We used to take one vacation a year. My dad had a knack for puzzling everything that two kids and two adults needed to survive a week at Nags Head into the trunk of our 1972 Ford LTD. That old Ford lasted 2 decades with us, but there was one trip that almost ended it.
We had been driving down 95 with several hours still to go when dad heard something funny. None of us could hear it, but he was convinced it was a new little tick or knock. We pulled into a gas station and he popped the hood. It turned out that the engine was almost out of oil, and the knock had been the lifters clicking. Luckily, no harm done, the leak was manageable, and off we went, nothing more than a brief, unexpected delay.
But it was this close to catastrophe. Had he not recognized the danger and done something about it, no way that engine would have made it to the beach without seizing a bearing and blowing a hole in the block, leaving us stranded on the side of the road with all of our crap in a car that wasn’t going anywhere soon.
I think of this story now every time I catch even a glimpse of the news. Because I seem to be the only one that is hearing the tick. Our government cannot go on like this, and when it lets go, it’s going to do more than strand us on the side of the road. For almost a year I have been stewing on what that knocking sound means and what can be done about it, and I keep waiting for someone to emerge from the din with a logical solution. And let me tell you all this: it’s not going to fix itself.
There has never been a leader or a government in the history of the world that ever decided on its own that it wasn’t doing a very good job and needed to be replaced. Never. Ever. It doesn’t happen. So holding your breath and hoping it happens here, not gonna work. What about shouting about it? Nope. Protesting? Nope.
Wait a minute. Protesting has led to all kinds of positive change, right? Yes and no. And in our case, protesting stuff, is in fact making things worse.
Protesting is a method of drawing attention to an injustice and demanding change from the established government. But it does nothing to change that established government. Unless it gets violent, and then it’s called a revolution. And as much as some people might be thinking that would work out just fine, I promise you, it won’t.
For example, protesting the content of a tweet put out by a government official only creates a pointless fight; the solution is not to change the contents, but to ask if a government official should be using twitter at all.
The problem is not all the protesting, but the fact that it is all missing the point. And then all the fighting becomes the problem.
It’s not what we are doing that is wrong, it’s the way we are doing it. Our government was not designed for modern society, and it needs some updates to operate smoothly. And when I say that, I don’t mean the other side takes control, because both sides operate in the same flawed way. And by failing to recognize and repair these flaws, we are allowing metal to grind on metal, and the bearings are about to seize. If we don’t act soon, we are going to cross some threshold, say something that cannot be unsaid, do something that cannot be undone, and we will lose our chance to pull over and simply add some oil.
The assassination of the Archduke of Austria by a teenager a little more than 100 years ago is often said to be the spark that started the First World War; but in reality, the stage had already been set. Had that plot failed, some other event would have set the gears in motion, changing details in the history books, but not the main storyline.
We must learn from the past. We cannot expect things to go differently now. Governments do not amend themselves, leaders never abdicate power. That noise is not the sound of protestors pushing for progress, it is the sound of a society tearing itself apart over inevitable consequences of a failing system.
Listen. Before it’s too late, just listen.