At 232, a New Day?

So, America turned 232 this past weekend. Unfortunately, it seems like lots of people aren’t feeling too good about the state of the nation. Polls indicate people are feeling bad about the direction America seems headed in. I think when kids studying U.S. political history look at our era, they’re going to be reading something about low national morale. Or at least, they should, because this feeling of low, which I think has passed beyond partisan lines.

And why not? Jobs are disappearing, the price of gas is skyrocketing towards European levels, food costs more both because grains cost more and because it costs more to ship it from place to place, and the government keeps listening to your conversations. This to say nothing of a never-ending war in Iraq, and a never-ending war on drugs at home. We’re not doing so hot in either. Morning in America, frankly, it’s not.

But we shouldn’t despair just yet, I think. I’ll admit, I’m curious. Despite all the hubbub about liberals being divided, and the fierce partisan divide, I wonder if we’re not, as a nation, slowly coming together. I wonder if I’ll get to see a wide-scale demonstration of American civic spirit. It’s a much talked-up phenomenon which I feel like I see on a small scale from time to time, but a main marker of my political growing-up has been disdain for the lack of civic interest—people simply seemed to discard the good of others if it interfered with good for them. This happens a lot in history, but when you’re born into “Morning in America,” it’s especially noticeable. Anyway, I feel a rumbling underground that we’re slowly getting there, that maybe America will react to this low by coming together for the common good.

And I hate to sound preachy here, but I do feel like liberal political philosophy encourages that. It’s a good moment for liberal causes when people come together to help one another through bad times—not issues like gay marriage, but more fundamentally populist ones, ones that actively value everyday people, like education, small-business support, national health and health care, etc. So I’m ready for a big swing to my side of the field. I learned most of my early we’re-all-responsible-for-each-other lessons from women, Jewish and otherwise, and my most recent love affairs with communal bettering have been via Jewish organizations that recognize we’re part of a larger community—not just an American community, but a global one.

I, for one, am ready to be a better neighbor. What do you think?

–Mel Weiss

4 comments on “At 232, a New Day?

  1. Stefanie on

    Perhaps it a bit Gandhian, or maybe just idealist of me, but yes – I feel that sociological “lack-of anomie”-type feeling too. Global egalitarian citizenship is exactly what I desire to be a part of.

  2. Sarah on

    Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you, but what marks gay marriage as an issue that does not “actively value everyday people”? Are you commenting specifically on responses to economic difficulties?

  3. admin on

    Hey, Sarah.

    Yeah, that was pretty unclear of me–apologies. Although I think gay marriage is important as an issue, I don’t think it’s a genuinely populist one, or one that has or will in the near future bring people together in a fundamental way, especially since we’ve allowed it to become divisive. I guess I consider economic issues, in general to be more “fundamental” in that way than gay marriage, but also things like environmental issues, education, etc. Although the fight for recognized gay marriage is, I think, vita; to keeping our society open and honest about what we keep promising our citizens in terms of equal rights, I don’t see it as inspiring “the people” to come together to fight through tough times. I hope that clears my train of thought up a little–and thanks for making me clarify it for myself, too.


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