The last three weeks have been filled with issues that challenge some of the values that mean so much to many of us. We have been plagued with government dysfunction among other things. Gun violence, the fight for healthcare, reductions in food stamp allocations and a government shutdown dominate the morning news and casual conversations. It all seems so irrational and childish because nothing is being accomplished.
What has happened to the American value system? The Statue of Liberty located on Liberty Island in New York City has long served as a beacon of opportunity for those searching for a home. A sonnet entitled ,”New Colossus”, written by poet Emma Lazarus and etched on a bronze plaque at the base of this monument speaks to what was a common American value. The most popular quote from this sonnet states: ”Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free”. Whether your ancestors arrived on these shores by invitation, migration or slavery, the Statue of Liberty served as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. These values are suppose to be standards by which we manage our lives.
The state of our government is a reflection of the values that we practice daily. It is obvious that something about the way we live has borne a nation of discontent. Lying has become a mainstream characteristic of American life. Lying has become so pervasive that it is now referred to as having “misspoke or doublespeak” which translates into say what you mean and apologize after you’ve been caught. What ever happened to truth telling? Sadly, there does not seem to be any remorse on the part of the liar. It’s business as usual. Back in the day, elders said that liars could not be trusted with anything because they create their own personal reality. Our business/ finance industry and elected officials have proven that to be true.
The debates and infighting going on in congress right now, showcase how children are being trained in the art of “bullying”. Yet, they are being chastised for doing what adults have modeled for them. Some children haven’t been taught right from wrong because their parents are too busy being breadwinners. Their value system is laced with designer sneakers and computer games. Broad standards for learning and teaching have forced children and their teachers into cheating scandals. The teaching and learning process use to be individualized. Now, all the children have to be on the same page at the same time. The thirst for success, for some, has created overly ambitious people who seek to have it all by whatever means necessary. Some people have egos so big they need a wheelbarrow to help carry their heads around. Then there are those whose brain is so light that the windows must be kept closed to keep them from becoming airborne. Generally, the motivator for this behavior is greed and materialism. For some people enough is never enough.
Something is really wrong when teachers are encouraged to carry guns to school and it’s okay for citizens to walk around ANYWHERE with an assault weapon. What happens to the self-esteem of a 12 yr old female, 5’2, weighing 125 lbs and reasonably healthy when she receives a “fat” letter from the local health department whose standards for acceptable body mass were developed by an overly ambitious actuary working for an insurance company? These are only a few examples of the type of values that beg the question of…where do your rights end and mine begin. Confusion creates anomie and isolation in a society.
Compassion has almost become obsolete. The focus on “self”, in some instances, has developed into a form of selfishness that does not acknowledge the needs of others. Attitudes toward the less fortunate of humankind are negative and condescending. Some congressmen are so entrenched in political debate that the personal needs of military families are back burner issues. How insensitive can a person be? It’s the old “bootstrap” mentality…I got mine, you get yours, without recognizing somewhere along the way someone reached out and made a “way out of no way” for them. There are some who think that everything they’ve accomplished was of their own doing.
It has often been said that all politics is local. But, now it seems that politics has become everything. It has also been said that ”politics is dirty business”. An example might be the standoff in congress over the debt ceiling . When the American public defaults on federal taxes, student loans, etc, they face garnishments and property liens without legal bankruptcy options. There are no exceptions even for people receiving social security, social security disability or social security supplemental income. These benefits are often seized without prior notification. It seems that every area of american life is plagued with some type of double standard. The workplace, the church, the social environment, etc… all embody some level of corruption/deceit. What you hear and what you see is not what you always get.
How do we move beyond this critical mass of bad behavior? How is the moral compass reset? I don’t know and I don’t think anyone knows. However, I do know that a house divided against itself cannot stand. In all due respect, maybe the change for better starts within ourselves.