I believe the era of American Exceptionalism is coming to an end. We have been the big brutes on the block for far too long, while at the same time we have been dummying down our society. We have elected officials who, in their campaigns touted their desire to shut the government down, and they have succeeded, making us the laughing stock of the world. It is not possible to respect a person, or a country, that is feared physically while finding them laughably silly and confused. For such individuals or countries, there must be more contempt than respect.
Everyone will have their opinion as to why we are in this declining position. Some may blame the media, though media has been around since the written word, if not before. Some may blame the politicians, even while they elect the outliers. Some will blame the system as a whole, or the rich, or the poor, or the immigrants, or the old fogies. Regardless, we are saddled with a situation in which a portion of the populace dislikes its own government, and a portion of elected officials dislike the very government in which they work, or pretend to.
Perhaps we have not had a civil war where blood was shed and brother slew brothers, but we are witnesses to a civil war nonetheless, a war where brothers snatch food or shelter or dignity from the hands of his poorer neighbor. We watch as sisters strike out against sisters in their times of desperation. We live in a time when name calling and false innuendo take the center stage over rational thought.
Can we recover from our declining stature? Maybe. After our physical Civil War, it took more than fifty years for the country to pull itself back together. It took World War I for the world to begin to see us as a real player on the world stage. It took World War II for us to become the big boy on the block. But not because of our physical might alone. We invested in ourselves. We invested in education, in the G.I. Bill, and in highways and damns. We built and made and reached for the Moon.
Maybe, if we stop the squabbling and finger pointing, and we accept the old, conservative idea that it takes money to make money, and we begin to invest in ourselves and find common goals, we may someday rise back up to be proudly exceptional. But the era of a simple fix followed immediately by bravado is gone. Since we have knocked our own selves down, it will take a long time to pick ourselves back up.
Lincoln said it, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”