Tuesday, October 29, 2013

American Cynicism



            My wife went to her allergist appointment this morning, and her doctor mentioned how young people today don’t seem to have any ambition or goals. Now many people would blame the young people, and certainly there is some blame there. However, I do not think that is where the problem starts—or ends.
            I remember a few years ago hearing someone say that anyone born in 1980 or later won’t be a good worker. Now, that is a terrible generalization, as I am sure that the class of 1998 and every class after it has had their successes. In fact, the first of this crew would have entered professional jobs around 2002-3, after completing degrees, and the world has not fallen apart!
            On the other hand, there is some truth to this. I think the blame lies with cynical parents. The blame also lies with a cynical nation, a nation cynical of its organizations, its government, itself, and the world. Why try when everything is broken, when corporations put profit above all else, when government does not seem to function in the best interests of the people, and when environmental disaster and oil depletion are around the corner.
            America and Americans have lost hope, as evidenced by a new generation that often succeeds but mostly says “whatever.” It is hard to blame them. The problem is not that we face problems; the problem is that we refuse to believe in ourselves.
            No where is this more evident than in cynicism of government. Government in a democratic republic like the United States is representative of the people. We get a government that mirrors what we are: petty, fighting, selfish, and vain, with misplaced priorities and no hope in future success. It gets worse, because antagonism against government is antagonism against the kind of collective solidarity that is needed to truly solve the big problems. We not only don’t believe in ourselves as individuals, we don’t believe in ourselves as Americans.
            Nowhere is this inability to solve problems more evident than the fight over Obamacare. The fact is that something needed to be done about health care and the PPACA attempts to do something about it. An America that believed in itself and democracy would run with it and fix problems as we go. It was passed by a duly elected congress, and signed by a duly elected president who was elected again. Let’s see how it works out. Let’s try to solve the problem. Instead, Republicans pick on the website, litigate details in court, and completely drop the ball at the state level by declining to set up exchanges and refusing to expand Medicaid. The strategy is tuned to make it fail, rather than help it succeed, while Republicans have no comprehensive alternative solution to offer, except deregulation.
            Guess what? This type of inability to work together just furthers American cynicism. I’ve chosen to break the cycle and not listen to the anti-collectivism of our day. I’ve chosen to believe that we can come together in government at all levels to solve the big problems. We need a critical mass of Americans who will do this to make progress as a country.

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