TIME politics

Tavis Smiley: America Is Unhinged and Nobody Will Take the Blame

Smiley is host and managing editor of Tavis Smiley on PBS and author of 50 for Your Future: Lessons From Down the Road

Many of us feel afraid, which means this is an opportunity for us to be brave

It’s been two weeks and nobody wants to own this mess.

Hillary Clinton blames James Comey. The DNC blames the Russians. The RNC blames Obama. And Donald Trump, who may not even really want the job he won, is still blaming everybody but himself. (See: Hamilton kerfuffle.)

I thought it was, When they go low, we go high. But it was more like, When they go low, we get high. Did you see all the states that passed some form of marijuana use?

We can smoke all the weed we want, but when our high wears off, we still have to come to terms with a democracy adrift. And, in the end, no one really wants to cop to their complicity in the unmooring of America.

To paraphrase an old gospel song, There’s a storm out on the ocean, and it’s moving this ol’ way, if our nation isn’t anchored to something, we will surely drift away.

Our democracy is drifting, and I’m not sure what actually anchors us anymore. We’ve become unhinged. You can hear it in our discourse, and I fret that you’ll soon see it in Trump’s decisions.

It’s hard to know how we heal, especially if the winners keep pouring salt into the wounds. No one wants to acknowledge, atone or apologize for the pain and suffering they caused during this vicious and vitriolic campaign.

What we really need instead of THC is some TLC, or better yet, some TRC — truth and reconciliation. When apartheid was finally defeated in South Africa, that’s exactly what they did — establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission where wrongdoers could go and confess their misdeeds, for the sake of their fledgling democracy.

We need to take a page out of their playbook. And there’s so much to atone for.

Hillary should never have used the private server or called people “deplorables.” The hacked emails prove clearly that the DNC cannot be trusted. The RNC put its stamp of approval on a racist, sexist, classist and nationalist win-at-all-costs candidate. And Trump thinks he can talk ugly and talk unity at the same time. Not. And there’s a much longer list of folk who need to make amends for all manner of indiscretion done in the name of democracy.

Imagine what could happen if the folk who created this mess actually owned it, instead of dumping it on us.

Instead, now the rush is on to normalize this election. But the stench of this nasty campaign cannot be so easily deodorized. A spritz of Eau de Trump cannot kill the odor that lingers in the air as protesters take to the streets.

No empire in the history of the world has escaped reckoning. No amount of American arrogance, narcissism, patriotism or nationalism can obscure the fact that our democracy is rudderless. And before things quickly go from bad to worse, now is the time to own the mess that we have created.

Before honor comes humility.

We need less hubris and more humility, less bravado and more bravery. Many of us feel afraid, which means this is a good opportunity for us to be brave.

Bravery comes from introspection.

How much more must our democracy suffer before we can summon the courage, conviction and commitment to admit that we are drifting dangerously away from the ideals we profess, latching on to quixotic ideas that are taking us far, far away from what America is supposed to be.

We either course correct now, or lose our democracy.

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