I’m an angry man, and by angry, I mean living in a state of perpetual outrage over the events that continue to unfold in the United States over the past few years. It’s the same kind of outrage I experienced that motivated me to answer the call (which is very real) to join the Marine Corps and serve this country in 1999. It’s the same kind of outrage I felt after 9/11 towards the cowardly terrorists who slaughtered three thousand innocent Americans. It’s the same kind of outrage I felt when I deployed in 2006 to Fallujah, Iraq, as innocent Iraqis were murdered and tortured by the insurgents. All of these events were personal to me and had a common thread – innocent lives were stolen from this earth by evil people who preyed upon those who couldn’t defend themselves. For me, that was a just cause, a source of motivation that has guided my actions both in the military and beyond. At my age, I’ve come to realize that anger is a core facet of my nature, and I’ve tried to channel it into positive outlets throughout my life, less I succumb to the self-destructive side of it. But now, there’s a different kind of outrage, one sweeping this nation fueled by factors unique to 2020, and if it continues, it’s only going to end in more violence and bloodshed. And it’s all political.
For those of you who have followed me for the past few years, you know that I define politics as the absence of morality in all leadership and decision-making. It wasn’t always the case, but politicians have corrupted it so thoroughly that there is no better definition for this time in history. With a pandemic still methodically stalking across the globe, our country has been hit especially hard. Lockdowns have destroyed businesses; psychologically damaged millions of people, especially children from a lack of real learning and social interaction; and created a political powder keg that has exploded on to our streets. And since 2020 is an election year – if we make it to the election without an apocalypse of divine intervention – our politicians have set us upon one another in hopes of retaining or retaking political power. It’s the natural cycle of politics - blame the other side at all costs. The problem is that there’s an endless buffet of grievance choices to use to blame the other side. And social media amplifies it to the point of a 24/7, soul-sucking frenzy that makes a piranha tank seem like a petting zoo.
Racial inequality, our response to the Coronavirus Pandemic, the economy, foreign policy, trade, lockdowns, law enforcement, immigration, and even masks have partisans on each side screaming at the other. I have my views on each one of these, and they’re not hard to figure out. I’m also guilty as anyone when it comes to launching politically-motivated tweets at people I disagree with, but at the same time – minus a few exceptions, especially when people are intentionally cruel and condescending – I’m willing to engage. I’ll be sarcastic until my last breath, but I try not to be mean or dismissive, at least not until it reaches a certain point. And that’s the real crux of the issue – at what point can perpetual outrage and discourse exist in the same space?
We’re in a culture war, and the lines have been drawn, for better or worse. As cities burn, anarchists roam the streets like lawless gangs in the Wild West. They harass people in restaurants to the point of aggressive intimidation, they destroy property at will, and they attack law enforcement with no serious repercussions. Scenes like the ones in Kenosha, Portland, and Seattle sicken and sadden me as people die and livelihoods and businesses are lost. This destruction is something I’d expect in a hostile country or a Third World nation, not on the streets of America.
The problem is that there is no discourse to be found, not until our elected leaders stop this chaos and force all parties to engage with one another. As events escalate, the outrage will escalate with it, creating an endless cycle of destruction that inherently prevents any real progress. As a recovering alcoholic, I understand how hard it is to break a cycle. I just dread the thought of America having to hit rock bottom before it does because that bottom’s foundation will be in lives, businesses, and blood.
The only hope I have is that the election is looming closer, and one way or another, the chaos we watch like a broken loop of bad humanity will come to an end. One side will win; one side will lose. And with that victory will be a choice – do we continue this march into madness and perpetual outrage, or do we finally engage in discourse? For our country to survive, there is only one right answer.
Matthew Betley is a former Marine officer, a recovering alcoholic, an advocate for victims of toxic exposure to Burn Pits, and a political action thriller author of multiple novels. His Logan West series from Simon & Schuster is available wherever books are sold, and he currently has a new project in the works in both publishing and Hollywood. Follow him on Twitter at @MatthewBetley or find him on Facebook or Instagram.