Like lots of Americans, I go to the doctor twice a year for check-ups, and I respond to the standard initial questions: have I fallen in the past six months? Have I been depressed? Thought about harming myself?
I have standard responses to those last two standard questions: I’m only depressed when I pay attention to the news. I haven’t wanted to harm myself, but I have definitely wanted to harm some other people I could name….
Actually, I’m pretty sure I have a widely-shared medical condition I’ll call “news sickness.” Its symptoms are lack of focus, feelings of futility, and free-floating anger.
The lack of focus is most maddening. What should I be concentrating on–what news should I be following– at a time when there is a new threat to democracy, to well-being, to sanity every single day? A morning scan of the media highlights the most recent atrocity, in this case, the murder of yet more innocent children and their teachers in a Texas classroom. That followed closely on the White Nationalist massacre in Buffalo, and has prompted media reviews of the unthinkable number of mass shootings in America, along with statistics showing that gun violence is a peculiarly American problem. (Evidently, the mentally-ill in other countries are less murderous…)
These recent events have operated to overshadow other recent and important matters: an unprovoked war in Ukraine that is killing thousands, displacing millions, and threatening to ignite World War III; revelations of traitorous behaviors uncovered almost daily by the January 6th Committee in the course of its investigation into the unprecedented attempt to overthrow a duly elected President; the increasing successes of the retrograde movement to strip women of their right to self-determination, beginning with abortion but sending strong signals that the war on women and gay people won’t end there…
And then there are ongoing debates over COVID measures, and the shameful revelations about Baptist clergy, who–it turns out–are just as prone to sexual misbehavior as Catholic priests (and undoubtedly other “men of the cloth.”).
Hovering over all of these and many other issues is the threat posed by climate change. And hovering over all of it is the adamant refusal of the Republican Party to engage responsibly with any of these issues, and its determination to keep others from doing anything about them either.
Here, for example, is a recent report from the New York Times, detailing an organized GOP effort to punish corporations trying to be responsible stewards of the environment.
In West Virginia, the state treasurer has pulled money from BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, because the Wall Street firm has flagged climate change as an economic risk.
In Texas, a new law bars the state’s retirement and investment funds from doing business with companies that the state comptroller says are boycotting fossil fuels. Conservative lawmakers in 15 other states are promoting similar legislation.
And officials in Utah and Idaho have assailed a major ratings agency for considering environmental risks and other factors, in addition to the balance sheet, when assessing states’ creditworthiness.
Across the country, Republican lawmakers and their allies have launched a campaign to try to rein in what they see as activist companies trying to reduce the greenhouse gases that are dangerously heating the planet.
Every single day, we get media reports with the same story: Republicans continue to block even the most modest gun control efforts. State-level Republicans are passing draconian measures aimed at criminalizing abortion and punishing both women and those who might help them obtain one. Republican lawmakers are resisting subpoenas and refusing to testify to the January 6th Committee. Senate Republicans filibustered and defeated the recent anti-terrorism bill. Senate Republican “leadership” refuses to sanction the party’s (several) “out and proud” congressional White Supremicists. A significant number of Congressional Republicans resist sending help to Ukraine, and to varying degrees, offer justifications for Russia’s invasion.
If you make a list of the most pressing issues facing the United States, it becomes blindingly clear that the federal government and the various governments of America’s Red states are doing virtually nothing to address those issues. It also becomes blindingly clear why that is: today’s Republican Party has morphed into a White Christian Supremicist cult, dismissive of science and evidence and intent upon “returning” the country to a time that never was. Thanks to gerrymandering and several outdated elements of America’s electoral system, that cult wields considerably more power than fair democratic elections would otherwise give it, and it is using its disproportionate and unrepresentative power to thwart passage of desperately-needed legislation.
What’s wrong with America today can be reduced to one simple statement: the Republican stranglehold on government.