You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—after they’ve tried everything else.
On September 11th, 2011 I stepped out of the shower as I was listening to the Bob & Brian radio show from my apartment in Milwaukee. The guest on the show stopped the normally funny banter to tell the hosts to turn on the TV. I turned on my television just before the second airplane hit.
Beginning with 9–11, America has had its share of problems since that day. We have lost thousands of lives, to that act of terror, to the stress and disease that followed and to war that has taken far too many of our honorable service men and women. We have also suffered economically as the world deflated from a massive credit bubble and the four largest economies in the world aged simultaneously creating depressionary conditions.
Thinking about economics in the shadow of acts of terror and a decade of war seems like a lesser consideration. What we know though is that psychologically, the combination of war and a lack of economic security has had a terrible impact on a very large portion of the American population. It is not unlikely that there is some winding road of cause and effect at work with the mass shootings and bombings we have experienced in the past decade.
While we can not go back in time, we can look forward. That view for many people is clouded however. A lack of jobs, uncertainty in the nation’s finances and lunatic fringe politics has caused people to lose hope and in some cases become violent. In America today, we need to understand and cope with the things that are going on in a different way.
I wish I knew exactly what the formula was to make things better for more people. I definitely have some ideas about economics, diplomacy and government policy. Most people do. The first thing I think we need to do as a people though is rekindle our empathy for each other. The second thing, something I debated saying, is to vote against an incumbent, regardless of party.
I do not know if it is the electronic way we communicate now, the media, lack of education, something else or all of the above limiting our perspective, but too many Americans have replaced their empathy for their fellow man with selfish, myopic and ideological ideas. These ideas may serve to satisfy some sort of need for self-validation, which is understandable in an age when there is so much to feel down about, or if we really have been divided to the point of being on the cusp of being conquered.
What I do know is that if Americans don’t reach out to their neighbors and across generations soon, then we will prove Winston Churchill wrong for the first time. I don’t believe that will happen. In fact, I believe that eventually America will emerge as the beacon for hope in the world again. I only hope it happens before another crisis or a major war.
Today is the 4th of July. I hope you didn’t read this today. Regardless of when you are reading, as soon as you can, spend time with people who are important to you, and then reach out to somebody else nearby who you haven’t reached out to before. That’s where America’s reinvention starts.