Monday night’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was accompanied by a predictable resignation that America is somehow circling the drain.
The pessimistic vision is that because these two candidates are so incredibly bad, we somehow are doomed as a country. I know these are often reactionary feelings of frustration, but I also know some people actually believe it.
Two people debating who can destroy America fastest tonight. Hope someone great can fix this in 2024!
— Mark Millar (@mrmarkmillar) September 26, 2016
Primary voters: F
My bourbon bottle: empty
Apocalypse: can't come soon enough
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) September 27, 2016
Even a cursory consideration of the idea renders it ridiculous. We are a country that has survived slavery, a civil war, depressions, cultural revolutions and political scheming. We survived James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Herbert Hoover and Tricky Dick Nixon.
Not only survived, but more accurately, shook these events and flawed presidents off with one foot firmly on the gas pedal.
I am currently reading about the post-Civil War reconstruction of America. These were horrible times, folks. President Ulysses S. Grant worked feverishly to halt genocide against both African Americans and Native Americans.
But he couldn’t stop the killing of about 75 African Americans during the Memphis riots in May 1866. Nearly two months later, another 238 were murdered in New Orleans’ riots, and about 200 of the dead were African American soldiers.
City officials and lawmen committed many of the killings. Horrible times, but the worst was yet to come.
On Jan. 23, 1870, 200 Native American members of the Piegan Blackfeet tribe were slaughtered by U.S. forces in Montana. All but 15 were women and children. The country was horrified.
But Grant had little time to devote to mediating the dispute between Native Americans and frontiersmen. Genocidal tensions were growing by the week in the Deep South.
Southerners bent on retaining white supremacy formed the Ku Klux Klan on Dec. 24, 1865. For the ensuing six years, the Klan terrorized the South, killing thousands of African Americans in targeted nighttime raids.
By 1871, the situation was so bad that Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, otherwise known as the Ku Klux Klan Act. It gave federal troops the right to arrest citizens for civil rights violations. Grant also gained the right to suspend Habeas Corpus, which he did in 1871.
Like I said, these were awful times. Unimaginable times even for those of us who lived through the civil unrest of the 1960s, when it seemed like America was coming apart at the seams.
The 1872 election saw the Democratic Party running newsman Horace Greeley against Grant on a platform of thinly disguised racism. The opposition party sought to return the South to “local rule,” or white supremacy.
But Americans would have none of it and awarded Grant a second term by wide margins. Still, sectional violence continued.
On Easter Sunday 1873, white power rebels overpowered militia seeking to protect the legally elected government in central Louisiana. More than 100 African Americans were killed, many in cold blood after they surrendered.
No less of an authority than the U.S. Supreme Court contributed to the prolonging of racial violence. In a series of unfortunate decisions, the court weakened laws aimed at protecting Southern minorities, effectively ending Reconstruction.
Yet we survived. In fact, the latter half of the 19th century is generally considered an era of tremendous growth in modernizing the American way of life.
So whether you’re most terrified of Clinton’s trustworthiness, or Trump’s unpredictability, don’t worry about it so much.
Step back, take a deep breath and remember that we’ve been through much, much worse than whatever is in store for us down this road.
InsuranceNewsNet Senior Editor John Hilton has covered business and other beats in more than 20 years of daily journalism. John may be reached at [email protected]
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