Joshua Heath | Why Everything Is Terrible Right Now in America

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We live right now in the worst of possible worlds: a dog-eat dog economy crafted by conservatives and a radical culture run by leftists. 

It is a world where your dignity is under assault on all sides. If you’re an essential worker toiling for little pay, you won’t be able to afford the basic necessities required to have a decent life: housing and health care, food and water, and a few extra dollars to relax on the weekends. 

Furthermore, if you believe the wrong ideas, you’ll constantly live in fear that you’re just one wrong joke or online post from being sentenced to a social death — canceled, to use the modern phrase. 

Worst of all, the powerful far-right elites who engineered our economic woes and the highly educated activists leading today’s culture war believe nothing is wrong with this current state of affairs. It is fundamentally correct, in their view, to have so many Americans suffering from such a misguided status quo. 

A careful look at these extremists and the systems they’ve built can lead to only one conclusion: If our country is ever to be made whole, their way of doing things must be destroyed. 

Consider first the perspective of the American right on economic inequality. When confronted with a low-income person struggling to get by, the conservative does not feel compelled to cry crocodile tears for them. Whatever suffering they have endured is simply their own fault, making any claims to government support illegitimate. 

If the poor didn’t want to have such hard lives, they should have made better choices. This ideology has led to the implementation of a series of destructive policies over the last 40 years. We’ve systemically weakened the influence of unions, drastically reduced funding for higher education, and crippled key parts of the social safety net — right at a time when we need these institutions more than ever. 

As a result many Americans today experience endless hardship simply because they chose a working-class profession instead of something better-paying. 

And what a load of cruel nonsense that is. Let me tell you something. Look back on your life, and who gave you more joy: the waitress who served the food on your first date at 15 or a corporate lawyer? The gardener who beautified the park where you ran through the sprinklers as a child or an accountant? The janitor who kept the gym clean on prom night or a hedge fund manager? 

These fine people are truly the custodians of the American Dream. It is profoundly wrong, therefore, to have an economy that denies them a piece of it. 

Throughout all of recorded history, mob justice has never been a success. From the time of ancient Athens to the Jim Crow South, leaving punishment up to the whims of the crowd has only led to cruelty, illogic and disorder. 

The modern left, astoundingly, has decided to ignore this great truth with its pursuit of cancel culture. 

Under this pernicious system, millions of progressives, using social media as their tool, regularly inflict severe consequences on people whenever they do something that is deemed problematic. The digital lynch mob, instead of rationally debating a situation with nuance, degrades their chosen target with the most intense form of public shaming. 

This ruthless tactic works; reputations and careers are often tarnished forever. Human beings, so infinitely complicated, so full of both strengths and weaknesses, become reduced to their most controversial moments and ideas. 

For example, Black lives are cherished until a Black preacher openly questions the wisdom of gay marriage and abortion rights — then he becomes unworthy of public respect. A pioneering TV star like Gina Carano is a feminist hero up until the point she utters a conservative opinion, then the Twitter hordes call for her firing.

Defenders of this approach say it is a rational way of holding people accountable for their bad behavior. But cancel culture can only appear that way to those with either cold hearts or empty minds. 

We see here some common themes. Namely, both sides are content with wielding power in grotesque ways. One stigmatizes Americans on the basis of their employment, the other on the basis of their ideas and mistakes. The resulting agony that is inflicted is dismissed as justifiable under the logic of personal responsibility — if only the low-wage worker had studied harder, if only the young man had thought twice before writing that social media post.

At heart, these dynamics are about engaging in that age-old temptation to feel superior to our peers, instead of standing in solidarity with them. It’s all such a tragedy. This world is filled with so many marvelous individuals. We are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, siblings and fine friends. 

We deserve dignity, regardless of how much money we make or how close we hew to mainstream liberal orthodoxy. Even if you hate my writing, for example, and think I’m a bum, I still want you to be happy. There’s no need to make it more intellectual than that. It is time to abolish the “cancel culture” and the “cancel economy.” 

Americans must reject the ideological extremists who believe their cruelty is philosophically right. These people simply aren’t kind. They do offense to our most Holy Lord of Lords, the Great Redeemer, the King of Kings, the Man of Trinity, who instructed his children to love thy neighbor as thyself.

In place of our current dismal status quo, we need a politics based around loving people. I’m talking about real flesh and blood, hard-working, cursing, God-fearing, potluck-attending, Little-League-playing, people. I’m talking folks! 

Anything less isn’t worthy of this fine country.

Joshua Heath is a Santa Clarita resident. “Democratic Voices” appears Tuesdays and rotates among local Democrats.

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