America’s Need for Normalcy

President Warren G. Harding, though obscure to most and known more for a scandal-ridden administration than anything else to others, took office just after World War I had engulfed the globe in a conflict the likes of which it had never seen to that point.

During the campaign of 1920, candidate Harding gave a speech in Boston entitled Return to Normalcy, in which he spoke about America’s need to heal after a devastating war. Granted, Harding was speaking to and about a nation reeling from a war, not one that had merely gone through over a decade of increasingly volatile politics, such as we have seen.

In the wake of events in Charlottesville, however, and with political tensions seemingly rising every day as we draw closer to elections in 2018 and 2020, Harding’s words find new relevance and meaning nearly a century later in terms of human nature, particularly the following passage:

“Poise has been disturbed, and nerves have been racked, and fever has rendered men irrational; sometimes there have been draughts upon the dangerous cup of barbarity, and men have wandered far from safe paths … America’s present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise.”

What has the American political climate in the past decade or so been but irrational, agitated, and dramatic? In terms of electoral history, 2016 can easily be classified as a massive experiment in many ways.

Since 2008, we’ve seen increasingly absurd rhetoric and ideologies take hold in both major parties. It started with birtherism on the right, and preaching about “the 1% paying their fair share” on the left several years ago. The measure of one’s conservative and Republican bona fides has now become how unwavering their support for Trump is, and the Democratic Party is falling over itself trying to go further left, first with the help of Occupy Wall Street and now with Antifa. Both are guilty of playing with fire (literally, if you look at photos and video from Charlottesville) to win elections with the help of extremist elements and deploying identity politics in ways that are well known to us all.

Finding themselves in the midst of the disorder on the right are conservatives such as myself who are simply tired of the wannabe “heroics” of people who think their angry preaching to their choirs on Facebook live and other venues somehow make a difference. People who thrive on what can best be described as nostrums, agitation, and a flair for the dramatic are not what we need now. We’ve seen enough of this nonsense since 2008.

To quote Harding once again, My best judgment of America’s needs is to steady down, to get squarely on our feet, to make sure of the right path. Let’s get out of the fevered delirium of war, with the hallucination that all the money in the world is to be made in the madness of war and the wildness of its aftermath. Let us stop to consider that tranquility at home is more precious than peace abroad, and that both our good fortune and our eminence are dependent on the normal forward stride of all the American people.

To use the game of poker as an illustration, what we are witnessing is one side raising the stakes followed by the other re-raising, and the cycle continues. This simply cannot be sustained, though that doesn’t stop those with ratings and book sales to gain in the “hallucination that all the money in the world is to be made in the madness” from persisting in peddling perpetual outrage and panic.

Here’s hoping to a return to reflection, intelligent political discourse, and normalcy. In my estimation, the best way to do this is for people to turn off Fox News, InfoWars, CNN, MSNBC, and stop having their information spoon-fed by people with an agenda and a vested interest in keeping people angry. A dispassionate review of current events through reading from various (reputable) sources is a good first step.

Indeed, society must learn to disregard easily manipulated feelings and emotions. Instead, we must learn to rely only upon reason, logic, cold facts, and using our minds. I won’t hold my breath, though.