America, Democracy, ethics, government, morality, politics, psychology, USA
Sure. I get it.
I was a kid once. And, like most boys brought up in the 1950’s, few things held as much pleasure as destroying things!
When winter came to Ohio, sledding was fun. Don’t get me wrong. Especially, when we took the time to go to sled down the Derby Downs track or the toboggan run behind. But a snowball fight? Especially one where you really nailed someone? That was great.
Making a snowman? That felt cool. To use free snow to make a sculpture! And, it was fun to “shape it” and make it resemble a human. But tackling it at full tilt and thus smashing it down? That was great.
Spring flooding led to overflowing gutters which led to wading in the water and deeper is better! I didn’t exactly want to have the water spill over the black rubber and pour down to soak my shoes, socks, and pant legs. No. On the other hand, I would enjoy being able to brag about it to my buddies. “I was on Elm Street & the water was deeper than my boots!” On the other hand, I wouldn’t really enjoy my mom yelling at me for it. But it wasn’t as meaningful as having bragging rights with my buddies.
For many years, I’ve thought it absurd that I lived in the supposed “Temperate Zone.” We had cold, snowy winters, flooding in the spring, thunderstorms and tornados in the summer as well as hazy hot days of summer. And, no school. So — plenty of time to get in trouble. Just to take one example, we loved to break glass. If we found an empty coke bottle or jam jar, we would put it on the ground or better, a large rock or tree stump. Then, we’d typically take turns trying to destroy the glass with a well aimed throw. We did take turns. I mean, after all, we were civilized.
Autumn leaves brought raking and piles, but more importantly, the opportunity to jump into them. (And, to some extend destroy them). And, by the way, I thought my dad was a real killjoy when, after spending an hour raking leaves, he would yell at me not to wreck it up. I thought, “What’s the point of raking up the leaves into a pile except to jump in it!?”
Even to this day, there is a part of me that would positively relish taking a sledge hammer to an abandoned house or a junked car. Or, maybe even my own car! As an adult, however, I realize that actions have consequences. And, that ideas about what to do have alternatives.
If I smashed my car, I wouldn’t be able to use it afterwards. Also, there’s a chance of really injuring myself by embedding a shard of glass or metal or hard plastic in my thigh of eye. If it’s someone else’s car, there’s the added likely consequence of criminal penalties. Besides that, penalties aside, there is karma. Most likely the person whose car is destroyed will be stressed, angry, and possibly even violent. Violence begets violence. I would have sent a wave of negativity into the community. Even if I never got “caught,” I would be contributing to a world worse that the one I was born into. Is it worth a momentary pleasure?
I can get much the same kind of “pleasure of destruction” from hitting a tennis ball hard and winning points, but at this point, it isn’t only superior power as a source of winning a point that I like. I can also experience pleasure through outthinking my opponent; by using feints; by concentrating better; by having a better plan. It feeds into the same pleasure center but it doesn’t destroy things in the process. No shards of glass.
There is only one thing worse than being a destructive little kid. That is being an adult who wants to destroy things that they don’t understand and they can’t replace with something better. Those are not actually adults. They are children in adult bodies. They should never be in a position of power. Not in politics. Not in business.
It’s natural to feel some destructive impulse, at least, if history or personal experience is any guide. It’s also natural to want to relieve yourself. But if you’re an adult, you don’t simply pee your pants because you can’t be bothered to hit the head.
Destroying American democracy because you’re too lazy to win votes, understand problems with all their complexity and try to find potential solutions, build consensus, collaborate and cooperate to improve our country — that’s a lot worse than are smashing glass, wrecking up a pile of leaves, and peeing your pants. If the very best pleasure you have is blowing stuff up, okay — get a job in demolition — not in a Constitutional Democracy.
Other Essays on America:
Cancer always Loses in the End
Beware of Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing
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