Welcome Mary Gauguin to #4CornersUSA, coming to us from across the pond in the UK, with this great blog:
Just before the end of last year, I was stunned by the reports of an article by one Connie Cass of myway.com. The piece was based on a recent survey carried out by AP-GfK. Based on the results of this survey, it was concluded that “Americans don’t trust each other anymore.” In fact, according to the survey, ‘only one-third of Americans say most people can be trusted’, with many Americans saying they were generally suspicious of others.
I was more than disturbed by the account this report gave of the state of American society. Now the report didn’t give demographic details of the survey’s results; It would have proved more elucidating if it did, as I suspect there would be certain parts of America that the survey’s negative conclusion would apply less to. Here, I’m thinking of that complimentary stereotype of southern hospitality. I’ve always found that a cute little contrast, as here in the UK, where I write from, the further north you go, the more hospitality, transparency and friendliness you’re said to encounter. I can attest that that is generally true. When they’re not drunk and spoiling for a brawl, Glaswegians will be buying you a friendly pint.
But I digress. Why was I particularly perturbed by the picture painted by the results of this survey? Reader, a secret between you and me is this: the modern-day Englishman/woman envies from afar the close-knit nature of American society. With the devastation of religious adherence and family values in Europe, the common ties that held people together were slashed off and with them went that contagious sense of community and general friendliness that we see in the average American tourist meandering his way about London’s popular landmarks every summer. We spectate from afar, and from what we see on television, from what we experience when we visit you and when you visit us, it is clear that there is still a sort of boundless optimism in the American spirit that is no longer present within our English society.
This optimism, or the lack thereof, is surely telling on a society and the way its members relate with one other. And it is because of this optimism and its almost intercausal product of societal harmony and mutual trust, what I interpret Leonard Cohen’s ‘Democracy’ as alluding to when it speaks of “machinery for change” and “spiritual thirst”, that America has been a place of possibilities and exponential potential for so long. Take this communal spirit of belief in the general goodness and goodwill of the next man away, and you’re left with a dead land, aka an Eng-land.
Thus far, I hope it is evident that I do not believe completely in the results of the survey, as I would not be touting contrary evidence from personal experience and understanding that I and other Englanders have had when dealing with Americans if I did. No. I do not believe America has ever been, or currently is, a place where the vast majority of people distrust each other. This simply cannot be. In a country where the many banded together some four years ago to create one of the most genuine, spontaneous yet organised and orderly grassroots coalition ever seen in any democratic nation anywhere, it simply cannot be! The Tea Party and people like yourself reading this simply cannot exist in a nation where people cannot cooperate nor trust one another. The Libyans tried it. Look where they are today; subverted and dominated by Al Qaeda. The Egyptians and many others will tell you a similar story. However, all this is not to say America cannot one day become such a place as that projected by the cited survey. And this is precisely why I write.
Count this a warning letter as well as an exhortation.
What is my warning and what is my exhortation? They are one and the same and as follows. In this new year of 2014, all right-minded Americans who desire a better future for their country will face new and great challenges. Among them will be the mid-term congressional elections. And those who normally conspire to the end of thwarting the people’s efforts, the euphemistically-named “establishment” politicians, will arise, more determined than ever, to do so yet again.
Stated in the myway article was this: “For four-decades, a gut-level ingredient for democracy –trust in the other fellow- has been quietly draining away.” Agree or disagree with the survey’s representation of modern day America, the article is right when it asserts that unity and trust between citizens is crucial for democratic co-operation. All the gains that Conservatives have made since the Moral Majority to the 911ers and the Tea Party have come about because Americans of all stripes and backgrounds saw danger ahead and were willing to work together for the common good against said danger. Without this willingness to look past their differences, whether actual, perceived or potential; whether ethnic, social or political (for the Tea Party attracts libertarians, conservatives and even Democrats alike), there cannot be an effective-enough force to offset the treachery they face from Washington.
According to Conni Cass’ piece, one Robert Putnam puts forward the theory that because Americans have ‘abandoned their bowling leagues and Elk lodges to stay at home and watch tv’ there is less socialising and fewer community meetings, in turn, making people less trustful than previous generations. One doesn’t need a social scientist to point this out. It is self-evident. And so is the solution. Americans must return to community. There must be a return to loving thy neighbour, literally: a friendly word across the garden fence, a return to the bowling alley with friends, old and new; and most importantly, a return to our churches, whatever denomination, let each follow his/her conscience.
Returning from a hard day’s work and simply collapsing in front of the television screen will no longer do. From the blue screen of death flows forth a profusion of false paradigms. Sitting in front of leftist propaganda or right-wing gloom will only allow despair to set in, despair that will isolate and paralyze each and every patriot eventually, rendering all useless against the dark cogs of Washington. Yes we must stay informed, but we can also easily overfeed on information. Instead, in 2014, pick up the phone to your old friend Sally, find out as to her and her family’s wellbeing, and when she tells you about the dire effects of Obamacare on her et al, you can ask: “Who’s the Tea Party candidate for your Senate and House seats?” If there isn’t one, who’s to say it can’t be one of you two or both of you?
Yes Washington RINOs and Dems are always scheming, stabbing each other in the back and up to all sorts of serpentilics. Nothing more should you expect of a brood of vipers. But such does not have to rub off on We The People. Band together; rekindle that flame of togetherness from 2010 this New Year and you can exchange the brood of vipers for a righteous convocation of eagles.
Finally, refuse to accept the premise of Connie Cass’ piece as I might. I agree with a suggestion put forward in it by one social scientist, Thomas Sander. As the ‘executive director of the Sagnaro Seminar’ claims, Americans have the tools to restore the unity and sense of trust asserted to be lost. How? By mobilising modern day technology, tech such as social media, the internet, email, FaceBook, Twitter etc. The power of these tools must be maximised and utilised in 2014. No unifying tool should be laid aside in this effort. So what are you waiting for America. There’s no time like the present.
Oh and Happy New Year from the UK.