Cancer and the Death of a Nation

Three years ago my body decided it wanted to kill me. I can point to good friends and family whose body made that determination and sadly won. At the moment my body’s effort to kill me taking it on the chin, but it’s coming at a cost to stop it. And there’s always a chance it still might find a way to win.

When I look back over history I see the same pattern happening in nations. Nations are susceptible to cancers just as bodies are. Of course, the most well-known example of this was the Roman Empire.

How do nations form? Geographical areas both small and large find people living in the areawho have similar cultural and/or ethnic identities, and language, and these are among the reasons they form into a larger group that now identifies as a nation. They switch from “a people” to “the people”, a national identity different from other national identities.

One of the greatest mistakes in history was made after World War I and has been a cause of internal tensions and violence because of this wrong thinking. In January 1918 President Woodrow Wilson gave a speech titled “Fourteen Points” as a way to fix the problems that led to WWI. Negotiating the Treaty of Versailles in Paris the idea of a League of Nations was raised based on Wilson’s Fourteen Points. While the American Senate would not sign onto the plan, Europeans (in whose nations the war was fought) did like it. Part of the plan was to divide and unite new nations out of what existed. France and England set about reforming the Middle East, Eastern Europe was reformed putting disparate cultural, ethnic, and religious people under one nation, and Korea was divided between South and North. The purpose was to reform the nations of the world into manageable units (by whom) that could be controlled so new world wars could not be started. How did that work out? Not well as some 20 years later we had World War II.

Let’s come back to the cancer theme. “DNA makes RNA, RNA makes proteins, proteins make us”. Cancer is caused by accumulated damage to genes. Such changes may be due to chance or to exposure to a cancer causing substance. DNA is the blueprint for what something is. If there is a flaw (possible for a number of reasons) the RNA that carries out the blueprint creates a flaw in the final product causing proteins to mismatch that can change a cell to form in ways contrary to its nature and those cells attack other cells that in the end destroys bodies. Other times outside factors invade the cells causing them to mutate into killers.

And so it goes with nations. Like snowflakes every individual within a nation is unique, but collectively they make a unified snowbank that defines the nation. Even that experimental nation made up of immigrants (the U.S.), mostly coming from middle Europe, the majority people came from England, the others from nations around them. These people had enough cultural similarities to united them, and they came with similar principles on life (mostly Christian principles) and out of this a nation was formed in unity.

In its own way, DNA makes RNA makes proteins, make us is the same basic process making nations. Keeping the metaphor going, no nation has a perfect DNA blueprint and some of the end product—us—become contentious. While each of these individual contentious “us” are cancers, they can be kept from becoming killer cancers through medicine like patriotism, God, things that we could generally agree on without being disagreeable.

Once we began shaking off those unifying characteristics that held us together we began attacking others until enough began breaking down the whole system making death the only outcome. In this case a nation falls apart from within, one of the main charges for the fall of the Roman Empire. The other kind of cancer comes from the outside that settle inside our body, begin festering until they change healthy cells into killer cells. Also a charge why the Roman Empire fell.

The seeds of our demise as a nation has always been within us, it’s that we kept them in check with a healthy sense of principles like melting pot, patriotism, God, law, and a Constitution and Bill or Rights we respected. Then cancer seeds from the outside blew in, settled deep within and began to spread until now our body is determined to kill us. There comes a point when the cancer is so pervasive that nothing with stop it and death is the only outcome.

My fear is that the divisions we now identify as tribalism we’ve lost the glue that held us together and we are determined to take our own life. It seems we are incapable of rationally solving problems and have settled into battle fronts attacking each other. Our hatred for everything and everyone not aligned with us and our beliefs is so rampant, I see its natural outcome but am mystified how to stop it. Shaping How We Think is my poor attempt to get us to think bigger, to format issues more broadly so we can see every side, but the cancer is too resistant.

I watched just a smidge of the Senate Intelligence Committee grilling government officials and for one political party their questions were so filled with innuendo they didn’t intend for an answer, they just wanted to make their political point. I’ve watched this Committee and others with a different balance of political party members, Republican or Democrat, and truth was always second to political points or counter-points. What a useless waste of time and governance.

But it’s this way in everything we do. Just read the headlines about the stories of us at each other’s throats. We don’t take the time to listen because for us there is nothing to listen to, it’s our way or the highway, as they say. Worse, we are filled with hate and aggression, we say the most awful things, do the most awful things and feel justified in what we say and do. We’re sick. We are filled with cancer. It’s killing us.

There is medicine, but we don’t want to take it.