With the introduction of the twenty-four hour news cycle and the media’s competition for viewers, clicks, and advertising dollars, reporters and news anchors have the tendency to blow up every event as if it were history-making, earth-shattering news. They’ve got to catch your eyes, and they won’t catch your eyes unless they make themselves out to be messengers of the Apocalypse.
The events in Charolettesvile, Va., this past weekend have certainly blown up the news cycle over the last few days. I do not think, though, that the media has out-kicked its coverage on this one. This past weekend, Aug. 12, just may have been a seminal moment in America’s history. Only time will tell if it was the spark that ignites a fire. If not, it will certainly be yet another bit of kindling for a future flame.
Our country has been tearing itself apart over the last several months, and the problems only continue to worsen. There have been failures of leadership in the government, failures of integrity in the media, and failures of self-discipline in the general populace.
On Saturday night, we wept. On Sunday morning, we let out a bitter lament. This week, we have been trying to figure out how to put the pieces together, but we seem to only be smashing those pieces into smaller, more irreconcilable bits.
The country has been through sharp divisions like this before: from the Revolution of 1800, to the Civil War of the 1860s, to the Civil Rights battles in the ’60s, and to the myriad social movements of the ’70s. Even in those divisions, there were solid ethical principles in place that would eventually win the day, draw us back together, and lead to a reconciliation (even if it was only a tepid one).
A certain belief that a moral framework existed allowed us to find our way forward, but in recent years, such beliefs have been eroding. People regularly raise the question about the existence of absolute truth.
When people lose confidence in the concept of truth, they lose confidence in the relevance of rational discussion. When people lose confidence in the relevance of rational discussion, the only apparent solution to conflict and disagreement becomes violence.
Rather than a last resort, violence becomes the first instinct.
The kindling continues to be heaped onto our society. Only time will tell if sparks will light the fuel.
If we don’t have the moral fortitude to prevent the fire from being lit, I am not sure we will have the requisite integrity to make it through the flames.