“May you live in interesting times” is supposedly a Chinese curse, although there’s no evidence the quote actually came from China. Whatever the true origin of the phrase, we’ve certainly been suffering under the curse in recent years.
COVID, of course, came on the scene about three and a half years ago, and we’re still suffering from the aftereffects of the pandemic and the government’s response. Children were some of the worst impacted, due to the impact of school closures on learning and mental health.
But that was only the start. Just as we were emerging from the pandemic, Russia invaded Ukraine, led by a KGB colonel who made himself a dictator for life and appears intent on rebuilding the Soviet empire through force. The West mostly responded with support for Putin’s victims, but in a stunning reversal of 1960s counterculture politics, this time it’s elements of the far right who oppose efforts to stop Russian aggression.
While the war in Ukraine still rages, Hamas launched a genocidal war against Israel, murdering over 1,400 Israeli civilians and kidnapping more than 200 people during the initial incursion. As shocking as the initial attack was, this time it was elements of the far left whose moral compass leaked out all its fluid. Anti-Israeli protests sprang up at American institutions of higher education, in some cases directly threatening Jewish students. Several American journalists also rebroadcast Hamas propaganda, claiming Israel had bombed a hospital in Gaza even after overwhelming evidence emerged that the blast was caused by one of Hamas’ own rockets misfiring.
And during these crises, our own political system was again seized by partisan infighting after eight Republicans collaborated with the entire Democratic House caucus to throw out the Republican Speaker of the House who had just been elected earlier this year, with no coherent plan to replace him, and another potential government shutdown just weeks away. After three weeks of pointless arguments and unwinnable House votes, the Republicans finally settled on Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana as the new speaker last week. Yes, he helped try to overturn the 2020 election, but sometimes you just need a body in a seat so you can try and get something done.
With the world seemingly wobbling from crisis to crisis, and America’s global leadership handicapped by our own internal political squabbles, it can be hard even to focus on state and local issues, let alone write about them. A compelling analysis of, say, a Republican strategy to win back state legislative seats in the Atlanta suburbs doesn’t seem so compelling when Ukrainians and Israelis are dying in wars of aggression and half of our national elected leaders seem more interested in burning everything down for social media clout than they are in governing.
But the fact is that our state government is a bright spot amid the dismal online troll war that’s taken over our national politics. Under Governor Brian Kemp’s leadership, Georgia has maintained its status as a business-friendly, low-tax state that still maintains a responsible budget surplus (imagine Washington accomplishing that these days!) while increasing teacher pay, police funding, mental health care, and other bread-and-butter issues that affect the daily lives of our residents.
And our state legislators, even though they belong to the same two parties that seem locked in a death match at the federal level, have managed to work together to enact a budget every year (again, imagine Washington doing that) and to pass bills like HB129, which increased support for needy pregnant mothers and was supported nearly unanimously in both legislative houses (are you listening yet, Washington?).
Maybe it’s just that state legislators don’t make enough money or generate enough donations to sell their souls and principles for spicy meme-based fundraising. Or maybe having to have real jobs outside the Capitol and live in a small district near your constituency is a natural limit on embarrassing behavior – it’s much easier to block someone on Twitter X than to dodge your neighbor or coworker at the grocery store. Maybe we just have a better class of Republicans in Georgia who won’t let the clown show take over the party.
Whatever the cause, and whatever one’s opinion on how our state government is handling any particular statewide issue, it’s clear we’re running a much tighter ship than Washington is. We should be holding our federal legislators accountable for delivering at least the same level of leadership and mutual respect. Yes, that sometimes means working with people we might not like, or even compromising with political positions we disagree with. But the alternative isn’t going to be us getting everything we want forever and the other side coping and seething. It’s going to be incoherent gridlock at best and the loss of our stature as the leader of the free world at worst. And I can promise that no matter how much you hate the other side (whoever the “other side” is for you), whoever takes our place is going to be much, much worse, both for us and the world.