(Tom Toles)

This was the worst _______ in U.S. history. You can fill in the blank with almost anything now.

The worst mass shooting, the worst hurricane damage, the worst governing. The carnage in Las Vegas is heartbreaking. The devastation in Puerto Rico is unimaginable. The abdication by your elected officials from doing anything to prevent the next, even-worse calamity is breathtaking.

And as citizens, our failure to insist on better is our failure to use our democracy.

We know how we got here. We act as though each of these disasters was somehow unforeseeable. The trail of blood from a tsunami of oversize weapons leads directly to the Las Vegas tragedy. The hurricanes, the flooding, the droughts, the wildfires, the tornadoes are all there in the scientific work that has been done on climate change. The deliberate falsehoods that have been swamping our information and political systems have all been known, or knowable. And still we rest, assured. Somehow crazily assured that this is the best we can do.

And so, catastrophe. That is what we have chosen. We have decided that continuous mass carnage from firearms is a sane way to fight tyranny (at the same time, we cut slack for the a president who shows every inclination to authoritarianism). We continue to close our eyes to the deliberate disinformation campaign that has hamstrung rational efforts to check runaway climate change (at the same time, we cut slack for a president who is now trying to undo much of the modest progress we’ve made). We allow ourselves to be whipped into a frenzy of arguing with one another instead of working together to secure our common interests. And yes, there are people deliberately whipping.

We are currently treading a path leading toward a breakdown of our democracy. Perhaps we can even manage to score a new civil war that’s even worse than our first one.

The elites are apparently content to let all these things happen. Our elected officials are apparently content to let all these things happen. And we the people are apparently content to let all these things happen.

We have voted for catastrophe, and this vote will count.