Gary Horton: We paved over our future


Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
– Joni Mitchell, “Big Yellow Taxi”

I’ve long thought that things just got too boring in America. In our current world of WWF and Mixed Martial Arts, with women beating each other up and tweets coming in every five seconds and talking heads spilling over our TVs and emails and websites and links and fake news and reality shows and the Kardashians everywhere, and, and, and … we’re over-exposed.

It’s not talking down to anyone to notice that we’ve entered the “too much information, too fast age” and the content avalanche has clouded our national perception of reality and our judgment.

We’re in the “Whatever” age with so many data points coming at us from so many sources that we mentally throw our hands up and act and vote with our gut, our hunch, our reflexes, our emotions.

Thinking carefully, thinking adroitly, thinking purposefully with unclouded judgment takes time, takes effort, and takes some quiet. Few have an over-supply of quiet time these days.

Have you noticed NFL football games lately? Images flash and dash and streak across your screen like machine gun fire. Commentary tables full of talking heads yelling over each other. Twitter pokes us incessantly – too frequently with the deeply considered messages of President-elect Donald Trump.

I believe that mental exhaustion as much as anything else put Trump in the White House. Toss in all the above with stress from Midwestern and Rust Belt economic challenges due to retrograde leadership, and plenty of folk will shoot from the hip on some of the biggest choices in their lives.

Oh, for sure Hillary was a weak candidate. But thinking-burnout surely made it easy for many to conclude, “We just need someone new, a ‘strongman’ to drain the swamp and bring back our jobs.” “Build the wall.” “Whatever.”

“You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Barack Obama inherited the steepest economic decline since the Great Depression, stabilized our nation, created calm in the population and oversaw steady growth in the jobs markets – while raising stock markets and housing prices back to highs. Life has been getting slowly better for so long now that things just got boring.

Americans like action. Shoot ‘em ups. Smoke ‘em outs. Girls getting nearly killed in less than a minute in a MMA cage. Outrageous, incendiary tweets. Insults, crassness, crashing and thrashing of norms and decorum.

Don’t think so? Turn on the TV to the mass-popular stations and see what we’re watching. Pop culture, frankly speaking, can be mind-melting.

“Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?” Proverbs 6:27.

“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Proverbs 23:7.

We are what we eat. And we’ve been fed a steady diet of fairly thoughtless gruel and now we’ve selected as our Supreme Leader a man who fits into the mold of so much of what we’ve been watching and hearing.

Obama-world got boring. Today was pretty much a little better than yesterday – and tomorrow held out a little more promise than today.

No major confrontation to scare the hell out of us. No taping our windows to protect against Anthrax attacks. “No drama Obama” pretty much sums it up.

A collegiate, intellectual, soft-spoken leader whose life education and experience sets him apart from trash-talking “everyman” lost our interest.

Along comes the Tweet-master, the showman, a guy every bit as outrageous as Howard Stern with perhaps even less qualifications to lead the greatest nation on earth. Donald J. Trump will be the president of the United States with all the power of our military might, our geo-political influence, and our responsibility to lead for not just the U.S. but for the whole world.

“You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

Quiet competency has been replaced with 3 a.m. tweets crying how this or that person somehow offended The Donald. “Sad.”

From the office of the President-elect: “Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a Hillary flunky who lost big. …”

Again, from the office of the President-elect of the United States: “Wow, the ratings are in and Arnold Schwarzenegger got swamped (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT. So much being a movie star and that was season 1 – compared to my season 14. But who cares? He supported Kasich & Hillary.”

Could you imagine Barack Obama behaving so childlishly?

A sufficiently large minority of Americans, with the help of Russian interference – which we’re too distracted to even care about – have willingly chosen narcissistic act-out-ism to replace thoughtful, quiet leadership of our most important office.

We have taken a relative leadership paradise and paved it over with a crass parking lot. It’s just a few more days before “President Trump” tears through the China shop of what remains of American civility.

I can only hope Americans set down their remotes, go to a quiet corner of what will be left of their houses, and more thoughtfully select their next leader four years out.

We’ll certainly need a thoughtful, purposeful leader to restore all that we had that will then be all that we’ve lost.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

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