And the phenomenon is not limited to the United States, but is emerging all over the world. Newspaper columnist Paul Krugman put it this way in an opinion piece in the New York Times written at about the same time: "The real crisis is an upsurge in hatred—unreasoning hatred that bears no relationship to anything the victims have done."
I resonate with the urgency of Mr. Todd's questions and I concur with Mr. Krugman's observations. Suddenly it feels as if we live in a world of us vs. them. People around the globe are lining up on one side or the other, and the middle ground seems to be disappearing.
Not everyone may feel this way, but everyone can feel everyone who feels this way. So it's affecting all of us. Each day it's producing distressing headlines, angry blogs, name-calling speeches, childish rants in tweets, bullying diatribes, finger-pointing tirades, and violence-laden outbursts.
And while we may not know the underlying cause of the problem human society is now facing, the cumulative impact of that problem can be put into a single word.
We are seeing it more and more. It is an outgrowth of a very contentious and unhappy situation.
Alienation inevitably arises in the aftermath of ongoing citizen frustration. Citizen frustration inevitably arises in the aftermath of ongoing societal dysfunction. Societal dysfunction inevitably arises in the aftermath of ongoing systemic failure. And that's exactly what we've had here. Long-term, ongoing, systemic failure.
We've put into place on our planet a wide assortment of systems created to make life better for all of us. Those systems are not working. There are some rare exceptions, but in the main, most are failing to produce the outcomes they were intended to produce.
Wait. It's worse. They're actually producing the opposite.
Our political systems—created to produce safety and security for the world's nations and their people—have in the main produced far too much of exactly the opposite: ongoing disagreements, endless insulting and demonizing of opponents, dangerous trade wars, nerve-racking military threats, and escalating violence between people at every level.
Our economic systems—created to produce opportunity and sufficiency for all—have in the main produced far too much of exactly the opposite: massive economic inequality and increasing poverty, with a handful of people (actually fewer than ten) holding more wealth and resources than 3.5 billion (that's half the planet's population) combined.
Our social systems—created to advance and facilitate the joy of living in community and build a foundation for harmony among a divergent population—have in the main produced far too much of exactly the opposite: discordance, disparity, prejudice, and despair...with limited opportunity for upward mobility and in far too many cases rampant injustice producing exasperation and outrage.
(Even our vaunted online Internet systems—created as the newest innovation of our social systems and originally designed to bring us closer together through the "marvel" of social media—have in the main produced far too much of exactly the opposite: a playing of one against another through the manipulation of emotions, a heightening of our differences, an exacerbation of our fears, and a poisoning of our minds with negativity, all of which has not brought us closer together, but driven us further apart.)
And saddest of all, our spiritual systems—created to inspire a greater love of God, and so, of each other—have in the main produced far too much of exactly the opposite: bitter righteousness, shocking intolerance, widespread anger, deep-seated hatred, and self-justified violence.