Friday, October 1, 2010

Lack Of Decency

The current climate in the United States is one that makes a fact very plain: the idea of the "decent" American is dying. As sure as the American Dream is slowly sliding into the sunset, it drags along with it the very fabric of the country, the decency and honor of its citizens. It is hard to notice, perhaps because of the shouting and vitriol which spew forth almost constantly. The better angels of our nature are being engulfed in a cacophony of bitterness, bigotry, ignorance, and insolence. We have moved from "one nation, under God," to "Us versus Them."

Americans certainly have a right to be angry, when the inequities of life are so plainly written across the front page of the newspapers or splashed across the bottom of their TV screens. Wall Street, cause of our economic woes, goes from bankrupt to propped up, and all the while no one is called to account for their actions. Big oil, heedless of the cost, sprays oil into the sea, and still manages to reap large profits. Jobs, once so plentiful, are slowly eroded away by cheaper labor overseas, and its attendant lack of quality. Washington, D.C. is awash in partisanship and seat counting, leaving governance at the doorstep to the Capitol. Rogue nations and extremist religious groups wage a campaign of hate against us, attacking us outright, and thumbing their noses at our demands. Families are forced to leave behind all they have worked for, as those who precipitated their poverty continue to reap their profits.

But anger, while prevalent, is the wrong emotion for what ails the nation. Yes, anger is natural, given what we see, but anger does not solve our problems, for after we are through being angry, our problems are still there before us. Anger also blinds us to the truth, to reality, to the root cause of our problems, and makes many simply lash out at targets of opportunity, rather than iniquity. Too broad a brush is applied to some problems, too narrow a focus to others, resulting in wasted energy and effort, and the maintenance of the status quo.

It reaches deeper than that, though, for the cauldron that is stirred up by the rage of our nation feeds the next generation, planting the seeds of newer and greater anger. Passed on from parent or teacher or clergy to the children we raise, is this whirling maelstrom of ignorance, bigotry, malfeasance, obfuscation, and bitterness, swallowing up the innocent and helpless. Children are taught who the bogeyman is, and do not question the motivation that belies this. They believe what they are taught to believe, and dogma replaces reason.

We see it all, in what happens daily: fired people returning to places of business with weapons, exacting revenge. Repressive bullying of homosexuals, driving them to suicide. The shouting down of those who are trying to have reasonable debate. The eruption of bigotry, homophobia, racism, and sexism by varied groups, flung into the light of day from the dark corners where it used to hide. Impartiality replaced by politics. Rampant theft, both at the point of a gun and threw stacks of paper. Hypocrisy in the name of morality. Quashing freedom in the name of "restoring America."

This is not how it should be. This is not the country in which I have so much pride. This is not the country that believes in individual liberty. This has become a nation of ne're-do-wells, fame seekers, hucksters, and reprobates; it is now a home for the greedy, the covetous, the self-righteous, and the conscienceless. Hard work, honesty, reason, and excellence have been subordinated to flashiness, boosterism, abject ignorance, and mediocrity.

America deserves better. If we are truly the nation we think we are, then it should cause us no amount of inconvenience or irritation to work together toward bettering ourselves and our nation. If our Pledge of Allegiance is to be more than a hollow joke, the we must be one nation. It does not mean conformity, or obedience, or rejecting the right to question authority; it does mean that all our laws, all our precepts, everything we hold dear, must apply to everyone who is a United States citizen, no matter their stripe. Nothing of the individual should make them less human, less able to enjoy the fruits of freedom and liberty. There can be no difference between us as individuals that invalidates our ability to be of one nation or one law. Our differences make us unique; our similarities make us strong.

We, Americans all, must unite under the one flag we fly, if for no other reason than to divide us, to erect barriers between ourselves, is to crush that which so many sacrificed to make. As has been said, a house divided against itself cannot stand, and even now, one can hear the creaking and tottering that the shifting fortunes of our nation are causing to reverberate throughout. It is time to strengthen our resolve, and thereby strengthen our nation; only then, will we regain the sense of freedom and liberty handed to us by our ancestors.

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