all the other nations in the world. The link or commonality to many nations and empires failing many times comes from inside and not any outside force.
Which brings us to today. America is in the middle of a change election at a time when a great deal of polarization has grown between citizens. It happened in the last stages of the Roman empire between pagans and Christians. It happened for hundreds of years in Europe between Catholics and Protestants, and in the 20th century it happened with the emergency of the competing ideologies of democracy, socialism, fascism, and communism. In each of these cases, these religions or ideologies could be used by a leader as a tool to whip up an emotional response by large groups of people; thus they obtained power, following an agenda that was by and large corrupt and in many cases against the progress in human relations.
Now, early in the 21st century, this repetition is happening here. Only this time the “tool” being used is more universal as it cuts across all the other forms mentioned above. It is nativism, a primal and tribal call to separate one group of people from another. It contains not only racism as part of its message but in an even more powerful and subliminal way it gives people the illusion that what once was, was better then the progress that has been made today. In this vein Donald Trump has injected a poisonous venom. There is every reason to think that many will be infected who are not inoculated by education and reason.
In addition, with a media that pretends to perform its duties in an unbiased way, but in actuality allows ignorance and falsehoods to be a part of our nation’s dialogue, those who are infected with this hate begin to feel justified. It is not just a question of identifying every lie Trump tells; it is also not to “equalize” what he has said and done with regard to the other major candidate. Rather than somehow being neutral or balanced, this is a possible flaw. It recreate the myth that many believe in this country — that all politicians are the same. No one would ever say every doctor or lawyer or any other professional has people of exactly equal competency or integrity. That is a true absurdity.
We are living in fragile times, but not necessarily unique times. These kind of volatile and regressive periods have happened before. The question to now be answered is for how long, how much damage might occur (for instance, in a Trump presidency), and to what extent will it shorten America’s arc as a great nation.