Did you enjoy the 243rd birthday of our country over this long weekend? Wait a minute. Do I hear some grousing out there? Is that grumbling I hear about the state of the nation? Complaints that everything is not perfect in the USA?
Get a grip, people. No nation can be faultless in its operation. We are, after all, a group of flawed human beings trying to govern ourselves as best we can.
Following this Fourth of July holiday weekend, I write about why so many Americans seem to feel so disconnected to the nation in which we live. We seem to be at a mentally and emotionally dismal place in our history.
For nearly twenty years the Gallup organization has asked American citizens if they are “extremely proud” of their country. In the latest poll just 45 percent said yes. That is the lowest number Gallup ever recorded. The survey also found that a majority of Americans are least proud of our political system.
The breakdown of national pride along political lines is telling. The Gallup poll found that 76 percent of Republicans are “extremely proud” of the United States, yet only 22 percent of Democrats report feeling similarly. Gallup places the blame squarely at the front door of 1600 Pennsylvania avenue, concluding that, “Absent a significant national event that might rally all Americans around the flag, given Democrats’ entrenched views of the president, these historically low readings on American pride are likely to continue until (President) Trump is no longer in office.”
I’m not sure politics – and the current deep divide over the man who occupies the White House – is really at the crux of our national dissatisfaction. So many Americans refer to themselves as victims these days. They describe the racial or gender bias, socio-economic discrimination they endure. They speak of cultural repression, even fascism. On a panel recently one of the Latina participants said to me, “People ask me about my accent and where I’m from. That’s a micro-aggression.” I countered with the admission that I often ask people where they are from merely as a conversation starter. She was distressed at my boldness. I still maintain any conversation that brings two people together is a good thing.
There is something more deeply wrong with us, I’m afraid. Too many Americans have become hypersensitive and beset by despair. The death rate from drug overdoses has been climbing since 2000. The suicide rate in the United States has gone up dramatically over the last two decades. The frequency of deadly mass shootings significantly increased last year. What is at the core of this long simmering anguish and hopelessness so many suffer from?
I don’t know the answer to that question but I’m thinking one dynamic leader could help pull us back from the precipice, convince us to collectively pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Sadly, there isn’t one on the horizon.
In thinking about all this I was reminded of the recently departed Lee Iacocco best-selling book Where Have All the Leaders Gone.
“Am I the only guy in this country who’s fed up with what’s happening? Where the hell is our outrage?” he asked in his 2007 book. “Instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, ‘Stay the course.’ Stay the course? You’ve got to be kidding. This is America, not the damned Titanic!” Iacocco, a legendary business leader credited with saving the Chrysler car company, urged Americans to, “Throw the bums out!” Voters did not heed his rallying cry and here we sit in a political schism of our own making. You get the government you deserve.
Life in America (and other countries) is not completely fair. Good, evil and inequality will always exists. But here is the important thing to remember: we live in a country where we are free to yell from the rooftops about the injustices we see and to work toward change. We know in our hearts what is right and wrong in this country and the vast majority of Americans abhor the unfairness of justice system that favors the wealthy’s dream teams of crafty lawyers, law enforcement that bullies instead of protects, those who constantly point to the negatives instead of recognizing the positives of life in the United States.
We Americans routinely come to the aid of far-away communities beset by natural disasters and those paralyzed by the latest mass shooting incident. We volunteer our time, we donate goods, we pray, we still leave covered casserole dishes for those who have lost loved ones.
No. not everything is perfect. But at our core we are a good and decent nation.
How about from now until our next national birthday we focus on all that is right in the United States. And at the same time dedicate ourselves to the idea that each of us can make this an even better place to live.