Imagine you're on a plane, and that you have no real sense of how safe aviation is or isn't. You know some general history of aviation, but you have no real idea of what's involved in air travel at all. You've just always known that flying is cool and planes get where they're going most of the time.
Then imagine the pilot gets on the intercom and says, "Ladies and gentleman, welcome aboard. We might land safely at our destination, or we might crash and burn. I don't really know. I can't really say either way, but enjoy your flight and the soda and pretzels."
Roughly half the passengers hear this and think it means everything is going to be fine, and roughly half are convinced everyone is going down in a giant fireball, especially because they know the pilot has never flown a plane before.
If I had to distill the current zeitgeist in America right now to the source of the second half's collective anxiety, it's this: no one really knows what's going to happen, because this has never happened before.
Forget about policy. Forget about politics. In a way, none of that matters. The person we have leading our country can barely read or utter a coherent sentence. He has no interest in governing. He is completely erratic. He is completely unpredictable. He is driven to the brink of sanity by self-obsession and petty preoccupations. And for a lot of us, that in and of itself is terrifying.
But in a way, it would be less terrifying if we knew for a fact we were crashing and burning. At least then, we could take some time to make peace with our imminent demise. Instead, we are left constantly questioning ourselves and asking ourselves if we are overreacting and being crazy.
We're being told by the second half of the passengers--the ones who thought this particular pilot was the right guy to get us to Maui--that we are all nuts, and we are going to land safely in paradise with 20,000 free miles in our accounts. We hear him talk, and we hear we're going down at 500 miles per hour.
Which one of us is right? Or will the outcome be something in the middle, like a crash into some trees with survivors? The problem is we don't know. None of us knows.
And I think it's the not knowing--and not having any grownup around who can tell us--that is the source of our collective anxiety and fear.