The following is my opinion. It is not backed by figures, or statistics. It’s just what I see happening today in America.

Half Full or Half Empty GlassI would not classify myself as a person who is heavily involved in politics. I know and appreciate the need and the value of good and fair politics because I have decent roads to drive on, I have a job and I live in a city where people (mostly) behave themselves. I feel safe most of the time and have food to eat. I’m OK giving credit for these things because some caring, honest, fair politician somewhere saw a need and passed a law.

But, especially this year, I have been less enamored and more disappointed with politicians and the political process.  As I sit here approaching the end of 2017, I am a bit saddened by the state of our society and our country.

As part of the Baby Boomer generation, I grew up hearing that America is the greatest country in the world. I never, until recently, had reason to believe that that wasn’t true. Perhaps I just didn’t want to admit it. I want this to be true but, I can’t be sure that it ever will be again.

My hope is not altogether gone, but it certainly has been injured this year in 2017.

Before you go on, take a minute to watch this opening scene from the pilot of Newsroom. If you don’t want to watch the whole 8 minutes (but I think you will), at least skip to 3:07 where an outstanding question is asked…

“Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?”

This scene was written in 2012. It may have been fiction then but, in my opinion, it was spot on and unfortunately an accurate prediction of where we would be in 2017.

What I hate about this brilliantly written scene is exactly what I love about it. It is honest and forthcoming. Yes, we do have a problem here in America and it’s time we admit it. Lest you think that this is about “making America great again”, it is. But not the way our current leaders think about it.

To me, making America great again means one thing. Loving your neighbor as you love yourself. End. Of. Story.

I’m not sure when we stopped making progress toward that goal. I think the downhill slide was so slight that we didn’t notice we were getting sicker. And, I’m not sure that our elected officials and most of the rest of America even realize just how sick we are.

This year, 2017, I think I finally realized it. We, as a country, are socially sick and we’re getting sicker. And I’m very sad about that.

I could make a long list of reasons why I make this diagnosis but I think that each of the items on my list are driven by two observations:

Observation #1: Our society accepts and encourages the fact that it’s OK to openly hate your neighbor and it’s OK to tell everyone you know that that’s the case.

This year, I have seen a lot more meanness toward those who are our neighbors. Open disrespect has become the order of the day. I could point to articles in the press where our leaders (both political and corporate) have openly disrespected others, or events where people disrespect others because of race, national origin or economic position. Overall, I see a mood where “freedom of speech”  and “my rights” are being used as a tool to express hate toward others.

Sadly, As the leaders go, so goes those who are led.

I don’t see our society or our politicians getting mad enough when hate is used as a weapon to kill people at a concert or when hate is used against those who are not born in America but have come here looking for better life. I don’t see our society thinking enough about how we are affecting those who come next — those who are of the generation behind us or those who are not yet born. Events where hate and disrespect are used as weapons spend one day in the news and then, sadly become an accepted part of our regular every day existence.

Hate is largely accepted as a lifestyle trend and we’ve become desensitized to it in part because we, as a society, provide opportunities that make spreading neighborly hate and disrespect much easier. I wrote an earlier article about why I am “off Facebook” (ok, call me a hypocrite because I am using Facebook to post a link to this article) and I still believe that any technology used for the wrong reason, combined with the current state of our society is making it too easy to hate your neighbor and at the same time avoid the responsibility that comes with it. If I don’t like someone, I’ll post a twitter so that millions of others see it. Or I’ll write a Facebook post that goes viral. Or, I take sides and tell everyone I know why the other side is wrong instead of seeking to understand.

In short, we’ve created a destructive environment where too many believe that since others hate, it’s OK for me to hate too.

Dare I say that hate has become the style trend of this year.

Observation #2: My tribe is better than your tribe.

Closely related to this style of hate is a new dawning of tribalism — the grouping of those that “have” and those that “have not” or creating groups of those that “are” and those that “are not”.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said of America, “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.”

If Roosevelt was right, (and I think he is), we are failing the ‘America Test’ because have stopped caring about those people who are honest, hardworking and caring but don’t have enough. I’m talking about people who can’t afford decent (or any) medical care, or those faced with circumstances that have set them back, or those who have been the victim of corporations who care more about profits than human beings. Instead of caring about them, our country creates classes where those that have, are isolated from those that do not. You see it in the (new) tax structure, and you see it on the airlines, you see it reflected in the cost of education, you see it in how we respond to those have lost what they have because of natural disasters that are no fault of their own.

Tribes have become a part of life in America. It’s “I’m a member of Tribe ‘A’ and deserve to have it. You are a member of Tribe ‘B’ and don’t deserve to have it. ‘It’ can be medical care, or ‘it’ can be a seat up front with early boarding privileges. ‘It’ can be less taxes or ‘it’ can be the opportunity for an affordable, quality education. ‘It’ can be a red state or a blue state.

A lot of this tribalism is, I think, because politicians and corporate leaders think about themselves first rather than saying “I have enough, maybe there are others in need who I can help”. I mean, come on. If I have 10 (billion) do I really need more?

When should I share what my tribe has with others who may ‘have-not’?

When is Tribe A going to say to Tribe B, “I have enough and you don’t. Here, I see you need some.”? Or when is Tribe A going to say to Tribe B, “Yes, we have some differences but I’m willing to listen to what you have to say and come to an agreement so we can both be satisfied.”?  And when do A and B come together and decide to include C just because they care and because they know that sacrifice is the right thing to do?

If A and B don’t do this, America may be destined to become a permanently divided place where the norm is that one tribe gets (and takes) more, while the other tribes gets less. In the long run, this is a recipe for disaster.

So, here I sit close to the end of 2017 in front of a glass. Some may accuse me of being a pessimist because I see a half empty glass. Sorry, I think that’s the way the glass is and sadly, I don’t know many optimists who are see the glass as half full these days.

Hope for the future? I have some. I hope because I have children and grandchildren, I love them and I am truly concerned about what their lives will be like in 20 or so years.

And yes, I’m concerned for the patient called America and I hope that soon, the patient will realize, before it’s too late, how sick he is and do something about it.




Newsroom Video from YouTube. More information about Newsroom is here in Wikipedia.

Glass Image: Sourced from Flickr at: Creative Commons License for use is here:

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