Mon Oct 15th, 2007 at 02:11:14 AM EST
Gary Younge, the New York correspondent for The Guardian, has a commentary in today's paper (15 October) about how America's sense of optimism is gone.
It is a well-written essay and worth reading in full. I think Younge has nearly perfectly captured the general hopelessness that many Americans are feeling now about their country.
In his essay, The land of optimism is in the dumps, but refuses to accept how it got there, Younge writes:
This sense of optimism has been in retreat in almost every sense over the past few years... America, in short, is in a deep funk. Far from feeling hopeful, it appears fearful of the outside world and despondent about its own future. Not only do most believe tomorrow will be worse than today, they also feel that there is little that can be done about it.
While many will see this as Americans coming to terms, finally, with their place in the world. Up until the country placed George W. Bush in power, this picture of James T. Kirk is pretty much how America had seen itself at least since the end of the Second World War.
"I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome I am."
Even after America's defeat in Vietnam, the country was still a perceived as superpower. Europe was divided into Eastern and Western power blocs and Americans saw their country as needed to counter the Soviet threat. America has been in bad spots before. Such as during the 20th century, America survived Watergate, came back after Pearl Harbor, and reinvented itself during the Great Depression and during each crisis, most Americans didn't lose their sense of hope and optimism.
But, no more. Hope in America is quickly fading. Younge believes Americans have lost their optimism because of "three main reasons". The first reason he gives is the economy.
Closest to home is the economy. Wages are stagnant, house prices in most areas have stalled or are falling, the dollar is plunging, and the deficit is rising...
The sense that things will improve for the next generation has all but evaporated.
Younge omits mention of the neo-Gilded Age that is taking place in the United States. The gap between the richest and poorest in the country is growing by staggering leaps each year. The middle class in America is threatened -- squeezed to a point where the line between poor and middle class has blurred to an obscurity.
The second reason Young gives is America's international reputation.
Second is the Iraq war and the steep decline in America's international standing it has prompted...
For if the war in Iraq were going well then this probably wouldn't matter. But it isn't. All surveys show that for some time a steady majority of the public believe the war was a mistake, is going badly and that the troops should be withdrawn. One of the central factors in which America's self-confidence was predicated - global hegemony based on unrivalled military supremacy - has been fundamentally undermined...
While the United States spends enormous piles of money on weapons and other military equipment, the country's approach solving things with a show of force still isn't working. With having the Soviet Union collapse and success of the Gulf War (1991), many Americans felt all the world was theirs for the taking.
After a decade of macho diplomacy and neocon planning, the terrorists attacked the country on American soil. September 11th, 2001 made most of America stupid. Any reservations in America's government that may have held in check the Bush administration's policies were easily ignored with the blinders of patriotism and bruised ego.
The Bush administration ignored the lessons of Vietnam, the lessons of the Soviet's occupation of Afghanistan, and the lessons of the 1991 Gulf War, and countless other lessons and Congress let them fight two wars on the other side of the world without mobilizing the country to fight. After 6 years in Afghanistan and 4 years in Iraq, America is stuck seemingly impotent before all the nations in the world.
Which brings, Younge to his third reason:
Which brings us, finally, to the political class. Once again the American public have lost faith. The rot starts at the top. Almost as soon as they elected Bush in 2004 they seemed to regret it... Bush's only comfort is that public approval of the Democratically controlled Congress is even worse... In other words, however Americans believe their country will return to the right track, they no longer trust politicians to get them there.
Little suggests that anything will change any time soon...
Most Americans want out of Iraq in a bad way and I think believed they voted for an American withdrawal in the November 2006 general election that placed the Democratic Party in control of Congress. But after almost a year with the Democrats in power, not enough has changed to make many Americans believe anything has changed.
Younge goes on to explain most of us in American aren't willing to begin a national self-examination or introspection into why the United States is in such a predicament. "For the central problem is not that they were lied to - though that of course is a problem - but that they have constantly found some of these lies more palatable than the truth," he writes. That is what America has become in a nutshell. Most Americans would rather live and believe in the lie, than face reality.
So as Younge explains, the 2008 presidential candidates are not discussing America's malaise and not publically doing any sort of root cause analysis. Instead, our politicians keep telling us how wonderful and great America really is.
Americans won't be able to fix the problems the country has until Americans are willing to admit there is a problem here. It may be cliché, but that, I think, is the State of the Union.
I don't have much to add other than I feel trapped here in the U.S. I expect things in America are going to get a lot worse before they can start to get better. If Americans want to believe lies rather than face truth, then America will slide into an authoritarian or fascist state in the very near future.
The smart thing for me to do since I feel this way would be to get myself and those I care about out of the country, but I care about more people than can just simply move. Where would we all go? So foolishly I stay and try to keep my last little ember of hope burning through activism and writing trying to fight to keep the dream of what America could be alive.
Cross-posted at Docudharma.