Have you been enjoying 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 U.S.?
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. On 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 20 years the Gallup organization has asked American citizens if they are “extremely proud” of their country. In the latest poll just 45% 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% of Republicans are “extremely proud” of the United States, yet only 22% of Democrats report feeling similarly. Gallup places the blame squarely at the front door of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., 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 Donald) 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, or socioeconomic 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 microaggression.” 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 say any conversation that brings two people together is a good thing.
The United States is still the country that people around the globe want to come to. The problem isn’t what’s wrong with this country. There is something deeply wrong with us. Too many Americans have become 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. When did we lose the can-do American spirit that built this country? When did we become a nation of hypersensitivity that focuses on the complaints of a few at the expense of the masses? I don’t know the answers to these questions, but I’m thinking one dynamic leader could help pull us back from the precipice and 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 former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca’s best-selling book “Where Have All the Leaders Gone?”