Seeing our current political reality through a lens of shattered glass

Imagine that politics is like a pane of glass. Rarely is it whole. Historically, it is most often broken into two pieces. If there is a third party, there is a third shard. There might even be some splinters which, though small, make up part of the whole pane. 

Today, we have a wildly different picture. The broken glass itself is broken. The Republicans have the extremists, the nationalists and a few moderates trying to hold their shards together any way they can, hoping for a conservative coalition that might win again. The left has its own radical left and hard left, and the media, who won’t give the right any breathing room, as well as more women rightfully making a larger move into the fray.

The pane of government is shattered into too many pieces to define. Perhaps all that remains is only suitable to be swept up and discarded into the trash bin of history? Republicans came to power on the claim that they would “drain the swamp” of all this fractured glass, but in reality the elephant in the room has done a really good job of trampling the shards into ever finer splinters. 

That does not let the left off the hook either, for certain individuals have followed suit braying and trampling on Republican shards causing inappropriate discord. There has been a major loss of decorum in the politic Americana. Today’s  politicians can go fight it out in their own ugly ways. The American voter will eventually clean up the fragments of what used to be a functional government by cordially expressing our intentions for our nation at the ballot box while saying “hello” to our friends, who may be voting quite differently. But this can only happen if the system is working.

We need history to understand all this. Take for example, World War I under Wilson. He too had a loyalty pledge he expected, not just of his staff and his generals, but also of every American. “Buy War Bonds! Or else...” “You have been ‘selected to serve’ in the defense of America,” like it or not. Defeating Germany was necessary, but these means were not; and those means smell a lot like the “means” we smell today. One’s loyalty and readiness to volunteer were imposed under threat of retaliation. Wilson’s “league of nations” was like a giant North Korea summit and provided very similar bragging rights. It failed miserably.

The elite forefathers of our country were educated, wealthy and generally wise. As we celebrate the Fourth of July, we revere them. But I fear the formula they gave us, once brilliant, is now breaking down. The formula was designed to balance out power, but now it seems to be a pendulum swinging ever more wildly. Rome was balanced until Caesar! 

We have one man who refuses to fill out the team needed to govern this vast nation because he says he can do it all himself, but not with any dignity or honesty. And we have other leaders who have failed us too. Our country was meant to be a court of kingless statespeople with dignity and equality, but also with grace; not a jumble of broken glass with sharp edges, edges that cut anyone who gets involved.

The elephant has all the power. And we know what extreme power causes. The potential for an authoritarian regime becoming reality in America is greater now than it ever has been. Taking a wider view, it seems like the same thing is happening all around the globe. Russia has Putin. China now has Xi Jinping, leader for life, smile as he might. Kim Jong-un? Duterte? How about Maduro in Venezuela? Also you can add Hungary to the list, as well as Turkey. Even our European friends, like Italy, are dealing with right-wing semi-fascist parties and leaders. We are moving toward an authoritarian world with peace by enforcement.

We have our beloved Fourth of July this week. We all love a picnic and fireworks that make our babies cry and our pets cower. We celebrate our freedom from the tyranny of King George. But we should be ever-mindful of the beast behind the flashing fireworks and the simulated boom of cannons, in that a real cannon could be in our future if “We the People” do not take notice of the dangers in our midst.


Philip Truax built Sharon Computer and Mohawk Internet. His four sons all attended Housatonic Valley Regional High School. He is a third-generation resident of Sharon.