What’s Wrong with America, Part 5

Several readers have asked WC what he thinks is at the heart of all the problems facing America. It’s more than one thing, of course. But with this post, WC concludes this semi-regular series, which has used mostly photographs to illustrate the problems. Here’s Part 1; here’s Part 2; here’s Part 3; here’s Part 4. This is another case where the problem is pretty obvious. And you know, or should have known, this isn’t going to end well.

In the last thirty years, Americans have become supremely selfish. President John F. Kennedy, in his 1960 inaugural address, famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” No one asks that question any more.

We have multi-billionaires whose only focus is on getting still more wealth; citizens who refuse to wear masks in a pandemic, more citizens who put their convenience ahead of the common good and a former president who turned the American Presidency into a personal profit center, and was willing to tear down our nation to keep power. Children bleeding out in school classrooms while supposed adults did nothing before, during or after. Empathy is a forgotten emotion. We have instead unrelenting greed, refusal to even consider the smallest self-sacrifice.

Unless and until we can get Americans to care about their country and their fellow citizens as much as they are about themselves, in the words of William Butler Yeats,

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere   
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst   
Are full of passionate intensity
. . . . . .
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

WC has no solution to any of these five problems. Kennedy’s call created the Peace Corps. It’s hard to see a similar call even being heard today. WC is 72 years old. Not that long from now, these will all be somebody else’s problems. The catastrophe that is America will be our children’s inheritance.

Who is the leader who will help save us? Hello? Anybody there?

5 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with America, Part 5

  1. Lovely post hitting all the right notes to end of this series and very poignant. Like WC I am 72 but came to the conclusion perhaps 30 years ago that there is not and never will be any hero come to save us. If the best cannot find come together to find conviction, compassion and strength while helping the worst to redirect the darkness of their passionate intensity into more inclusive and clear-sighted channels then indeed “the centre cannot hold”. I try to find comfort in the idea that every species dies out eventually and who knows whether the next experiment Mother Nature conducts will do better?

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  2. ” Not that long from now, these will all be somebody else’s problems”. I remind myself of that often to loosen the strictures around my brain.


  3. When the US freed Western Europe from tyranny, it became the defacto leader of the free world. Towards where did it lead?
    Free market capitalism is a prime candidate to encourage greed, and greed nurtures a disregard for others. We boomers, and our offspring have enjoyed unparalleled freedom to explore the planet and consume its resources, and many of those less fortunate could not help but envy and endeavor to follow. We created this version of the world, where contentment with the most basic necessities is disdained by most all but those without.
    It is our discontentment with the status quo that has led to wondrous discoveries and inventions, but it is also a barrier to living in balance. It blinds us to the awareness of the limits of this living planet to sustain the unlimited growth of any species. Many non-humans recognize when conditions will not sustain continued procreation, and refrain from it until conditions change. Our arrogance has thus far prevented us from adhering to that necessity.
    We are dopamine addicted, and are no longer getting that hit from the simplest of pleasure.
    Tech advances may extend our current trajectory, but they won’t solve the problems of greed and arrogance. That can only be done with a change of conscience. Our needed leader resides within.


  4. “Who is the leader who will help save us? Hello? Anybody there?’
    Yes. There’s one very clear answer. Someone who understands the complexity knows what needs to be done and has the plans to do it: Elizabeth Warren, and those she would put into office to do the heavy lifting.


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