America as a Tower of Babel
Every day I'm asked a simple question. "What has happened to our country and why?"
Something to reflect on as we celebrate 246 years.
It seems that I'm always answering the first part but not really answering the second part. I've concentrated in my articles on the relevant facts that largely do little more than reinforce what you already probably knew. Yes, I've touched frequently on the subject of leadership and political gridlock, which are very important to our subject, but I have not focused down on what I believe is the issue that we can change and that will truly make a difference.
Given that a blind person can see that we are both divided and lack focus, we know the problem, but not the solution. Even more is the issue of agreeing on priorities. What do I mean? We need to have a societal understanding of what is important in order of importance so we can attack the problems in manageable bites. We are so married to our own personal priorities that we totally miss the big picture and can no longer focus our time and resources on what's important.
All of us know of people and organizations singularly focused on a single issue, which, to them, is the most important issue. Be it save the turtles, save the whales, or build bike trails, each has its own following, often with an almost single-minded intense focus on "their" issue. You can extend that to thousands of other special interest issues, from access to public lands to shooting rights to abortion. In this manner, we each create our own "Tower of Babel." And, like that tower, it's as if each of us speaks his own language that no one else can understand. We talk past each other in our daily lives. We have reached the point where we can't come together because we no longer share a common language, which I will call the language of community.
This is our focus issue that we'll talk about today. It's become apparent to me, and likely to you as well, that our various communities, individually strong, are collectively weak. There is no panacea to bringing us together into complete societal peace. The very nature of our country has always been a rollicking, pushy, divisive, and energetic mishmash of conflicting thoughts and actions. That's our strength. You can call it diversity, but to me, that's tantamount to a cuss word. Let's call it what we used to: a melting pot.
There's a huge difference between diversity and a melting pot. A melting pot is much more like a bubbling super-hot blast furnace, where different minerals are forced to come together in a way that nature did not intend, with the final product being steel. The steel you can build with is also the steel in your spine and within our society. That process delivers the next generation of Americans that are nearly indistinguishable from one generation to another, having gone through the same overall process.
A weak society is an illness. Weakness is different from compassion. Weakness is something worn around a person's neck like a badge of honor when it really should be a badge of shame. But you can't say that anymore for fear of offending someone and shaming him even when appropriate. Societies have always used shame to encourage conformity with societal norms.
Societal norms exist for a reason; they strengthen society and shepherd its people to do positive things. A close friend of mine heard that American workers think they are the best in the world and the most productive, while he stated that Chinese workers have a low opinion of their productivity. That's an important distinction that got me thinking. Americans have been on a self-image tear for a generation now. It does not matter how much you produce, or how successful in life you are; it seems as if your self-image is what is important, and we are being taught to decouple a lack of success in our lives from worthiness. Effectively, we've gotten good at lying to ourselves. That's not good for us as individuals or for our society as a whole. We have created a trophy generation. All you have to do is show up, and you're golden.
Now that we have defined our terms of engagement, what do we do about it? First, individually, and collectively, we must create obtainable and positive goals that can be achieved. We must once again begin to recognize the difference between success and failure, and we must not be afraid to respond accordingly. We need to memorialize our goals in writing, individually and collectively.
A country codifies its goals and aspirations as national doctrines and policies for all to see; understand; and, when appropriate, challenge. It's difficult to hold anyone or any country accountable for indistinct goals. Clarity is essential. Beware of people and leaders who don't speak in a manner that is not authentic, always couched in something other than simple declarative phraseology. If a speaker does not speak with clarity, he either doesn't want to be held accountable for results, or worse, he wishes to deceive you. Clarity in communication is vital and must always be a given.
Remember the old meme "if his lips are moving, he's lying"? Let's just change that a tad and create our own new meme: "if you can't understand what he's saying or it does not make sense, he's lying." Let's all be a little less forgiving when we are obviously being manipulated. Conversely, we have to retrain ourselves to accept responsibility for our actions, even when it hurts. This is a sea change from our experiences over the last 40 years in how our schools have been indoctrinating our children, now adults, to believe that a no harm, no foul life is possible. It doesn't even sound as though it could be that way when you say it out loud, even as millions and millions of us under 40 live our daily lives.
It is not just possible; it is essential that we be able to communicate in a common tongue. And I don't mean language, either, even though that's an obvious prerequisite. We must be able to understand each other. That requires that we not only listen, but allow for the probability that we individually don't know everything. Each of us cannot be on his own voyage of discovery/adventure without a definite destination in mind separate and apart from all others. Life is random enough without adopting an anti-planning mentality. To do otherwise is to throw the dice and expect to win each time.
Always remember that the House always wins in the end, my friend. While our conversion to thinking, reflective, and reasonable individuals should start when we are young, many of us skipped or were not taught those important school lessons. We should always keep in mind, though, that all of us have the innate ability to change and adapt to ever-changing conditions.
We should make the decision individually, and as a society, to leave this place better than we found it. To do otherwise is the abdication of our responsibility to our families, our country, our religion, and ultimately to ourselves. We have the power and the responsibility to effect change.
What will we do with that awesome responsibility? That's the question, and I hope, the promise of a better tomorrow that is within our individual grasp!
God bless America!
Allan J. Feifer is an author, businessman, and thinker. Read more about Allan, his background, and his ideas to create a better tomorrow at www.1plus1equals2.com.
Image: Piqsels, public domain.