Am I the only one feeling less at home in America?
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Most of my life, I never thought twice, about belonging in America. I knew America was imperfect, but better than I deserved. Born American was like being born in an alternative promised land, a different Bethlehem.
My job, as an American kid, was to become an American grownup. It’d be nice if I made America proud, cure athlete’s foot, or invent a better BBQ sauce, but short of that, the least I could do was pull my weight.
There wasn’t a Pearl Harbor or 9/11 moment, where there’s a Before and an After, but I’ve been feeling, in a steady, gradual way, that America changed on me.
I knew the herd was big, but I thought we were all going the same direction. I’m like some ole cowboy, sitting atop my horse, watching the herd break apart, cows going in every direction. They might find grass, but they can’t all find water.
– Back In My Younger Days –
Mankind is hardwired for Us versus Them.
When I was a kid, all the adults had experienced several of the big, serious wars. You toot Taps over 616,698 coffin flags over the fifty states, in a five-decade period, and it will melt strangers who have nothing in common into a family of us-too.
From 1945, into the Reagan presidency, Russia was the American “Them”, the alpha danger, who might drag us into a nuclear war, and destroy the world.
When Russia (USSR) broke apart (and China was just a place that made fireworks and dollar store junk) Americans had national pests, but no equivalent enemy.
Rather than being thankful, enjoying peace, we started fighting among ourselves. I guess people just like to fight. We need a Them.
– Journalism –
Who led us to fight among ourselves? Journalism.
When I was a kid journalism was honorably neutral, filled with ex-soldiers, who saw their career as a continuation of patriotic duty, and would not shame themselves by hurting their country.
Today’s journalism is more like a fight promoter, because conflict equals cash. Journalism slices the population pie, gives its slice of consumers a sense of Us. Most of the “reporting” is telling Us what’s wrong with Them, the people who watch the opposite network.
Politics in a democracy is supposed to be a place where two sides arm wrestle, but the two hands rarely touch anymore. Crazy resides on either edge, and thirsty are those who prefer their water neither boiling nor frozen.
If there’s a heaven for journalism, and Walter Cronkite is guarding the pearly gates, neither Fox nor CNN have a snowball’s chance at getting through.
Where we once embraced the melting pot of America, now we’re going the other way, subdividing into smaller and smaller minorities, some who behave like the brat sibling, getting what they want, (just to shut them up (for a while.))
Today America is like a giant family, but unlike the Norman Rockwell painting, the kids don’t get along, the parents wonder what they did wrong, and everybody dreads the holidays.
– Other Factors –
You can’t negotiate with Change. It’s faster than ever, only going to get faster. I enjoyed roller coaster rides as a kid, but I’m not wired to live my life with white knuckles.
All that Make America (Like It Used To Be) is like trying to fit into your wedding dress on the 50th anniversary. We got bigger, the world got smaller. Like water going downhill, jobs will go to affordable labor. Products will be made where they can be made cheaper. That is unstoppable. The future is not the 1950’s.
If Joe Citizen is looking for stability, it’d be nice if America was solid. But who thought we’d ever hear the word “socialist” in an American presidential campaign?
For the first time in my life, I don’t feel bullish about our future.
Americans used to raise replacement Americans. Whether you were raising your kid in Nebraska or New York, you were supposed to raise up a kid that knew American manners, knew the Ten Commandments, aspired to the Golden Rule, lived by the American work ethic, respected their elders, and prepared themselves for their turn running America. Anyone have any faith in the latest crops? If it fell from it was, to what it is, what are they going to raise?
When I was young, this man down the gravel road, he said, “Ain’t got much, but my good name.” Which is why he wouldn’t take welfare. He might’ve died skinny, but many a fatter farmer took their straw hat off when the news came.
Now we have a sizable population of people who feel no shame, at playing the government for handouts. Some I’d give out of my own pocket, but the rest, I’m skeptical. If they raise their kids to think this is normal, we’ll be outnumbered by dead weight before long.
– What If –
What if this discomfort, is just part of aging?
My father’s second to last Thanksgiving, before the diagnosis, he was so singular, even surrounded by family. I peeked at him when he prayed grace, and one word came to mind, lonely. Outnumbered by younger generations, who in the room was his peer? Who was his person, from way back, who saw things through generational eyes?
Maybe that’s how it goes with generations. There’s a time for being in your prime, and after that, it’s all the other way. We get outnumbered, and then fade away.
Friend of mine from up north, “Like my Gramma used to say when something in the news discouraged her, ‘Thank God I’m not long for this world.’”
Maybe that’s how it goes. We just watch Andy Griffith reruns until it’s our time.
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This edition of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories is dedicated to those who see the glass half full. The other half hope you’re right. email@example.com.