“Come on people now, Smile on your brother, Everybody get together, Try to love one another right now.” – Youngbloogs (1967)
These are not our finest hours.
As a nation, we are frustrated and pessimistic. Anger continues,
no longer pent up, but boiling over in public displays of raging confrontational vitriol. The bar has been lowered, hovering closer to the fetid, stinking bottom of human waste. Pervasive and continuous, each powerful undertow brings another crashing wave of destruction.
It has been the cruelest winter of our discontent. We are angry and cynical. The perception is that things are getting worse. TIME Magazine unveiled the latest results of The Harris Poll Happiness index to calculate American’s overall happiness. The poll found that 1 in 3 Americans ( 31% ) are very happy this year, but down from 1 in 3 ( 34 % ) in 2015. In its inaugural year the happiness Index stood at 35 ( out of 100) . Eight years later, Happiness has gradually slipped to 31, indicating a downward trend.
Frozen in ideological rhetoric, Democrats and Republicans have engaged in no-holds-barred guerilla warfare. Political discourse and language have gotten shoddier, voices of moderation muted. Ugly oratory, crossing a once sacrosanct line, has become our new reality. And, it is taking its toll.
Human Wrecking Balls
America has endured nearly two decades of a stagnant government offering little compromise or negotiation. Gallup’s J une, 2016 poll found 80 percent of people in the United States disapproved of Congress and their ineptness. Our collective national malaise can be traced to the trickle-down effect of a dysfunctional political system that pledges allegiance to special interests rather than to the taxpayers.
Taking root during the insipid George Walker Bush administration, our frustration smoldered for 16 years continuing into the realm of President Barack Hussein Obama II. Bush, boasting of “Compassionate Conservatism,” was called an ineffective leader who, in the face of a national crisis, led us into the wrong war. Obama, promising a “Change We Can Believe In,” was labeled a Muslim, a Socialist and a non-American. His citizenship was questioned and Senate Minority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, vowed to make Obama a one-term president.
That angry and vile oratory has bred a cadre of individuals, all working outside the lines, all violating traditional concepts of ethical protocol. Some are worse than others; human wrecking balls intent upon total destruction of their ideological rivals. U sing classic slash and burn savagery, they resorted to name-calling and schoolyard bullying tactics.
Martin Bashir, Glenn Beck, Ted Nugent, Bill O’Reilly, Howard Stern and Donald Trump have been scrawled on this dubious list. Nugent, a right wing extremist and militant, when interviewed in 2014 by Guns.com, assumed his new role as hate speech advocate proclaiming, “I have obviously failed to galvanize and prod, if not shame, enough Americans to be ever-vigilant not to let a Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-nurtured subhuman mongrel like the ACORN community organizer gangster Barack Hussein Obama to weasel his way into the top office of authority in the U nited States of America.
Protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution, Ted Nugent used his Freedom of Speech to speak “without censorship or restraint by the government” and call our Commander in Chief “a subhuman mongrel.” Some would argue that although he was legally allowed to do this, there was an ethical line that was crossed. And Martin Bashir, fired from MSNBC in late 2013, after his vile tirade charged that Sarah Palin deserved to be punished by having someone defecate into her mouth, drove the rhetoric to a new low.
Lack of Community
America was founded on principals of a representative democracy where every citizen had voice and minority rule allowed for compromise and inclusion. There was room for everyone at the table.
Our nation was a collective group identity that shared work ethic, values, love of country and sense of worth. Citizens were secure in knowing that they were a part of a colony, a group affiliation, where each member helped the other. It was this prized sense of community that made our country great. But, it is the lack
of community that is slowing eradicating America’s wonderful experiment in democracy.
We are a nation united in righteous anger. Mad and fuming, our crosshairs lock upon every institution in the country. A pervasive anti-establishment mood smothers us like an industrial tarp. None are immune. None sacrosanct. Bureaucrats, wall street executives, career politicians, illegal immigrants, church, state and the media. It is open hunting season and all are fair game. None will be spared.
Voices of the conservative right wing Tea Party and Donald Trump supporters resonate with the masses. These messengers advocate for a revolution that values political outsiders above career politicians. They value non-traditional attempts at resolution as the pendulum has swung dramatically towards their side.
Many of our citizens view the glass as being half empty. We are not the hopeful, optimistic people our founding founders had envisioned worshipping God, country and community, but a nation worshipping instant gratification, celebrity idols and addiction to drugs and technology.
Isolated and polarized, America is disintegrating into 30 million disparate pieces. Retreating into ourselves, we pursue individual freedoms but not individual responsibility and love of neighbor. We are losing the capacity to tolerate and to trust and are losing that important connection to others. Someone needs to sound the alarm. We are near the point of no return and we may not easily get the genie back into the bottle.
Maxim W. Furek, MA, CADC, ICADC is passionately researching the essence of happiness. His rich background includes aspects of psychology, addictions, mental health and music journalism. His book Sheppton: The Myth, Miracle & Music explores the miraculous and supernatural elements experienced by two entombed Pennsylvania miners. Learn more at shepptonmyth.com